Like most people who have seen too many live acts to count, it takes a lot to get me excited about seeing a band live these days. So when I started talking excitedly about Holy Fuck playing on March 8th in Kansas City two months ago the people around me knew this group must have an extra something-something. I told everyone that would listen that Holy Fuck isn't a typical electronica group. They don't use laptops, they have a live drummer, and a lot of their songs and live shows are improvised.
When Saturday night rolled around it felt like it was Thursday night and LOST was about to come on...times ten. At one point I questioned whether I was hyping myself up only to be disappointed, and then I thought, "Nah...I mean, c'mon, with a name like Holy Fuck what are the chances that they'll disappoint?"
The boy drama that delayed me on Saturday night and caused me to miss Bald Eagle's set did disappoint me. I had hoped to catch all three bands and have myself a loud ass trio of a night, but by the time I rolled into Record Bar A Place to Bury Strangers, touted as the "LOUDEST band in New York", was already on stage.
It's not hard for me to believe that A Place to Bury Strangers is indeed the LOUDEST band in New York. This three-piece loves them some reverb. While watching their set I tried to note their influences. I thought one song, based on its beginning, was a Nirvana cover at first. There was also a Social Distortion vibe coming from some of their songs as well. It wasn't until I saw the guitarist twirl his guitar around by a string to make noise that it hit that these dudes love Sonic Youth, and Thurston Moore specifically, as much as I do. In my world, there can't be enough bands influenced by Sonic Youth so I was loving what they had coming out of their amps. Light on lyrics, heavy on noise, A Place to Bury Strangers is a band that any noise-art-rock fan can appreciate.
The only thing the crowd didn't seem to appreciate about the band's set was the smog machine. Kansas City is one of the few cities in this world where you can still smoke in clubs (you can even smoke in some coffee shops around here!!). Between the 100 smokers inside Record Bar and the smog machine, there was too much in the air at the end of the band's set. Luckily the smog cleared as the staged emptied for Holy Fuck.
Holy Fuck is almost like two duos sharing the stage together. Brian and Graham work closely together on the boards during their shows, and the bass player and drummer are together making noise at the back of the stage. They started with "The Pulse," and it was the perfect song to begin with. One minute into the song I felt like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. I pushed my way to the front and immediately started bouncing along to the beat. Even though Holy Fuck brings the beats, their crowds don't actually dance that much. This might be because watching what the band is doing, and looking at the trash and toys on the stage that Holy Fuck uses to make noise, is a show in itself.
Brian uses a 35 mm film synchronizer, and both he and Graham use numerous toy keyboards and effect pedals. At one point Graham had a tube connected into a small keyboard that he blew into to make sounds. I have no idea what this instrument is called, besides "cool."
The improvisation on the stage is apparent when the members are talking to each other. They don't really know what they are going to play when they take the stage either, but their set doesn't come across as haphazard in any way. They went from song to song seamlessly and the crowd was eating it up. I kept switching between focusing on the beats and moving my body to them, to studying what they were doing on stage. Most electronic shows are a complete snooze when it comes to what is happening on the stage, but not Holy Fuck. It's a joy to watch the rhythm section in a loud, blissful oblivion, and watching the boys at the boards twist knobs, tinker with instruments, switch keyboards, and make amazing sounds come out of found and fucked with instruments.
Every time I looked around at the crowd I noticed expressions of awe, joy, glee, abandonment, and respect. I don't think anyone left this show disappointed. The crowd requested and received an encore, and before leaving I gushed to Holy Fuck about how they did not disappoint me. Its nights like this that make me feel less jaded towards live music. After seeing Holy Fuck, the bar for electronic music has been raised. People using laptops and drum machines...you have been warned.
Encore #1: "Stilettos"
Photos by Michael Forester