(Continued from Part I, written on Monday)
Next up were Rosenkopf, the co-headliners, who have gigged ceaselessly over the last year and established themselves as fixtures of the New York goth scene. In a sign that their hard work has paid off, they certainly drew the largest crowd to the front of the stage. A trio of drums, bass, and guitar, Rosenkopf crafted extended bass and drum grooves wreathed in verbed-out guitar arpeggios, occasionally punctuated by their guitarist's verbed-out screams. Think of it as ambient deathrock. Their really impressive drummer was, as always, the center of the band, playing his kit almost like a melodic instrument, and throwing in really cool fills. Rather than settling for straight kick/snare thrash or "tribal" tom rhythms, he favored off-kilter funk rhythms and breakbeats. At times this made Rosenkopf come off like hip-hop goth, or even an instrumental reinterpretation of the whole "witch house" thing. (The studio tracks on Youtube don't really have this sound.)
Rosenkopf definitely has something unique and interesting going on, but despite the percussive pyrotechnics their set didn't do that much for me. I saw them play a much stronger show at The Pentagon this fall. And overall, it sounds like they still need to work out some kinks in the way they construct their music. It might help conjure up that hypnotic gloom if they toned down the flamboyant drumming a little bit (it can get distracting) and put more work into developing their riffage (right now it just doesn't have much character). And while I like the idea of a goth band incorporating harsh vocals, the screaming sounded too much like Liturgy for me. Something nastier and more visceral could actually add to the sadomasochistic vibe that Rosenkopf is going for.
Don't let the criticism put you off checking out Rosenkopf, though. There's a very cool concept behind the music, and you sure as hell won't hear anything else that sounds like this. I look forward to hearing what they do next.
Bootblacks were excellent as always. As I've mentioned before, they work in the tradition of The Birthday Party, Die Haut, and the like, but have avoided sounding like a retro clone band (not that I'd mind, really). They actually remind me a lot of Gang of Four, but how Gang of Four ACTUALLY played, as opposed to the refracted image of them we got through the "dance punk" of 5 or 6 years ago. Bootblacks' new thing, apparently, is playing extremely short sets--as in, 4 songs in 15 minutes. That might seem like a musical blue-balling, but it corresponded nicely to the focused intensity of their songs, and allowed them to play each one like it was their last. Their disciplined, heavily syncopated riffing contrasted nicely with the thrash and atmospherics favored by the other bands, and definitely got people fired up and moving. And the band moved too, laying into each moment of catharsis with the zeal of a metalcore band playing a breakdown. Bootblacks also pulled out a sick new song, as yet untitled, with a bit of a different feel. It was more driving, more Joy Division-esque. Needless to say, right up my alley.
After Bootblacks, I felt like the show had reached its denouement--I'd stick around and see Mauser, who I'd checked out and liked, but I had already seen the bands I'd come to see. Little did I realize what was coming. Mauser fucking wrecked everything in their path. This was the essence of raw noise d-beat fury. As everybody's favorite drumbeat kicked in, I ran forward to mosh, and found that even with earplugs my ears kinda hurt. They played so fucking loud, so that every blast of fuzz and shriek of feedback took on a clear, concrete existence of its own, so that the wall of distortion completely dominated and reshaped its environment. We were now in their bar. Mauser's vocalist was the quintessential punk frontman, raging like a berserk and entrusting himself to the unsteady hands of the small contingent who braved the frontlines. At one point he got a boost up and scaled a pole, first hanging off with one hand like King Kong, then wrapping himself around it sideways stripper-style, all while puking pure distorted hate on the heads of those below.
Their songwriting was brilliant, too: Mauser had clearly re-imagined their chosen style from the inside out. While most bands charge onwards continuously over a continuous d-beat for the entirety of each song, Mauser opened up new rhythmic space with split-second stops and sudden slowdowns. The drummer would seamlessly flow from d-beat into continuous rolling fills, as the guitars whipped up raw noise. These sections of pulsating chaos momentarily checked the song's hurtling momentum without breaking it, seeming to compress the sound in preparation for the next burst of thrashing speed. Sort of like inverse breakdowns, they increased tension instead of offering cathartic release. With their flowing, mercurial take on traditional raw punk, Mauser sounded more genuinely "chaotic" than any other noisecore band I've ever heard. Late in the set, they busted out a straight-up stomper in the vein of Discharge's crushing midtempo stuff, a side of the band that's been waaay too often neglected by the subgenre they inspired. I was into it.
What else can I say? These dudes fucking destroyed, and I bought their brief tour tape, which I might review on here soon. They were on tour up the East Coast from the old punk/metal hotbed of Gainesville, Florida, and will be going to play in Japan soon. Buy some of their shit and help them get there. Then maybe they'll bring you back a radioactive samurai sword or something.
All in all, this was an aesthetically perfect gig for me, and I got to see some sick performances. A very exciting look at what I think is the coolest scene going in my hometown, and one of the best times I've had at a show all year.