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A Place to Bury Strangers / The Big Pink

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It can be difficult enough to get people out of their holes on a Monday evening, even harder when the weather is wet and nasty. Still, the ballroom of Northern Kentucky's Southgate House was fairly packed when I arrived with my Uncle Dan and friend Andrew. We were just in time to see the end of Cincinnati local's Eat Sugar. The low end bass issuing from their keyboards hit me in the gut and in the heart as I walked in, preparing me physically and psychologically for the fully loaded assault of A Place to Bury Strangers. Unfortunately for us, the opening band had started a half an hour earlier than they were supposed to, but I was still left with enough time to grab a drink and a pair of earplugs.



Monday, March 22nd, 2010 Newport, Kentuky

The Southgate House is one of the best venues to see live music in the Cincinnati area, consistently bringing in numerous great national and international acts. Independently owned and operated, the stately mansion built in 1814 has an illustrious history, Abe Lincoln being just one of its many notable guests. Perhaps it is most notoriously remembered as the birthplace of John Tariaferro Thompson, inventor of his namesake the Tommy Gun. (The Tommy Gun is also the name of their house drink, a shot of Jameson set alongside a shot of pickle juice. I've never tried it though I know people who swear on its name.) My favorite nights there are when live music is being performed on all three floors: a couple bands playing the main stage in the spacious basement ballroom, local songwriters plying their trade at the open mic in Juney's Lounge (a bar on the first floor), and a three or four bands lined up to play in the intimate parlor on the second floor. On those nights, when all three spots are firing at once, it feels like I'm at a big party, a raucous celebration of music and the musical life.

While the place wasn't jammed to capacity, the crowd was big and festive. After the set by A Place to Bury Strangers my Uncle Dan noted “the foundation of the building was shaking.” It seems a fair description. The three-piece put on a mesmerizing show as they blistered their way through a tight batch of songs. I left my earplugs out for the first half, but I gradually acquiesced to their necessity, (I wanted to be able to hear The Big Pink when it was their turn). What struck me most about APTBS was the way their sound glistened and sparkled, filling up the big space, while still being littered with psychedelic nuance and microcosmic subtlety. Jay Space thundered his way across the drum set with pulverizing oblivion. The dense sheen they produced musically was more than matched by their impressive light and video show. With imagery splayed behind the band, and other projectors set up to beam through them, the band created a shadow play mixed with abstract designs on the wall opposite of the stage. During their last mountainous piece they turned on the strobe lights which further attenuated the already hypnotic trance state they had put me in. Bilious fog rising from the smoke machines completed the spectacle.

Until The Big Pink hit the stage I had never heard any of their music. Sometimes its good to go to a show with as few presuppositions as possible. It makes the experience different than going to see a favorite band whose records are known by heart and whom I may have already seen live on numerous occasions. Expectations, whether favorable or unfavorable, are lessened. A Place to Bury Strangers had raised the excitability quotient of the crowd up to a high pitch and there was a tense feeling before The Big Pink started. The music began with a strange buzz and a looped Cypres Hill sample singing “I want to get high, so high.” No one was on stage yet, but when the band came up I felt an incredible sense of elation. It was a monster of an opening. The drummer Akkiko started singing and pounding away at her set. Drummers who can sing while they play most always impress me: I don't have that kind of coordination. Leopold wore his bass guitar slung low and the low-end vibrations that issued from it knocked a bottle of beer off the table where my friend Andrew and I sat, not just once, but three times over the course of their set. Their music had a weird sonic swish, provided by Milo Cordell an expert sound projector who was eternally hunched over a console of keyboards, mixers, and other devices, weaving his noise expertly with that of his band mates. Robbie, who fronts the band, is a talented vocalist and really thrashed on his guitar. Combined, they had a great stage presence, hyping up the crowd to a wild frenzy like true rock stars. This was exhibited most strongly during a scalp tingling noise interlude when one of the members pulled up a box of pizza from the floor and started throwing slices at the crowd. After this they slammed into their final song with riotous abandon. It was pleasing indeed.

The memory of this show will take it place alongside other brilliant acts I've seen at the Southgate House (Low, Mogwai, Negativland, Acid Mothers Temple, and Faun Fables to name some). I hope they both hurry back.


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 March 2010 16:33  


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