Butthole Surfers and 400 Blows
August 27, 2011
Better than: Cheap speed and whisky at a roadside carnival.
"God bless everything, because it's all going to shit," barked 400 Blows lead singer Skot Alexander at the beginning of their punishing opening set last night. It could have applied to Hurricane Irene -- set to tear apart the East Coast -- or Sunset Junction itself, which had already gone to shit.
In the aftermath of the festival's cancellations, venues and bookers scrambled madly to find homes for wayward bands. (Here's our list of those that were rescheduled.) Thankfully, the Echoplex felt like the perfect venue for this show, as a chain smoking, beer guzzling, chemically enhanced crowd packed the house. It was tremendously hot inside, and Los Angeles band 400 Blows did their best to get the crowd riled up.
Gripping the mic and howling like a clothed and un-shitstained GG Allin, Alexander was clearly relishing his homecoming. His band sounded like a combination of Murder Junkies, Circle Jerks and Helmet. But the crowd seemed anxious for their beloved Buttholes to take the stage. (That was an odd sentence.)
When the Buttholes finally crept onto the stage, their sensory mind-fuck commenced. The band of Texans, helmed by founding member Gibson "Gibby" Haynes, have not exactly matured sonically or thematically over the years, but therein lies the charm. The basest impulses and shock tactics still rule their world, and bodily fluids, acid-fried hallucinations, sex, drugs, and gore are the stars of the show.
Projected behind the band were nasty bits of ultra-violence, a non-stop barrage of bizarre cable access stock footage, gory horror films, and assorted phantasmagoria. It's common knowledge that the Buttholes were legendary trippers, and their aural and visual presentation is still designed to rattle even the most experienced acid freaks. Willy Wonka's nightmarish boat ride came to mind in clips like: Scanners, 976-Evil, Dead Alive, Basket Case, Suspiria, Re-Animator, From Beyond.
Meanwhile, the band lurched through songs spanning their entire discography, with highlights including "Creep In the Cellar," "Goofy's Concern," "BBQ Pope," "Pepper," and "Who Was In My Room Last Night." All the while, Gibby stood front and center, moaning, groaning and slurring his way through it.
Was this a particularly good night for the Butthole Surfers? Hard to say. Technical musicianship went out the window when Gibby picked up the bullhorn and a saxophone for a cacophonous solo.
Did they live up to their legend? Fuck yes.
Critical Bias: I was sober during a Butthole Surfers show.
Random Notebook Dump: The fifty-something couple next to me not so inconspicuously dropped sugar cubes into their plastic water cups and proceeded to get very groovy for the rest of the night.
Lots of pictures below.
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