But let’s set the catching up on hold and talk Battles. On June 7 Battles landed at Detroit, Mich.’s St. Andrews Hall.
It was a Thursday and I had come on accounts of two of my friend’s testimonials regarding the band. I had heard them once. It was in a friend’s car. It was noisy and in my recollection not unpleasant, but to be honest I did not remember what the band sounded like. Was I in for trash or a treat?
Well, the night started off in famous fashion, straight from the lazy-eyed Kimbo Slice look-alike on the street corner to the open band “Child Bite”, which took the stage after a length delay.
Child Bite was about what you would expect from a band named “Child Bite”. They (bless their hairy souls) looked like they had wandered in off the streets from wherever the occupy Wall Streeters had pitched their tent these days. These be-bearded nomads looked to be somewhere in their 30s, but they were very imbued with a spirit of rebellion, fighting for some glorious, nebulous cause. “Biting” the hand the feeds (har, har!)!
But at first, I feared the only thing they were going to be fighting was the audience, after both the guitarist (also the vocalist) and bassist broke strings on their first song. It took about 10 minutes of the crowd yelling snark at the band and the band yelling back for the “technical difficulty” to be remedied. But in the end sweet respite was found, if by sweet respite one means a sonic assault on the ears that both pains and pleases.
How to describe Child Bite?
Child Bite sounded something like Public Image Ltd. minus the mellow and minus the distinctive vocals. Chaotic, noisy, and offensive, Child Bite made me glad I brought my ear plugs. I did a double take because I expected a hearty pit to erupt in the wake of this chaotic experience, but the results were rather tame. One hefty lad seemed to be single-handedly be playing provocateur and trying to agitate the crowd with his wild jerking and occasional playful pushes. But this ska-for-lifer was unable to muster much response from the crowd.
Alas Child Bite was an interesting appetizer, but they lacked bite, at least in comparison to what was coming.
After Child Bite I was fearing that I might have made a mistake paying that $15 at the door. But those thoughts would soon be cast aside once Battles was upon us.
Behind the band was an array of screens, displaying people, objects, in a psychedelic trance. The band itself defied even my highest hopes. I can literally count on my fingers the number of shows I have been at where I have seen the level of crowd energy, the orgasmic audio experience like I did that night.
Battles begins each song like mad scientists, with the guitarist and keyboardist playing riffs, which are later layered into the song. As more and more tunes are looped in, a rich noise erupts that is equal parts chaos and melodic. Changing time signatures and the pulsing, frantic throws of former Helmet drummer John Stanier whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
We were bouncing, we were dancing, we were pushing, we were shoving, we were exploding with euphoria. THIS was a show.
The band played song after song, with seeming spontaneous ad-libbing.
IN some ways the band bears some semblance to a more driving, more noisy Godspeed You! Black Emperor in its free-wheeling and rich organic sound. But where as GY!BE is more dark and brooding, Battles is a vision of psychedelia. A fair comparison might be the instrumentals of Of Montreal.
I did not know Battles before that fateful day in Detroit, but I left buzzing with a pure, natural high of endorphins and dopamine, created by the band and the energy of the crowd. The concert was quite literally worth the cost of admission of every one of us souls, me and my two friends included, who ventured out that day. While hardly a household name, I vowed that night to share this experience with my friends and loved ones and to be there when Battles next returns.
Let’s hope they come back sooner rather than later.