At last, we’ve reached the end of the marathon – the ninth concert in eight days. Granted, by the time I’m writing about this, I’ve gone to at least eleven shows in between, but that’s besides the point. I don’t get paid for this and I have many other things to do. If you’ve been reading all of these, I thank you dearly. It’s mostly something I’ve done on my own but it’s good to have a companion, you know? Onwards:
So the last show on the docket was Blanck Mass, the bludgeoning master of noise and sound hailing from the UK and is one half of the great experimental duo Fuck Buttons. I’ve been a casual fan of his music since his 2015 album Dumb Flesh, but things really started to perk up with his 2017 record, World Eater. This burst of attention was mostly due to two songs: “Please” and “Silent Treatment.” These two songs are hard-hitting angel wings, in that they’re loud, mildly disturbing, but so, so sweet to listen to. The mixture of thumping bass loaded into each track combined with their heavenly samples of voice is too much to comprehend at times. Most of the other songs on this new album are just straight up blasts of noise that wriggles around in the ear canal before slopping out of your mouth. It’s intense music, that’s for sure. I didn’t really know what I was in for in the live setting. All I knew is that it was going to be LOUD.
Lemme tell ya – loud it was. I was lucky / foolish enough to stand at the front of the stage at Rough Trade for the show: right in front of the monitors and speakers. It was one of those shows where the bass is so loud that the things in your pockets shake around. Your pant legs vibrate against your skin. Teeth perhaps chatter if you’re not careful. He started out with the noisiest, most abrasive material to start the show, as if to say, “oh hey there” in his own crazy, messed up world. There was very little semblance of rhythm or a steady beat going on, just thundering noise and blistering low end. When any high end at all came through, it was piercing, jarring, unsettling. All the while, there were breakneck visuals morphing over Blanck Mass via projector, which mostly consisted of glitched out commercials and cartoons, along with the average “noise show screensaver” type look.
Since I was at the front, I couldn’t really see what the rest of the audience was doing in response to this onslaught. I usually don’t know how to conduct myself at shows either, but this time I was especially curious. Were people bobbing their head to a beat that had not yet revealed itself to me? Were they standing still and marveling? Were they going wild, knocking into one another? I could have looked behind me and made this observation for myself, but I don’t think I ever did. Either that or I saw everyone standing still and watching, which is possibly the most boring and least-memorable thing ever. All of these options are possible. Choose whichever one you’d like to to make a scenario for yourself.
Eventually his set drifted out of the mire and into more familiar territory. This started with “Silent Treatment,” which was just a treat to hear live. Its tornadoes of sound whipping everything around it and throwing it into the stratosphere is killer, along with the rapid-fire kicks. Such a propulsive song. Blanck Mass then started diving into the first steps of “Please,” which is debatably his most popular song. At this point in the show the projections change from rather nondescript images and videos to footage of pulsating colonoscopies, earwax extraction, cyst draining, and other disorienting bodily processes. The beginning of “Please” is rather slow as well, the audience was standing in silence watching these disgusting videos as the song starts up. I could tell other people in the audience are like taken aback by seeing these images, plastered right up on a big stage, while listening to the song that most of us came to see.
Part of me found this hilarious and a really great move to pull by Blanck Mass, whose sole goal is to uproot and disturb with his music. When the song no longer disturbs and uproots but actually brings people in, why not disturb them in another way? The other part of me was the naturally repulsed part – I have a history of not doing well from watching any sort of bodily release or manipulation video. Take the time I almost passed out in a psych class from a video of a doctor poking an actual brain in an actual human body. I had to leave the classroom and got accosted for it by the professor. Or how about the actual time I passed out in eighth grade during a birthing video? Or the time I passed out on the bus in fifth grade when the radio station was sharing an interview with an open heart surgeon? The list goes on. Granted these images on screen aren’t as gory as the examples listed above, but the combination of extremely loud and intense music, mixed with the heat, mixed with the lack of sleep from seeing now nine shows in eight days – I had to get out of there. Or I was gonna be that guy that passed out in the front row of a Blanck Mass show at Rough Trade. I wonder if they’d let me go to shows for free then?
As I moved to the back and readied for departure, I had one more notable observation. While standing behind the soundboard, a person had placed their drink on the sound booth’s ledge and let it chill there. I saw the bass slowly but surely edge the cup off of the ledge, spilling everywhere outside the booth. To this, the sound guy cheered and clapped – clearly this was one of his objectives from the start of the night. I’m glad to have seen that little tidbit to end my night. After that I headed home and straight to bed. That was just nine concerts in eight days for one sleepy guy.
Morale Check: Happy I did it! One of the only reasons I like New York City is that I get to go to shows like these. I feel really lucky to be in such close proximity to all these artists coming through and acknowledge the fact that I probably won’t get the chance, or rather, a chance as easy as these to see them again. With Blanck Mass – who knows when I’d see him next? For an artist like Aldous Harding, whom I’ve seen four times now already, it’s all a matter of interest and convenience. Does that make sense? Either way, I live in NYC, might as well see some dang shows and support live music in this terrible hellscape of a world we live in.
If you’ve been reading through all these, I really want to thank you! You’re a real trooper and it means a lot that you stuck with me on this. Maybe I’ll continue to do some live reviews. But for now I’m gonna chill, I think.