Sunday, February 6, 2011
disappears- the empty bottle, 2.4.11
i hardly ever go to shows on friday night. i am the saturday opener at the coffee shop where i work which requires a 5:15am wake-up call. since most weekend shows don't even get started until 10pm i have to really be dying to see a band in order for me to 1) leave the house, 2) get myself to the venue, 3) stay for the whole show and 4) not be pissed that i went after slogging my way through a tiring workday on three hours of sleep. for an example of when the show isn't worth the sleep deprivation please visit the entry i wrote about the dean and britta playing galaxie 500 show in december. this entry will be an example of when i am rewarded greatly for leaving the house, especially during the lingering aftermath of the blizzard.
i spent 45 minutes digging my car out from under the snow so that i could get to the empty bottle. since there were two opening bands i elected to leave at around 10:30, figuring i'd get there at 11 with enough time to catch brain idea. when i got to the empty bottle i encountered yet another hurdle- the show was sold out and packed to the fucking gills. i am the type of person who does not enjoy crowds and i am nestled firmly in the 'jaded' category when it comes to shows. i've been going to shows regularly since i was 18 and i loathe being in a packed room having drunken strangers bumping into me constantly and invading my personal space. i found a somewhat decent spot just in time to catch brain idea's last two songs. when everyone left to go outside to smoke/get a cigarette/what have you i went to the merch table and bought myself a copy of the tour only ep that disappears are selling at their upcoming european tour and then i sussed out a spot at the best place to find one during a sold-out show at the bottle- over on the side near the stairs and the soundboard. as midnight drew nearer the area got more and more crowded. people elbowed their way in and my wonderful window of space shrank smaller and smaller. the cocktail waitress decided i was a good person to squeeze through the crowd next to (this happens frequently for some reason). my point in this rambling set-up is that going to a venue to hear a band play music is filled with these tiny, petty, annoying and constant distractions that can, at times, overpower the effect of witnessing live music. this is why it's so difficult to get me out of the house- shows where the music is able to transcend such conditions are few and far between. i'm happy to say that disappears were worth it and more. i didn't get annoyed once the entire time- and that cocktail waitress squeezed her way through right next to me at least eight times, maybe more.
i've begun to think of disappears as possibly the perfect band- they've found a way to meld the best elements of krautrock, drone, psychedelia, punk, minimalism and garage rock all into a perfectly mixed stew. they reminded me of a tighter and more stylistically varied version of wooden shjips (who i saw at another packed show at the empty bottle last september). they work their set into a constant, engaging groove in a similar way but manage to do it with more brevity and variation with a pared-down approach that seems entirely effortless. brian case rarely played more than one chord in any of the fifteen or so numbers. i think that the most he played in one song was three and even then the chord changes were used as mile-markers pointing the way to new sections in the songs. lead guitarist jonathan van herik's lines served as a melodic counterpoint to case's syncopated vocals during the instrumental sections and were a nice balance of texture and melody. when not playing a melodic line he would often lock in with the single chord drone using a combination of reverb, delay, tremolo and wah as additional instruments while damon carruesco's bass picks up enough of the melodic slack to keep things interesting but not take away from everything else that's going on. to top it all off the drums were played by interim drummer steve shelley performing faithful versions of the parts first laid down by graeme gibson. gibson's drumming has always been a thing of wonder to me- it's so perfectly balanced and metronomic without a hint of flash and it always manages to add something to the interplay already established by the others. when i first heard that shelley would be filling in for gibson it caused a bit of concern since gibson's drumming seems to be such a crucial component of their sound, but it didn't take long before i realised that it was kind of ridiculous to doubt a drummer like steve shelley.
the pace of the show was very fast- rarely was there more than a few seconds' break between songs (if even that). the band moved quickly through about fifteen songs in a little under 45 minutes. quite a feat considering that one of the songs they played was 'revisiting' (the 16-minute closer of their new album 'guider'). even a 16-minute long song with very little in the way of variation maintained a fierce momentum throughout which allowed for the subtle evolution of the song to reveal itself. it was over before i knew it. they played through a decent chunk of 'lux,' nearly all of 'guider' and four out of the five tracks that make up the aforementioned tour ep. few are the bands that can pack so much into such a small amount of time and really give you your money's worth.
now, about the tour ep. it's another impressive leap forward from what's come before just as 'guider' is an impressive leap on from 'lux.' the songs are generally slower and more sparse and it's difficult to single out any of the five songs. the last track, a cover of suicide's 'radiation,' served as their encore at the empty bottle. it built slowly from a lead guitar line and locked-groove drumbeat and evolved into a squalling burst of noise by the end when brian case shoved his guitar into the handle of the drum monitor and left the stage to let it feedback. of the three times i've seen them (first for the 'lux' release show at the bottle and second at the pritzker pavilion in millenium park) this was far and away the best. i'm always anxious to hear anything new from them.