A Place to Bury Strangers
Even outside of their hometown New York base, A Place to Bury Strangers has a diehard fan base. In the smoking courtyard of the Echoplex last night, a man in a leather jacket told a much younger woman, also wearing leather, that he had driven all the way from San Diego to hear them. The place was packed with people wanting to get their bones rattled, and APTBS did not disappoint.
But before that heavy fun began, This Will Destroy You played a long, but well-managed opening set. Their music -- a sort of drone metal with plenty of noise -- can be difficult to listen to live, especially when you're anticipating someone else. But the band, who hail from Texas, kept the crowd captivated, playing songs from their latest release Tunnel Blanket. It was a challenging set, but a rewarding one. They closed with the excellent "Little Smoke," while nightmarish visuals gleamed behind them.
Their guitarist later explained to me that they achieve their strange visuals by rendering video signal with very early 3-D technology and then projecting that in a 2-D format. Not exactly sure what that means, but the effect was compelling. In fact, the visuals were one of the best parts of the night -- for their part APTBS were accompanied by a full on light show.
APTBS have been famously called "the loudest band in New York" and last night they were the loudest band in Los Angeles. Lots of people had earplugs in. The best place to stand at really loud shows is next to the sound guy; that is where the music will sound the fullest, with no instrument overpowering another. Also, an engineer's response can be a good indication of a show's energy. While they are usually just chilling, last night, they were head-banging along with everyone else.
Still, it must have been hard to manage that much sound -- APTBS completely filled up the place with noise. You almost wished you still had braces because your teeth shook in your head, threatening to go crooked. The guitars sounded like thunderclaps with a bit of lightening thrown in there for good measure. But it's not just sound for sound's sake; their songs are well constructed and even oddly melodious. Particular standouts were "Fear" and "You Are The One" off their upcoming LP Worship, set to release of June 26th. It's nice to see a band who got a ton of blog buzz years ago sustain an ethic and keep making music that lives up to all the hype.
They also performed songs off their 2009 record, Exploding Head, an album that echoes long dead post-punk heroes. The comparison to Joy Division is obvious, and has been made before, but it's a valid one. Aside from the fact that Oliver Ackermann's voice seems to eerily channel Ian Curtis, albeit a few octaves higher, their entire sound has tortured earnestness, vital to honest songwriting. They're not dark to be dark, they're dark because they're dark.
Frontman Ackermann and bassist Dion Lunadon had a charmingly sincere quality to their performance, crossing guitars in the air after a particularly vicious bout of noise. Near the end of the set, Lunadon threw his instrument away and began to furiously stage dive while his band mates thrashed on behind him. And when it was all over and the sonic dust had cleared, ears rang for hours.
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Personal Bias: I'm moving to New York at summer's end, so anything New York-related captivates me at the moment.
The Crowd: A bit older, but unafraid of leather. Also lots a chicks with shaved heads.
Random Notebook Dump: I listened to the show next to a wheelchair bound man and a guy who I assumed to be his son. While his father nodded his head in time with the music, the son scratched his back affectionately. It was fucking touching.