wish you were here

tuesday night at tonic was the kind of local bill both music fans and musicians dream of. put together by fringe benefits, this lineup should be in a textbook on booking under "cohesive".

i had no real idea what to expect from saxon shore, other than the word "ethereal" which was mentioned in some posting online. it turns out they're an instrumental band, who could vaguely be placed under the heading "post-rock" (though i don't know of any post-rock band who actually likes being called that). some people might tell this band to get a vocalist, but that would just get in the way of the guitar melodies, multi-layered effects, and programmed keyboard backing. the cumulative effect ebbs and flows like a soundtrack but reaches the kind of crescendoes only rock instrumentation can provide. unlike some other bands of their kind, they knew when to stretch out and when to pull back, and always locked in perfectly with each other. fans of mono and mogwai should keep an eye out for this band's shows and CDs.

i'd seen the name my best fiend around, and like several others thought at first it was a typo. but there were no mistakes in name or otherwise from this band (aside from the fact that they should have invested in a straplok). they started off very slowly and deliberately, building on programmed percussion with live drums, bass, twangy distorted guitar and keyboards. at first, their music reminded me a bit of calla somewhere between their second and third albums, with vocals in the vein of love and rockets or t. rex. as they continued, the sound became a bit more diverse, while retaining enough focus to show these guys are doing their own thing. the opening and final songs were great, and the set in between held a lot of promise.

one of the elements that could benefit both of the above bands is visuals, especially in the case of saxon shore's instrumentals. my best fiend used very minimal lighting (strings of xmas lights on the stage, almost no overheads) to evoke a nice warm atmosphere but it may have been a bit too dark for the slant of their music. berkoy has been adding great and appropriate imagery to live music for awhile now, getting well-deserved respect from musicians and video artists. her subtly morphing shapes add another layer to the visual stimulation so necessary in a live performance setting.

like the last show i caught at sin-e, berkoy was here making the light dance for other passengers. unlike then however, there were no technical difficulties preventing the full force of her projections from hitting the band and the screen. i was hard pressed to choose which of my shots to post, since so many of them came out really well, revealing the symbiosis of human performance and live video manipulation.

the band started off quietly, but quickly shifted gears into the darkest and hardest show i've seen them do yet. while i was disappointed at the absence of their song "in the belly" (which you can buy on their EP), the new songs made up for it. they played with a fierce intensity that, to my joy, culminated in several minutes of completely haywire, looping waves of noise at room-clearing volume.

almost everyone in the band and audience was completely drained at the end of the set. all three bands got enthusiastic and lengthy applause. this was one of those shows that future fans will wish they had been at.

the title of this post comes from an album by pink floyd.