2011, Music

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Lee’s Palace 04/24/11

This is the new punctuation of the band’s name, so I hear.

Speaking of hearing, I can’t any more.

Last night my brother and I went to see GYBE! (I really can’t get used to typing GY!BE) for the first and most likely only time in our lives. I had pressured him into this as I figured we might never get the chance again.

The opening act was “Total Life,” some kind of formless noise-music act: a guy twirling dials and pushing pedals creating white noise – including what sounded like a train whistle – for over 40 minutes. I have nothing against “noise” music in and of itself. I think it is indeed music and art. But it’s not necessarily good music / art. And in this case it wasn’t. At one point I turned to my brother and said “this guy has never heard of the word ‘dynamics’.” Warren replied “he just shuns it.” He’s probably right. It started off noisy and it got noisier. Sounds would get introduced and blend in but they were virtually indistinguishable. I kept waiting for some kind of break to create some kind of musical interest but there was none. There was this bass pulse that quickened and slowed, but that was about it. I just learned The Sadies opened the Saturday show. Rats.

GYBE! was pretty much everything I thought they would be. This particular incarnation was 2 drummers / percussionists / triggered sample folks, 2 bass players (one of them occasionally on stand up), three guitarists (one of whom regularly used a screw driver) and a violinist. They played mostly familiar material (- “the hits” as I call them including much, if not all, of Lift yer skinny fists – but with formless beginnings and endings which appeared improvised.

We sat on the left side and so we got a bit too much bass and not enough treble. Sometimes it was hard to make out the melodic instruments. Lee’s Palace‘s acoustics are not the greatest in the world.

But so what? It was still pretty amazing to see them in such a small place and to see the group interacts up close. Nice to see a mixture of composed and improvised music – in the sense that improvisation led to the composed parts and vice versa. The band was pretty tight – there was one piece on which the recorded version was definitely tighter – and, aside from not being able to hear, the show was everything I hoped for.

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