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Recession Thursday, Blowin' Up [8/30/2008 03:50:00 PM]:
Lame-ass attempt at hip-hop lingo aside, this past week's Recession Thursday deal at Numbers turned out to be pretty freakin' awesome. I managed to drag along coworker and fellow music snob Jowell, forcing him to haul his ass all the way in from the Heights, and we both walked away stunned & amazed. (Some pics below, a few more badly-lit ones here...)


I had a feeling I would be, of course, given that I already knew some of the lineup -- I'd never actually seen any of the bands playing before now, though, but had only experienced them headphones-style. We showed up just after Generation Landslide played, sadly, so I didn't get to check them out like I'd hoped, but the second-up band, Austin's Reverse X-Rays, set the stage (well, the floor, anyway) for the rest of the night in strange (yet interesting fashion). The music was improv-but-not, with mostly-clean, nimble guitars plunking and plinking in an almost African style (at least, what I know of African guitar from the awesome Mali Music disc), a little like Vampire Weekend if they were on less Paul Simon and more acid.

While I was intrigued by (and ended up liking) the music, I started off fairly skeptical, mostly because one of the band's rotating crew of guitarists -- who also wandered through the crowd later on playing a totally un-mic-ed and therefore absolutely inaudible saxophone -- was dressed all in shiny pleather(?) and spent the bulk of each song (Jowell's words) "prancing" on his tiptoes. His shins must've been killing him the next day... It was entertaining, sure, but for me it kinda detracted from the music. But hell, all I had to do was fixate on the TV set inside the bass drum that was playing some kind of video-art-collage thing (which the band was selling on DVD), and it worked.


Next up: Giant Princess. I had some idea of what these East Side-dwelling folks might sound like, based on a quick listen to their EP, but once they hit their stride, I was fucking blown away. It took a few songs before singer/guitarist Collin Hendrick and the rest of GP were really able to pull it together, but when they did, it felt like I was watching a more true-life, less-staged, Southern-bred White Stripes in their prime. They ripped through one raw, bluesy stomp after another, the Sonics-esque organ bumping along next to the about-to-collapse guitar riffs and stuttering drums. It was awesome, seriously. When Hendrick tore into one particular solo, my mouth literally, really-truly, dropped wide open, and it took me a minute to recover my jaded indie-rock composure. The best surprise of the night, to be sure.

After a brief interlude where the Numbers staff frantically searched for the band so they could go on stage, The Goods came up next, blazing through a set of straight-up melodic rock songs -- not metal, not punk, not even indie, just rock -- with nonchalance born of knowing just how absolutely good the band is at what they do. I mean, really; the four guys in The Goods make it look easy as hell, even as they did things to their instruments that I sure as shit wouldn't even contemplate trying. The band's skinny lead guitarist (who looked like his two different-colored Jaguars might break him in two at points), in particular, was pretty incredible just to watch.


Unfortunately, the band got probably the coolest reception of any I witnessed that night, although I'm not entirely sure why -- my friend & I looked around when they finished playing and thought The Mathletes were going to be rocking out to an empty room. But no; when Joe & Ryan Mathlete started noodling around on their instruments, a flood of fans rushed the "door" in from the little smoking-courtyard and formed a minor sea of smiling, bobbing heads in front of the stage.

And the smiles were well-deserved. Joe & co. have that near-magical ability to not only make other people's songs their own (in this case, Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," a Smashing Pumpkins song I can't remember, and an inspired, half-assed version of The Jackson Five's "I Want You Back") but to spin songs about robots and elephants and other weird shit and make it work beautifully. The stripped-down Mathletes trio couldn't do some of their cooler songs (apparently "Hornless Unicorn Anthem" can't really be done w/o a keyboard...sigh), but they were truly great nonetheless, just three guys up on a stage playing songs they love and hoping other people will love them, too. It helps, of course, that they're all the nicest of guys, and funny as hell (e.g., when Joe declared that he was going to "rock out with his Barack out").


And then, there was B L A C K I E. Holy fucking shit. What the hell just happened? While the Mathletes were still breaking down, B L A C K I E's Michael Lacour pulled his hoodie down low on his head, turned on his iPod or whatever the hell was providing the backing beats, and proceeded to do one of two things: A) drive people out of the room, afraid for their eardrums/sanity, or B) cause people still there to shit their pants and imagine in advance how they were going to describe what they were witnessing the next day. Vicious, savage rhymes careening over the top of thick-as-molasses bass and drums, freaky noise, and Cat Stevens/ABBA samples -- I can pretty much guarantee that if you witness B L A C K I E, it's gonna be the weirdest hip-hop you'll ever experience.

Lacour's vocals came and went as he roamed around the "stage" (part of the Numbers dancefloor near the club's back door) in front of his huge stacks of speakers -- some of the time it was due just to mic cord problems, but even when it wasn't, the bonecrushing beats only let bits and pieces of his rhymes creep in at the sides. He climbed halfway up the side wall, eventually standing on a wooden support while he yelled/howled the lyrics, spitting angrily like there was nobody watching but his own demons. I swear to God, the bass made my chest cavity (and my heart within it) vibrate.

About halfway(?) through, exhaustion caught up to me and forced me to leave, although I definitely didn't want to. I backed away carefully, weirdly nervous that if I turned my back to head for the door, the music might rush up and shank me or coldcock me or something. Just paranoia, I know, but that's the kind of tense, disturbing atmosphere in the room as B L A C K I E did his/its thing. Two days later, my ears are still ringing, and I don't even mind.

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