Live Review: Hawks, Whores, DD/MM/YYYY, These Arms Are Snakes @ Star Bar, October 1

By Bryan Aiken

As if moving with the cloud of
fall’s first chill, so came the national tour of eccentric indie-rock stalwarts
DD/MM/YYYY and These Arms Are Snakes to Atlanta’s Star Bar. An unlikely pairing
already, if not for the bands’ loose common ground of spastic performance, the
lineup was made even more disparate by its snarling local support: Hawks and
Whores.

Like the burst of a starter pistol,
Hawks began in a fit of sound that would set the aggressive, cacophonous tone
of the evening. The quartet’s classically outrageous punk-smoked rock has
become Atlanta’s preferred infamy of late, stirring due buzz over the
performances that share the sincere irresponsibility of its anti-social sound.
In its short history, Hawks has made a respected art of designed carelessness,
all rusted strings and chugging groove, honing what has become a finely out-of-tuned
craft. But all these observations are nearly eclipsed in the live setting by
the distracting, frothing, Nazi goose-stepping display put on by deranged
vocalist and head hawksman Mike Keenan.

In fact, the band’s entire set was
encapsulated by the moment Keenan dove from the stage, sunk his talons into my
shoulder, and screamed incomprehensible lyrics into my wanting, ringing ear. He
was either saying, “What’s his problem, anyway?!” or “I’m about to yell into
the penis of the man directly to your right!” Though, if his next move was any
indication, it was probably the latter.

In direct counterbalance to Hawks’
disheveled ruckus, Whores offered a sound of discipline. A hulking mass of a
metal band, Whores is absolutely huge, and unquestionably professional. Every
measure of the set was deliberate, powerful, a focused gaze of percussive
precision and textbook stick-tricks, aligned with careful, crushing tone. This
is the kind of metal possible only in the South, through stacks of cabs,
vintage fuzz and a thick, single-pickup Telecaster. Yet, Whores still manages
to navigate out of the swamp and sludge of its regional peers, true to its
evident rock roots, creating staggeringly heavy music that never feels
heavy-handed.

The third phase of Thursday’s aural
assault, DD/MM/YYYY (“….or ‘Day Month Year’ or ‘D-D-M-M-Y-Y-Y-Y’ or ‘Today’ or
‘Time,’” clarifies guitarist and hairdo Tomas Del Balso), was a jarring switch of musical gears.
Not as heavy as the other bands, if not for daunting cerebral weight, the Canadian
quintet offered an itchy, spasmatic thumb war between post-rock, indie-jazz,
synth-noise and… well, Canada. This circus of syncopation may have been a knot
in the beards of the crowd’s metal purists, but it was far and away the most
interesting and provoking material of the entire lineup. The set was bookended
by the best and final songs of the group’s March LP, Black Square, opening with “Digital Haircut” and closing with the
exceptional “Vantan,” which featured the only real singing of the entire night,
if only for a fleeting, gang-chanting instance.

Up to this point, the lineup hadn’t
made much sense. The acts were individually remarkable, but the lack of
stylistic cohesion separated the audience into tense factions. The night’s
headliner, however, weaved it all together in triumph: Seattle’s These Arms Are
Snakes merged a debaucherous frontman, frighteningly heavy music, and love for
the 5/4 movement into a brooding, soaring death-blimp of sound – perhaps only
one sip away from a Hindenburg catastrophe. In a drunken personification of
train-wreck entertainment, vocalist Steve Snere prologued the Snakes’ set with
an offstage (but no less audible) tantrum over the tour’s persistent technical
difficulties. The awkward outburst could have ruined the band’s show, taken a
willing crowd of its moment.

But in this business, meltdown is a
workplace. The resulting performance became a riveting, nihilistic forfeit, a
weaponized frustration that bordered on performance art. Snere loomed through
every song with a half-eyed slither, crawling on the floor, into the ceiling
tiles, and across the groping pit, as often as he was unsteadily upright.
During the band’s slow, terrifying “Abracadabra,” the vocalist snatched up an
audience member’s cigarette, reflected for a moment’s puff, and put it out on
his stomach. Now, covered in char and slobber, he removed his belt, tied it
around his neck, and mocked a hanging from the venue’s light overhead. Snere is
an offensive, pelvic thrust of a man, the kind of rabid, loudmouth idiot you
hope never gets a microphone, and the kind of captivating frontman you’re
thankful that does.

A satisfying release to an overall
climactic show, the Snakes were an implosive, self-destructive mixture of
everything we’d seen that night. And, for their sake, unlike anything we’ll see
again.

Comments

  1. Great review!

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