Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Where were you in ’92?


So, MBV.

Loudest band ever. Turn your intestines into linguine. Man, you shoulda been there back in ’92 — their sound birthed 1,000 bands and 5,000 rock critics.

I’ve been hearing this for 16 years. I am one of the unlucky many who did not see their infamously loud tour with Dinosaur Jr., and I have no idea whether I never had the opportunity to seem them (did they go to Albany?), or simply wasn’t cool enough at age 17 to know it was happening.

Now I’m of a certain age and in a certain bizness and, last night at Roseland, finally got to see the storied My Bloody Valentine. Based purely on vibe, I would guess that the crowd was split evenly between those who had seen them before (and let us all know), those who hadn’t (and have been living with jealousy), and those who hadn’t but lied and said they had. I wonder how many dates happened under false pretenses last night.

It says something about their legend that my first reaction was slight disappointment: they didn’t actually seem so loud. Was the problem my ears or everybody else’s? Or could it be that they had turned down? Reports from the previous night had many people running out with their hands over their ears, or hiding in safety back by the merch table. But to what’s left of my ears, it was no more extreme than any other rock concert. And how could it be otherwise, really? Doesn’t everybody use essentially the same equipment?

And even though it was wonderful to hear songs like “I Only Said” and “When You Sleep” early in the set, something wasn’t clicking. I thought about grunge, I thought about Sonic Youth and Dino Jr., I thought about the color on the cover of Loveless and how it basically proved that MBV was on the right side of their own sonic Manicheanism. But it just sort of seemed like another concert.

At some point, though — I think it was when they played “Soon,” or maybe a song or two before — it clicked, because of two things: (1) it got really loud, like really loud, in a way that I could feel in my chest, and (2) it stopped making sense. During “Soon” the music seemed to be pulling itself in different directions, the grungy guitars tugging downward against the high, whistling sample. It was out of sync, like most of MBV’s counterpoint, but that’s what seemed to keep it moving.

For the finale, “You Made Me Realise,” they basically played 10, 12, 15 minutes of noise — I don’t know how long it was, but it felt like the loudest thing I had ever heard/felt in my life. I could see the drummer, Colm Ó Cíosóig, bashing away but I couldn’t hear him; he was lost in the blast of pure guitar, or at least pure something. [This blog describes the listening experience as “like standing in front of a jet engine preparing for takeoff,” and clocks the “Realise” noise jam at 15 minutes.] When they went back into the song, I had forgotten they had even been playing a song.

And when the lights went up and I turned around, there were people holding their ears and other people with blissed-out smiles. That’s the My Bloody Valentine I wanted to see.

(Photo via Flickr.)


Unknown said...


B. said...

Rob, is that you talking like a pirate?

Unknown said...

No, I don't have the right equipment for that.