WFMU Fest, the first festival curated by the ever-present and ever-wonderful WFMU, went down this past weekend at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The fest offered loud sounds by new groups Cold Cave, Pissed Jeans, and Drunkdriver, and reunion shows by Faust and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Freak Scene writer Jamie Johns hit all three nights. Hit the jump to see Diana Wong's photos (no more puking ones, sorry) and get Jamie's take on the fest's most memorable, if not always best, moments.
Recently, the realization has come to me that music writing should fall into two categories: should you turn it up or turn it down? In the case of Aluk Todolo, turn it the fuck up. The show consisted of a group of occult French long hairs who looked a little nerdy as they made metal postures—hair swinging!—and played their singular brand of nearly black metal, almost krautrock, mostly awesome heavy music. If it sounds weird, it is, but it is a mesmerizing blend none the less.
There is so much to say about Cold Cave, a group loaded with contradictions. They make dance music but once you start dancing, you look around and realize that you are the only loser dancing, which perhaps best represents the cold, isolated synth “pop” the group makes. Joined by Dominick Fernow (Prurient) and Caralee McElroy (Xiu Xiu) leader Wes Eisold led the group through short and controlled bursts of noise and tales of love and lust. In addition to playing now classic (in my mind) songs like “Youth and Lust” and “The Laurels of Erotomania,” there were a few bits of new material. They didn’t give us much: a haunting bit of synth with an odd vocal echo, but it was enough to keep me interested and ready for the next record, whenever it appears.
I love the recorded output of Faust in the ’70s. That being said, in all honesty the Faust live show made me want to gauge my eyes out. These are the people who still think that through 60s happenings and allowing the creative juices to flow – at one point the exclaimed that they did not know what they were going to create yet so we just needed to wait and see - they can change the world. They probably don’t let their kids watch TV. A cement mixer sat onstage and Jean-Herve Peron, one of Faust’s original members, gleefully threw its contents (marbles) into the crowd. Recent recruit, Geraldine Swayne, painted a large portrait on the side of the stage and Peron whimsically proclaimed something about saving yourself for Voltaire with garlic in his mouth. I know they are legendary, but it dragged on and eventually I just went home.
The Pissed Jeans live experience in a word? Sexy. Undeniably sexy, almost erotic. Singer Matt Korvette does everything that we—ladies, the world—are not meant to find attractive: rubbing his sweaty chest, awkwardly dancing, gyrating his hips, eating his foot, doing high kicks, wearing Cheap Mondays—but it works. These are all things I knew before but seeing it, and his crotch, in your face reaffirms them. His onstage swagger, for that it is what it is because he must know the effect he has, stands in stark contrast to the stunted machismo that happens in the pit during most of their shows. This time, a shirtless young man stage dived only to meet nothing but empty floor as the band continued to thrash and hash out its thoughts on the banal minutiae of everyday life. Guitarist Bradley Fry and bassist Randy Huth pushed the group’s brand of undulating, harried, and sludgy hardcore forward while Korvette interjected with humorous tales of ennui (“Half Jesii Part 2”) and the nine-to-five world (“Dream Smotherer.”) Drummer Sean McGuinness yakked all over the stage. Sorry man, but that’s all I can say about you. They stormed through songs from their excellent new album, King of Jeans, and indulged in their own mix of fleshy, visceral raunch. Korvette came onstage, asked the crowd if there were any pregnant women in the audience, and then proclaimed that they might be his, followed by a few swishes of his hips. After that show, there probably were.
I had yet to see Talk Normal and while I had checked out their upcoming record, Sugarland, I was not wholly convinced until I saw their dynamic performance on Sunday night. As the duo stood onstage amidst red light, they channeled the spirit of the night’s headliner Teenage Jesus and the Jerks as they joined together to brutally wail out lyrics like You had it coming! You had it coming! The primitive drumming was met with LOUD blasts of guitar noise/sound/something, making for the most unexpected treat of the weekend.
People slam danced during Pissed Jeans’ set the night before but during Drunkdriver it took a darker, more bizarre turn. As the band began, a group of about five to seven people just started losing their shit and a huge Minesweeper-esque hole formed around the stage as everyone backed away to avoid being hit. It was a striking image to see lead singer Michael Berdan storming back and forth onstage, spewing phlegm and screaming to a deserted front of the room. Eventually we all moved back into place and Drunkdriver’s caustic punk took over. Although Berdan commands the stage, guitarist Kristy Greene, wearing sparkles and releasing blown out chords, and drummer Jeremy Villalobos are the real gems. When the group plays, you have to pay attention. The second my mind turned away from the show, Berdan flew off the stage, bumped into my arm and landed in a heap of bodies a few feet away from me. Soon after, the Music Hall staff may or may not have asked Drunkdriver to leave the stage, I could not tell.
Teenage Jesus and the Jerks
Lydia Lunch has been a hero of mine for a long time, even my high school AIM screen name was devoted to her. Thus, I met the Teenage Jesus reunion with both anxiety and excitement. How could the band, now consisting of Lunch, Jim Scalvunos, and Al Kizys, ever live up to the vitriolic, antagonistic performances that made them legendary? More importantly, how would Teenage Jesus fare in a world where they are embraced and adored when so much of their original drive came from being despised? Mostly, however, I was just excited to be breathing the same air as Ms. Lunch. This performance was good, the group stormed through about every song Teenage Jesus had and did a few repeats as well. The erratic, discordant music sounded great over the PA at Music Hall and Lunch glared at the audience the whole time. Happily, I realized that she still hates everyone, especially men. After a man in the front proclaimed his love, she told him to love himself instead of her because “it’s cheaper,” and chastised the whole audience for not being there thirty years ago. When audience members started moshing and head bopping, she mocked their movements. What a relief!