Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gigs & Flyers

Artist: Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
Albums: In C; Born to be Wild in the U.S.A. 2000
Source: Bought new from the band

My man Mike Watt says everything can be divided into "gigs and flyers" - if it's not a gig, then it's something advertising the gig. He includes records in the "flyers" category, opining that a good record just makes people want to see the live show.

This tossed-off bit of Watt Wisdom is essentially an inversion of years of music-biz gospel: in the pre-recording days, live musicians were employed by sheet-music sellers to get people interested in the paper product, and what latter-day band in its right mind goes on a tour that isn't "promoting" the new album? Most people see the gig as the flyer for the product, and would probably stare at Watt cockeyed for suggesting otherwise.

I'm not really sure where I stand on the subject. For every Yo La Tengo or Superchunk - whose live shows are both works of art in & of themselves and serious P.R. for those records - there's a band like The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (whose gigs render their records irrelevant) or The Spaceheads (whose records make infinitely more sense after you've seen it happen live). But either way, I just know I love live music - there are shows that are years behind me (Mountain Goats @ the Khyber; Lounge Lizards @ Tramps; Herbie Hancock @ U.Penn; Jonathan Richman @ TLA; Mekons @ the Bowery Ballroom) that I can still feel vibrating through me, gigs that sold the band and the record and the idea that the world was OK, better than OK, for a little while.

These two discs highlight the effects of live music in a pair of nutshells. The first, In C, I bought directly from the band after a mind-warping set at 2002's Terrastock in Boston. The Acid Mothers Temple is, to put it simply, a group of outer-space Japanese noise-hippies who live together in some sort of commune (reportedly), take the stage in weird wizard costumes (certainly) and whip up an unholy guitar-heavy noise that is either total fucking godhead or total crap (absolutely).

At Terrastock, they hit the godhead smack dab in the middle of its third eye. I was mesmerized, transported and just plain rocked to pieces by their sound and look and overall effect. Nothing could have stopped me from plunking down some cash on a bit of their oddly-titled merch, and this one included a long take on Terry Riley's classic minimalist composition "In C" plus a pair of long-form AMT originals ("In E" and "In D," of course). Not a word is said or sung in any of the tracks, but the whole thing speaks near-messianic volumes, and I'm taken back to Boston every time I hear it.

Born to be Wild in the U.S.A. 2000, on the other hand, sticks an unbearable concert experience directly into my frontal lobes. A year after Terrastock, AMT was playing a gig around the corner from my apartment, on my birthday. It was too perfect to pass up, and I dragged my Music Buddies, Lee and Debbie (more on them TK) to see it and celebrate with some good ol' fashioned Japanese noise wizadry. Before they even took the stage, I headed to the merch table and picked this one up, figuring it would be OK. After all, they were magical beings or some such thing.

Then Psychic Paramount, the opening band, hit the stage and played one of the most singularly unpleasant sets I've ever witnessed. It wasn't even bad - it was just punishing. The noise went straight through to your bones, earplugs felt like they were made of dried banana peels, and the whole thing dug a deep pit in all three of our stomachs. By the time AMT was up, we were already too noise-damaged to care. When the Temple cranked it, the sound was just painful instead of transporting. "If it's too loud, you're too old," they say - but I was young enough to know the difference between loud and an audio assault. No one made it to the encore.

The capper came the next day (or whenever I'd properly recovered) as I put my new CD in the player. It's a poorly recorded live disc, of lesser quality than lots of perfectly repectable bootlegs to be had. And, of course, the gig it's a flyer for is a circus of pain, something I'd rather forget than be taken back to via CD.

SISOSIG? I'm gonna have to split the difference on this one: In C is an all-time keeper, the kind of thing I can both age with and stay young through; Born to be Wild..., on the other hand, has got to go. It's taking up valuable space on the shelf and in my psyche.


  • Ditch Born To Be Wild but definitely check out their wealth of other material. I can recommend Starless & Bible Black Sabbath or Electric Heavyland.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:10 PM  

  • Yeah, I've heard Electric Heavyland - it's pretty damn great! I also like their split EP w/Kinski (which I'll be getting to when I reach the Ks...)

    By Blogger bsglaser, at 8:24 PM  

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