With a relative minimum of fanfare, resurgent post-rock overlords Godspeed You! Black Emperor have snuck out an album this week — ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! is their fourth studio album and their first since 2002’s Yanqui U.X.O. We’ve always been big fans of the band, and we’ve jumped at every opportunity to see them live since they got back together in 2010 — their epic shows are the stuff of legend, frequently stretching past two hours and always very, very loud. But we do appreciate that their shows aren’t for everyone, and that even if they are for you, you kinda have to be in the mood for them. In this spirit, then, we celebrate (and/or gently poke fun at) a selection of bands whose shows are something of an endurance test, either in a good way or just in a rather tiresome one. As ever, let us know if we’ve missed anyone.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
We heart Godspeed, and we blissed out happily during their epic two-and-a-half-hour comeback set at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple last year, emerging with sore ears and a strange feeling of inner peace. We also enjoyed them at the recent ATP in New York, although we did feel for the benighted souls strung around the perimeter of the warehouse on Pier 36 where the band played, looking imploringly at their boyfriends/girlfriends and asking wordlessly if it was time to go yet.
The experience of seeing Swans, meanwhile, is roughly approximated by being punched in the head repeatedly by a large angry man with a cowboy hat and an intimidatingly large cigar. The Seer is our album of the year to date, and we appreciate the band’s intensity and sheer sonic potency — but ye gods, their shows are a trial, especially if you’re foolish enough to forget earplugs.
My Bloody Valentine
Even Swans pale in comparison to My Bloody Valentine, though. There were plenty of tales of people stumbling out of their 2008 reunion shows and collapsing/vomiting/discovering they’d just copped tinnitus for life — we’re pretty sure no other band has given rise to stories like this or this, for example. We’ll be honest — this doesn’t exactly sound like our idea of a good time, but hey, they’re your ears.
Meanwhile, speaking of sickness-inducing shows, we caught Death Grips at (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York earlier this week. True story: we were standing right in front of the bass bin, and about three songs in we had to retreat to the back of the venue because the bass frequencies were genuinely making us physically ill.
Of course, it’s not just sheer volume that can make a band’s show an endurance test. It can also be the fact that the shows in question go on and on and on and on — like otherwise obscure Danish electro-rock types Spleen United, who set what we’re sure has to be some sort of record in 2010 with a 24-hour improv session called From Sunset to Sunset . We’re gonna go out on a limb and say no one watched the whole thing, although we’d be happy to be proven wrong.
On a similar note, pretty much everyone who went to ATP in New Jersey two years ago has fond memories of Oneida’s epic Ocropolis III performance, otherwise known as The Oneidathon, which involved the band playing for eight hours straight — in a bowling alley, of all places. For us, the most memorable aspect of the whole thing was the look of hollow despair on the faces of the staff by the end of the day — we’re guessing no one told them that their work day would encompass this.
Music for Dogs
Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson are renowned dog lovers — apparently Lou’s often sighted walking his dog around the East Village, and word on the street is that he occasionally even smiles at it — and they took their canine fixation to a remarkable extent with an event at the Vivid Festival in Sydney a couple of years back. Entitled “Music for Dogs,” the show was conducted entirely at frequencies too high for the human ear to detect. The result may well have been awesome if, y’know, you happened to be a dog, but we imagine it was somewhat underwhelming for their owners — in a musical sense, at least. It was probably a fun day out in the park, though.
Then, of course, there’s the whole idea of an entirely silent concert — “4′ 33′” is one thing, but the idea of an entire orchestral “rendition” of the piece (in four movements, no less) is perhaps taking things a bit far. Or then again, perhaps not. Who knows? Art, eh?
Ah, yes, Manowar. They’re the current holders of several coveted world records: the loudest band in history, the longest show in history (above), and arguably the most singularly ridiculous stage show in history. Honestly, if you can sit through several hours of power metal battle hymns performed at ear-bleeding volumes by baby-oiled men who look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa Conan the Barbarian, well, you’re tougher than us.
The Grateful Dead
Hey dudes, is the Ben & Jerry’s finished already? Yes? Damn. OK, well, let’s smoke a joint and jam on this riff for the next four hours… Wait, where is everybody going?