An Argument for Earplugs

Also known as: Seeing Endon, Mutoid Man and BORIS.

 

After getting back into town from a trip to Gatlinburg, I went out to The Masquerade in the old Kenny’s Alley area of Underground Atlanta. I’ve been to 2 of the 3 venue locations there (Heaven and Purgatory), but this was my first time seeing a show in Hell. Just writing that sentence makes me feel funny.

Hell is the smaller of the three venues, but the only one that had a publicly accessible second story. I really wish I had opted to watch the show from there, but I’ll make a note of that for next time.

I wasn’t familiar with any of the first two bands on the lineup, I really only went to see BORIS. That being said, it was absolutely memorable.

ENDON

In writing this I was looking for a way to describe this band. It’s LOUD, messy and at times, really scary. I wasn’t ever really sure of what was coming next. Fortunately, a quick Google search yields a pretty accurate description: “catastrophic noise metal”. Trust me, this is EXACTLY what you can expect.

The first three members of the band came out and started playing and I’m thinking maybe they’re all instrumental. At the point that I’m about ready to check out, a small, silver-haired man stumbles out on to the stage. To be honest, I didn’t think he was a part of the band and I start looking around for security to cart the guy off stage. After a few moments of wandering and swaying about, he grabs the mic and confirms that he is, in fact, supposed to be there. He almost immediately throws the mic to the floor and has the most pained look on his face. Visually, I had no idea what to think. The sound quality in Hell was either intentionally blown out or mixed poorly so the performance was really all I had to go off of. I wasn’t ready.

The music itself was confusing, yet somehow deeply emotional. I think it was a combination of the feedback shaking up my insides (I made the poor decision to stand a few feet back from the amps) and how I couldn’t take my eyes off the lead vocalist Taichi Nagura’s facial expressions. Twisted into anger, fear and some profound sadness, I couldn’t look away. I don’t know that I would ever listen to their music, but as far as live performances go, I would definitely see this spectacle again.

When I could tear my eyes away from Taichi’s squalling, I would focus on the shaggy haired guy to his left. Wearing an oversized Snoop Dogg shirt, he was playing what appeared to be a battered briefcase with a cord hanging out of it. Now. I’ve been watching this band play for maybe 10 minutes and I know one thing: nothing is what I would expect it to be. So my first thought is that this guy is pretending to “play” this briefcase when really he is in charge of adjusting audio or some electronics on stage. Turn out, this is a legit instrument. I have no idea what this would be called, but if you can strum an air guitar, you can play this briefcase. Etsuo Nagura, briefcase player extraordinare, was certainly giving Taichi a run for his money performance-wise. His rockstar antics shredding on his briefcase instrument and hand gestures while playing were a sight to see. In one bout of particularly caustic noise, Etsuo whipped his instrument over the audience directly into a wall. Presumably, this wasn’t the first time he’s done this and the instrument was built to be battered this way.

All in all, I’ll say this: while the music isn’t something I would seek out, the live performance is worth the ringing in my ears (and the subsequent nightmares).

 

MUTOID MAN

After kicking myself for forgetting ear plugs, I made a quick adjustment to move further back from the stage speakers and stuff ripped up paper towels in my ears to avoid future damage. I felt ready for Mutoid Man.

This was the perfect palate cleanser after Endon. The stage banter and overall energy from the band despite tons of sound issues was a welcome reprieve. Drummer, Ben Koller (who is also known for his work in the band Converge) was an absolute maniac. Playing fast and hard, he definitely stole the spotlight. Lead vocalist, Stephen Brodsky, kept everyone in good spirits and rallied the audience for each song in their set. Their cover of The Animals’ “Please don’t let me be Misunderstood” was the highlight of the night as both Brodsky and Koller donned animal masks for the song.

Sound issues aside, I really loved watching Mutoid Man play. There was something genuine and fun about the band dynamic on stage and they seemed to be truly grateful to be playing for everyone that evening. I couldn’t stop smiling while watching them and I’d recommend their show to anyone who considers themselves a “fun weirdo” (which I do).

 

BORIS

Headliners for the evening, BORIS, provided a visual spectacle greater than I could have ever imagined. With 4 portable projectors set up on the stage amps the silhouettes of the two guitarists cut through the lights in an eerily beautiful way.

It’s worth mentioning here that the sound struggles continued during their set, but I’m not certain how much of it was intentional. I found myself feeling almost drunk as a result of their music, it was a fascinating feeling (especially given that I was stone sober). If that was the desired effect, then kudos to BORIS and the sound techs for figuring out how to put someone in a trance through music alone. I’d sign up for that ride again.

Performance-wise, BORIS did leave me wishing for more stage presence. Only the drummer, Atsuo, had any of the “rock n roll” vibe the previous two bands presented. I know that BORIS is a different breed from Endon and Mutoid Man, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bit of a let down. The other two members, Wata and Takeshi, diligently played their set which featured predominantly songs from their new album, “Dear”. It was positively lovely to watch.

 

Leaving BORIS, it felt like some kind of spell was broken. It took me a solid 5 minutes to snap out of the trance-like state I found myself in while watching them perform. It certainly didn’t help that my hearing was completely shot and I felt like my head was underwater. SO much so, that even as I write this (2 days later) my hearing still isn’t 100%. The problem is, I would totally see these bands perform again. Which only leave me one option, invest in more earplugs.

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