Monday, July 16, 2007

Concert Review--Made Out of Babies

Made Out of Babies, currently one of my favorite metal bands, came into town last night to perform one of the first rock shows I've seen in a long time. When I first heard about the show, it was a couple of months ago and it had fallen on the day I was leaving for a wedding in Santa Fe. I was indignant beyond measure. This is the farthest west they'd ever come, and who knows when they'd be back but, just a couple of weeks ago, I found out that I wouldn't be leaving until Tuesday for The Fe. Quickly, my indignation turned to exaltation and I'd began waiting not-so-paitiently for last night to come. Did I set my hopes too high? Thankfully no. It was a $7 cover (I was happy for the bargain, but they deserved more money than that) There were three bands with MOoB headlining.

First was a local band called Hogpen. They were a sort of cross between Clutch and Iron Maiden. They were a good, fun band and did their part to warm the crowd up, small as it was at this point. I was pretty nervous looking at the twenty people in the crowd at 10:30 when they closed, but people started to file in as the second band came on.

This band was Mouth of the Architect, a sludgy metal band from Ohio. For what they were doing, it was okay, but I do take some exception to what they did. Basically, in about 1994, Neurosis released "Souls at Zero," an album far different from anything they'd previously released, and far different from anything I'd heard at the time. They played a kind of minimalist metal, with a lot of notes but very slow changes. It's spaced out and full of sampling and odd instrumentation and, essentially, they were trying to create a full sonic experience, for all the pretention that comes with it. I loved it and, over the past thirteen years, they've gone farther and farther toward that extreme to where it's often difficult to classify them as a metal band at all. Mouth of the Architect is, as well as so many other acts, a complete ripoff of that original sound from Neurosis, with no tweaking of the style whatsoever. In the end, because of the lack of talent and vision that Neurosis had, the performance came off as monotonous, repetative and kind of whiney. There were enough people in the crowd who liked them, though, that the energy of the room stayed up, even if mine began to wane.

Finally, at about midnight, Made Out of Babies came on. Part of me was nervous, deeply hoping that I'd not be disappointed after setting this up so high. I had noticed singer Julie Christmas in the crowd, but would have had no idea had I not already known what she looked like. She is one of the most unassuming people I have seen front a rock band. Small, with a sweet look about her, the only thing that set her apart from anybody else was a head of pretty big hair, which is not seen at a show like this very often anymore. Maybe the most amazing thing about this first impression was that she had no visible tattoos; unheard of in the modern rock scene. My crush on her having remained true, she took the stage and blew the crowd away. I had previously extolled the virtues of her voice and was completely unsure how this would translate in the performance and, surprising enough, her voice sounds better live than on the albums. Part of it is in her performance style but, on the voice alone, it's because she knows how to sing dynamically. She doesn't swallow the microphone and, as a result, her words are clear and her tone is perfect. She switches from guttural noise and shrieks to cherubic whispers and sighs at the drop of a hat and it, at times, seems like there are two singers when there is one. On top of it all, her onstage persona is something to behold. In reference to her innocuous presence in the crowd, in front of them she is all poison and madness. Scratching at her face, tearing at her hair and pulling on her clothes, she contorts and stomps around the stage grasping at something unknown (perhaps her sanity) until, all of a sudden, she drops to her knees and wails some of the most blood-curdling sounds imaginable. It really was a scary sight; scariest, probably, because I was more enamoured after the display than before. Hers was not a sexual performance, though a certain kind of sexuality permeates through it all. No, it was all psychosis all the time.

And then, as soon as it started, they were gone. They probably played for 45 minutes, and I'd have loved to hear them play a lot longer, so I was disappointed at first. The more I thought about it, though, the more I understood a quote from somebody standing next to a reviewer at a previous show: "How long can she keep this up?" The answer to that is, it looks like, about 45 minutes. It's selfish of me to ask for more than she gave, which was everything, because each song she sings is one closer to when she destroys her voice, and this is the last thing I want to happen. In the end, it was a thrilling time, and evidence that I need to go to more rock shows. My friend tried to get me to go over and talk to her after the show when, once again, she had returned to her unassuming place over a beer at a table but, alas, I was shy and missed my chance. Maybe next time....