Easter experimentalism at Kelly's Pub
Aside from once receiving a 10,000 Maniacs CD in my basket, I have no musical memories of Easter.
Most likely, this is because Here Comes Peter Cottontail is the single lamest song affiliated with a major holiday*. It could also be that I‚Äôve never attended a concert on Easter Sunday.
Clearly, that had to change. So I hippity-hopped to downtown Tampa Sunday night for a set by Tampa avant-experimental-noise-rockers Insect Joy, above.
Having never before partaken in the lovely sonic stew known as experimental noise rock, I was in for quite a treat.
The setting was Kelly‚Äôs Pub, a hole-in-the-block beer-and-music bar with music posters covering the walls and board games like Fact or Crap and Scattergories in the bookcase near the door. Maybe 20-30 people showed up throughout the night (including a couple of dudes from Magadog), and with no antsy crowd to please, the bands were in no rush to perform. There was little else to do but sit and drink, so I ordered a Smithwick‚Äôs and did a little of both.
The last concert I saw at Kelly‚Äôs was a barely-publicized five-song set by Canadian pop singer Chantal Kreviazuk, attended by maybe 20 people. Kreviazuk, who‚Äôs a legitimate hitmaker in her homeland, seemed flummoxed by the turnout, but still put on a nice little show. I always thought that was cool.
But ‚ÄúChantal Kreviazuk‚Äù and ‚Äúexperimental noise rock‚Äù are two phrases you won't hear in the same sentence anytime soon**. Tight, catchy, 3-minute pop songs, these are not.
To the untrained ear, experimental music may be defined as, ‚ÄúMusic where you‚Äôre not sure if the song will ever end, or if it has even started yet.‚Äù As a semi-professional music blogger, I would also add: It's LOUD. Like, brain-meltingly loud.
The four bands on the bill ‚Äî Tampa‚Äôs Insect Joy and Flexxehawk, and New York‚Äôs Child Abuse and La Otracina ‚Äî mixed proggish, ear-splitting avalanches of sound with rhythms that occasionally had a beat you could dance to, but often did not. (Although sometimes, I have learned, a song that at first listen does not appear to have a beat may actually have a beat that‚Äôs very complex, one of those beats they don‚Äôt teach you in middle school band. I bet that was the case here.)
How does one appreciate good experimental music? Judging by the crowd, you‚Äôre supposed to sit and stare at the band, occasionally bobbing your head, and contemplate what, exactly, is going on. I tapped my foot a lot to the snappy drum- and basswork of Flexxehawk (or rather, two-thirds of Flexxehawk; guitarist Trey Connor was MIA). I enjoyed the Wolfmother-like garage-band stylings of La Otracina. I think Child Abuse broke my ears.
Insect Joy‚Äôs set was about as experimental as it gets ‚Äî a dense, lengthy arrangement of spooky blips, bleeps, bloops and beats, linked with strange samples and sounds from an instrument that looked like an electronic toy saxophone. Two words that repeatedly came to mind were David and Lynch. It had a good beat, but it worked better as art ‚Äî weird, noisy, avant-garde art. The best thing to do was just sit and appreciate it.
The show ended around 1:30 a.m. Twice during La Otracina‚Äôs set, the power in the bar went out. But the best moment came when a Tampa musician rose to assist an out-of-town guest.
During the middle of a set rife with technical difficulties***, Child Abuse‚Äôs bassist broke a piece of equipment that, due to my lack of musical expertise, I will refer to as That Thing On The Ground With Knobs. Insect Joy bassist K. Paul Boyev piped up. Got one in my car, he said. So he went and fetched it, and on went the show.
‚ÄúWelcome to Tampa,‚Äù Boyev said.
It was an Easter miracle. And proof that experimental noise rockers have feelings, too.
Next up in The 50-50 Club: Montgomery Gentry, April 14 at the A La Carte Pavilion in Tampa.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
* Have a Holly Jolly Lent doesn‚Äôt count.
** But man, they would definitely help you in Scrabble.
*** A more accurate description might be, ‚ÄúA series of technical difficulties occasionally interspersed with live music.‚Äù