Making noise before the big reunion
Well, are you really going to take me reviewing an F/i show seriously? Especially because I know all the backstage details of them getting this together? It's always weird going to see these guys. They're one of those bands that a handful of people in Milwaukee will go see, but if they go anywhere else (like, uh, Europe) the fans come out of the woodwork as though Dave Brock and Nik Turner were getting back together in Hawkwind with Lemmy thrown in for good measure. And a night with F/i that was also a night with Boy Dirt Car (one of those once-in-a-decade occurrences) would have ensured a packed house anywhere else but Milwaukee.
And it didn't help that it seemed Saturday night was a feast of good bands that crawled out of the woodwork for a rare show. Down on the southside, the Xposed 4 Heads and the Dummy Club were at O'Keefe's House of Hamburg warming up for the Lest We Forget show this Saturday. Word was they were also excellent, despite their equally low-attended house. Both houses shared a similar group of tenants, most of whom would have gone to Quarters or the Circle A to see the Riverwest Aces that night as well. Pretty much everybody in the bands themselves would have been at one of these shows had they not been playing themselves that night. Brian lamented: "And we're up against Marilyn Manson at the Rave!" Right, hon. Your whole crowd is going to blow this off for Manson. OK, yeah, right.
Nevertheless, the show at Shank Hall rocked, in a noisy way. Eric Lunde started off the night. Both he and the following band, Boy Dirt Car, are known more for their noise, and actually, it seemed more like a poetry slam between the two of them, accompanied by musical and noise instruments. I'm not the biggest fan of industrial/noise, but I'm good for a 30-40 minute set, especially from the two aforementioned nationally-known makers of it. Boy Dirt Car works for me because there's still a lot of musicality to it: like the soundtrack to some futuristic, nihilistic dystopian cult movie with an unreliable narrator. Plus, frankly, they're visually striking in that same nihilistic way, and they're downright tribal in their rhythms.
That contrasts directly with the superheavyweight melodies of F/i, who are verbally silent 99% of the time. And last Saturday was no exception. The only human voice coming out of the F/i stage was that of newest member Cary Grace, who wailed some kind of chant about half way through the set while the band shifted back and forth from 4/4 time to a demented, trancelike waltz. Too bad it was obvious to your intrepred reporter here that nobody on the F/i stage could hear each other for crap. And that's a problem when you're fundamentally an instrumental trance/krautrock/jam/spacerock band. All those elements play off each other, which is why, while it was a good set, and they were appreciated by the room, I'm still waiting for this all-star lineup to click. When I hear them rehearse (they've jammed in our basement a couple of years back) they have all the pieces they need.
the Brian Wilson of the bunch, is there. Rockhaus proprietor Rusty Olson is on the bass. Utility infielder Jay Tiller has been the designated hitter on the drums for a few years now, and Saturday used a set that seemed to glow underneath his sticks. Brian's on the other guitar, and Grant Richter makes noises with electronics. The aforementioned Cary Grace, looking like Stevie Nicks dyed her hair black and jumped on a bus going to some Lord of the Rings convention that crashed into Rammstein's U-Haul, glued it all together and it was clear that if nobody else could hear each other, she somehow could and kept a nice improv going above whatever chords the rest of the band could see each other changing to.
So afterwards we stood outside the door, enjoying the fresh air (while others smoked) and who should come strolling up but Jeff Hamilton and Dave Benton with backstage tour passes still stuck to their shirts for -- you guessed it -- Marilyn Manson, so I had to give Brian the pleasure of an I-told-you-so! He'd told me so tongue-in-cheek, and Hamilton and Benton walked up precisely when the F/i set was over and everybody was out catching a cig. Well, lest we forget, this is Milwaukee, and that is the exact kind of thing that happens to Milwaukee bands. See you at Turner Hall Saturday....