As you might remember, on the second day of this year’s LGW?, Insect Ark‘s performance had to be improvised due to unforseen limitations of the venue. The third day posed a different kind of problem to the festival’s organisers, which they once again overcame with flying colours. Here’s how it went, Phurpa was supposed to open the Ronda stage on Tivoli Vredenburg but had problems with visas and couldn’t make it into the country. Instead, we get the privilege of witnessing an improv set of the legendary Dylan Carlson on guitars and Rogier Smal on drums, which as far as we could discern included some variations on themes from past Earth records, or at least something very reminiscent of their work circa “The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull” to give you some idea. After what was one of the most inspiring ways to start the day one could conjure, we climbed the Vredenburg stairs to grab a seat on the Hertz room and witness the second half of the bizarre world that is a Charlemagne Palestine set, from his entrancing minimal piano work to the provocative shutting down of the clapping because the clasping of two wine glasses together was still part of the set.
A bit after Keiji Haino‘s scheduled time, tambourines echoed through the Hertz room. He started from the first balcony where many couldn’t see him and, in less than 5 minutes, he went back to the stage drawing circles in the air with both tambourines, jumping and hitting the floor. Even when going for the more constraining instruments he kept his physically expressive performance and theatrical endeavours, hinting of his theatre background. The show, a special percussion performance, perfectly showcased Haino‘s genius when creating minimalist landscapes only enhanced by the room’s extraordinary acoustics.
At first sight it was confusing that Sunn O))) wasn’t playing the Grote Zaal, instead bringing their lessons in volume and tone to the Ronda room. That is, until you actually see the rooms and it becomes clear the best choice was made. Speaking of sight, that’s precisely the first sense that Greg Anderson and O’Malley attack way before the show, covering any place they play with a thick fog whose embrace shall only leave you when your body has been tonally beaten beyond recognition. In one of the loudest sets we’ve seen them play – and that, ladies and gentleman, is saying quite a lot – it was interesting to see how it would go without Mr. Csihar‘s unique stage presence and voice work. Throat gripping, bowel loosening and ear shattering might very well start to describe what the duo did, accompanied by strings, brass and programming. In a set that lasted for about an hour and a half, one of the highlights has to be their rendition of “Alice”, with both core members leaving the room for those quiet final moments of the song, only to return and provide us one last fix of the physical incarnation of their motto “Maximum Volume Yields Maximum Results”.
What do you do with your earthly remains after leaving a Sunn O))) show? Do you go witness Kasami Washington in a big band performance, party with Islam Chipsy / Eek or freak out with Bo Ningen‘s insanity? The following two paragraphs illustrate the last two choices.[LP]
Bo Ningen. What can be said about Bo Ningen’s performance? We have no idea. We are still trying to understand what the hell happened in that room. It’s like we where thrown into some B-side Japanese frenetic action movie and we had to run and dance at the same time while being blinded by strobe lights and yelled in the face. It was crazy in the best way possible, a vigorous torrent of good Japanese vibes. Noise rock, acid rock, call it whatever you want, it’s wacky, it’s dynamic, it’s rock and it’s damn good. Destroyed guitars and voguing aside, Bo Ningen is more than theatrics and their “III” and “Line The Wall”-focused setlist was there to prove it.
There’s something irresistible about two drummers going at it in frantic manner. To witness that immediately after the drumless drones of Sunn O))) while Islam Chipsy brings the party to Utrecht with his electro-chaabi tunes is about as surreal as it gets. Did this perhaps slightly out there sequence of hellish drones and Cairo style dancing frenzy work? Bet your ass it worked, it was absolutely perfect, an enhancing through contrast and a cleansing feeling at the end. As if the volume and darkness purged us while beating us down while through dance we got our freedom and became ready to witness the best show of the entire weekend at the Ekko shortly after. One we are not ashamed to admit, we didn’t see coming.
Ho99o9, baby, what a rush! Yes, they sampled exactly what you’re thinking about and it fitted their punk-infused hip-hop just as well as it did the spikes and face paint of the Road Warriors back in the day. It didn’t take long for a rightfully packed Ekko to be an arena of flying bodies and banging heads at the merciless hands of TheOMG and Eaddy, two of the most viscerally intense frontmen we’ve seen. It’s not for nothing they get compared to punk/hardcore bands like Black Flag and for those who started digging punk music with that 80’s hardcore movement, this was kind of what we imagine one of those shows to be, just with tons of very good rapping in between. You know it’s something special when a band can conjure metal images of Eyedea, Death Grips and GG Allin in the same show. Oh, and their cover of Bad Brains‘ “Attitude” was absolutely perfect, hitting that sweet point of viciousness and urgency that ain’t that easy to reach. That the best punk show I’ve witnessed my whole life was during LGW? is kinda weird, that it was played by a hip-hop band might make it even stranger. That is, until you ever come across Ho99o9 live. Then it will be just obvious.
How do you follow that? You reject overcomplicating shit, stay where you are and let Nah do his thing. He’s going to sweat so much that you’ll feel fresh in the end, no matter how tired you were before. The aggression on his rapping and drumming is a joy to behold (perhaps it should be noted that we consider almost getting our eardrums ripped apart by Sunn O))) to be a joyful experience) and for the few remaining survivors there was a semi surprise halfway through the set, as TheOMG and Eaddy get on stage for a heavy as fuck version of “Creeping Worse”, from Nah‘s last “Light As Fuck”. Mesmerizing and “in your face”, exactly what we needed.