Live: Mogwai/Errors

WAREHOUSE LIVE — 5/17/2011: I hesitate to type this, because I feel like when I do, one of the last sparks of youth left dimly flickering within my soul will be extinguished forevermore. But fuck it…I am so glad I brought earplugs to this show. Not because Mogwai sucked (far from it, actually), but because this had to have been in the top three straight-up loudest shows I’d ever been to. I think it may have even given the top contender (Dinosaur Jr./My Bloody Valentine at the Liberty Lunch in 1992) a sonic photo finish.

Taking the stage after some, uh…errors…opening act Errors kinda had me fooled into thinking I could go sans boules quies for this show — while sufficiently rocking their dancey electro-tinged set, they weren’t exactly peeling the paint off of the walls. Errors did get me to move around a bit, however, especially when they ventured into Battles or Mogwai-like territory.

For whatever cynical, deep-seated, stick-up-my-ass reason, I’m usually fairly resistant to bands like Errors, so I was somewhat surprised that it was clicking for me this time around. While the other guys in Errors are definitely good at what they do, it’s the drummer, James Hamilton, who I think is their secret weapon.

As my friends and I were discussing that evening, bands like this rise and fall on the strength of the guy behind the kit. Hamilton was definitely the driving force behind getting my old, tired ass a-shakin’ that night. More on this guy later. At any rate, I didn’t find myself marking time during the opening act’s set, as is so often the case (again, “stick-up-my-ass,” remember), so I can totally get why Mogwai signed Errors to their record label.

After a brief interlude, Mogwai took the stage with “White Noise,” the opener from their most recent full-length, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Backed by a simple, geodesic sphere-based film projected on the giant screen behind the band, Mogwai slowly unfurled their majestic post-rock until the whole Warehouse shook beneath the sonic tapestry. As the song ended, I thought, “damn…they’re holding this feedback for a really long time”…until I realized that my ears were already ringing.

And therein lies the beauty of Mogwai: their music is so damn graceful and bewitching that the sheer power behind it all sometimes takes you by surprise. Mogwai fucking rock, in a very real, effortless, non-histrionic sense. Loud not in a “chugga-chugga ROAR” way, but in a “multilayered wall of sound” way…much like My Bloody Valentine.

After “White Noise” came “Death Rays,” another track from Hardcore…, which features the band’s trademark undulating rhythms anchoring down a synth-based melody while fuzzed-out guitars provide the buffer for both. During this song, I really began to notice just how much the drummer was dealing on his kit, his hair whipping around and arms flailing enough to make it look as if he had two extra at times.

Imagine my surprise when, a few songs later, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite introduced not Martin Bulloch (their usual skinsman), but Errors drummer James Hamilton. Apparently, Bulloch had family stuff to deal with back in the UK that precluded him from touring, so Hamilton stepped in for this tour. Not sure how much time this kid had to practice, but…holy crap. Had Braithwaite not mentioned it, I would never have known the guy was a fill-in (I hadn’t gotten a good look at him during Errors’ set). Kudos to him for that — he was definitely fun to watch, especially during “San Pedro” and of course, “Batcat.”

Frankly, Mogwai is one of those bands where (at least in my case) where one could easily spend the show just studying one band member at a time, watching what kind of crazy shit they’re doing to milk these extraterrestrial noises from their instruments. And just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they switch instruments. Three songs later, they switch again. Yet it all makes sense together as a whole, and definitely transcends the sum of its parts that way.

Mogwai’s set featured selections from pretty much their entire career: “Cody,” “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong,” and “Friend of the Night” all made appearances, alongside lots of tracks from Hardcore… — the only things I would have like to have heard but didn’t would’ve been some selections from their Clint Mansell score collabs for The Fountain (a live version of “Death Is The Road to Awe” would have blown my damn mind), but I guess they can’t give me everything I want, right? Needless to say, I was pretty bummed when the show was over (as opposed to tired, complaining, and half out the club door…say it with me, “stick up my ass”) as I could probably watch Mogwai do their thing for hours on end.

With the proper ear protection, of course. END

(Photos by M. House. Feature photo by Steve Gullick)

Live review by . Live review posted Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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