BODY/HEAD SHOW, ST. VITUS JUNE 13
Foreclosure: Didn’t see. Sorry dudes
Majical Cloudz: First time seeing them live, and it was everything Devon Maloney said it would be: a band whose focus is using “empty space and simplicity”, that calls to mind four white walls just begging to be painted on. Devon Walsh is a intimidating looking dude, you get the feeling that he’s about to ramble at you. He’s wearing a white shirt tucked into blue jeans and has a shaved head. But his songs, at least the ones off Impersonator, are tightly formed odes to joy (sidenote: is this a trend? you can hear very similar styles coming from Phosphorescent and Colin Stetson these days. Although can joy be a trend? Maaaaaaaan). When Walsh just repeats over and over again, “I don’t feel like dying”, it sounds spiritual, it sounds like the room is bathed in warm light (yes, it sounds like that), and it feels like everyone in the back should put on trial for disturbing an artist at work. The banter is a little awkward, the dude doesn’t really know how to joke, or how to deal with a girl yelling “Punish us!” (I’d have no idea how to deal with that either, I guess). But his vocals never falter, he sings to us about hope and his father, and it is beautiful.
The Julie Ruin: Kathleen Hanna’s band! Kathleen Hanna’s band! Kathleen Hanna is in a band and this is the band and here it is playing songs. There’s a documentary out on Hanna’s influence in Bikini Kill that’s making the rounds right now, which makes this kind of like playing for one team while your jersey is being retired on another. The crowd (myself included) was in awe at the chance to dance to Kathleen Hannah, which is what the fact that Kenny Mellman stole the show so surprising. The songs The Julie Ruin played were fine songs that fit into the Riot Grrrl Rrrevival sound, they’d fit in right next to tunes from Wild Flag and The Corin Tucker Band. Catchy, happy-sounding, danceable, a hint of the edge from two decades ago. And then Mellman, who plays keyboards for The Julie Ruin and was nominated for a Tony for his drag performance in “Kiki and Herb”, comes out of nowhere where these gutteral pleas, sounding like a Crank Yanker born in the sewer. He gave songs a pleasant awakening. Everything here was good. If I didn’t have anything pressing, I’d see The Julie Ruin again because they were a nice sounding band with punk undertones. I’ll cancel all plans anytime, any place to see them because they are Kathleen Hanna’s band.
Body/Head: The Julie Ruin were a nice new band for an icon to hand her hat upon. Body/Head was the end of the world. Chaos, tumult, tension, release. None of these ideas are exactly new for anyone who’s listened to Sonic Youth. I joked before Body/Head’s set that the spoken word pieces on Chelsea Light Moving’s eponymous debut really blew my mind in 1985, and while I can’t report that Body/Head brings shockingly new ideas to the fore, what they bring is all-encompassing, all-consuming. Gordon and her collaborator, Bill Nance, get what the best electronic artists get: that noise can transform, that noise can be the narrative.
I felt direct broadsides from Gordon, it was like being hit by a hammer twenty feet wide. She seemed to take on a masculine sexualized voice for a bit, murmuring ”Take it all, take it all, take it all!” before shattering the illusion with, “Take it all away! Take it all away!” It was a reductive moment. She played some blues-y riffs for a second, and at the time I thought it was further challenging a masculine voice, taking a 50’s male sound and incorporating it into a field of noise. And that may have been it, but ultimately reading tea leaves into a set like this one is futile. Body/Head was just that, the physical being guided by the well-thought out (especially Nance’s flailing around the stage). Songs barely ended and barely started, but it was easy to tell that Gordon knew what was happening at all times. It was overwhelming, it was powerful, it wasn’t Sonic Youth. It’s Body/Head, a band worth getting very excited about.