The other day, my little brother chastised me for being “so negative.”
“It’s always hatehatehatehatehate with you,” he said.
The occasion was his defense of some band called The Shift, for whom his band had opened at some point. He’d thought that they were more than just your run-of-the-mill bar band, I guess.
I heard their name and rolled my eyes immediately and he took offense.
After explaining that he was an ignorant asshole for daring to challenge my malevolent wisdom, and ill equipped to judge my motivations, I immediately googled their name.
I tried again, this time with “band” at the end of the search.
Hits that time. There were a few bands with the same name, but this one’s tagline is shiftwithus. And this is their picture:
Ok, I thought. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just a lame, one-off promo where the photographer told them to do that Eric Cartman, Faith Plus One look-away-from-the-camera album photo thing, and they’re really not that…
Fuck. That’s the featured still from the video for The Single.
The Single is called “KOBRA” [all caps].
and apparently Sting is in the band as well.
I’ll leave it for you to find it if you actually want to hear it, but needless to say we were on strike five or six by the time I actually got to listening to it, and I gave up pretty quickly.
But this post has nothing to do with them. It’s got everything to do with a band I saw opening for Faith No More last night called Le Butcherettes.
And also a little bit to do with why my brother isn’t always a complete fucking idiot.
Of course, prior to actually seeing the show, their name induced the same eye-rolling. Part of it is my instant aversion to any new band calling themselves THE anything, regardless of what language the article is in. Plus, I’ve had enough experiences with shitty openers for Mike Patton-led bands [looking at you, Melt Banana] to want to avoid them if at all possible.
We showed up outside the Electric Factory, and while waiting for our friend to claim our tickets at will call, I’m just hearing this muffled thump-thump-thump coming from inside. To be honest, my immediate impression of the music was “White Stripes”, whom I’m tolerant of but not necessarily into. Most of that is due to Jack White’s
autism personality, but that’s another story.
I wasn’t in much of a rush to get inside, so we hung around, smoked a joint, and waited for two more friends to show up. Fifteen minutes later, we were past security into the already-packed theatre and I saw them for the first time.
The stage, and all of Faith No More’s tarped gear, was completely white. And Le Butcherettes, a three-piece, two women and a male drummer, were all dressed completely in red, which I thought was very White-Stripey as well.
With my enthusiasm waning, we headed up to the bar and bathrooms before attempting to find a place to stand.
I was waiting for a beer and watching the show on a blurry projection screen, and the first thing I noticed was the performance of the frontwoman Theresa Suárez, also known as “Teri Gender Bender”.
Maybe it was the venue’s bullshit projector obscuring her features, or the contrast between the white stage and her red dress, but I immediately thought of this chick from the movie 8 Mile or whatever the fuck:
I was unamused, to say the least.
But in spite of my disillusionment, the band persisted.
We finally found a place to stand where I could sort of see the stage and hear the music; as is traditional in that muddy-sounding, warehouse clusterfuck of a venue. By that time, I could tell that Teri wasn’t some shitty movie extra lookalike just yelling up there. This chick could sing.
Although there were four microphones on stage for what you’d assume would be four musicians playing the keyboards, drums, bass, and guitar, Teri was moving between the keyboard on the left and the mic at center stage, sometimes in the middle of songs. Alternating between looking like a bojangles-dancing marionette and squatting like some kind of savage trying to give birth in the wilderness.
All the time, wailing on her guitar, pounding on her keyboard and howling at the top of her lungs like Joan Jett with a yeast infection.
Right then, I said to my friends that Le Butcherettes were mesmerizing in a very Death Grips, mental-patient-having-an-episode kind of way.
And maybe this is as good a place as any to talk about my perception of the relationship between compulsion (in some circles, “mental illness”) and effective art.
I think that some of the best, most emotionally affecting works are often born of compulsion. The best kind of artist doesn’t do what they do for money, or popularity, or acclaim. They do it because they are literally unable to do anything but what they are compelled to do.
You can say it’s someone’s calling, or their isness, or intent, or that they are a conduit, or whatever brand of hokey bullshit you subscribe to. I just think that sometimes, in the midst of creating, an imperceptible force moves a certain kind of artist to do things that their conscious mind might not normally be cool with.
I was becoming convinced that Teri was one of those kinds of artists. You could hear and see that invisible intent in every note and spastic gesture.
Teri might not be the most technically proficient musician I’ve ever heard, but she’s clearly a gifted songwriter, singer, and performer. Her band, Jamie Aaron Aux on bass and Chris Common on drums, channeling her raw energy, operating as a tight unit, and fucking everybody’s shit up.
After all of that buildup, an example:
By the end of their set, there was no question that she was in charge up there…of the band and the dumbstruck audience
Then, at the end of their last song (context: Philly was their final show on this leg of the tour with Faith No More), Teri picked up what had to be her 25-30 pound keyboard and threw it straight up in the air.
I don’t know if she misjudged her own strength or the the direction of the throw, but it ended up 6 feet directly above her head. As it was coming down, she realized what was happening and shoved it out of the air at the last possible second. It smashed on the stage and she and the band were gone quickly with a wave.
The crowd went nuts, and I felt dawning awe that my first, negative impression of her and her band had been horribly wrong.
I bought a CD and we went home. I slept for 3 hours and had to get up at 5 AM for work.
Then, I got in to work this morning and watched this video:
Fuck! She’s smart and righteous too! Hopefully my daughter will dig her.
So there. Something good that I probably would have disregarded blindly because of my prejudices.
Fuck you, Bro.
Also, Faith No More was really good live, as usual…but their new album Sol Invictus ain’t no Angel Dust, I’ll tell you hwut.