Festival? We Don't Need No Stinking Festival
09.12.06 at The Smell in LA By Keith Boyd
Ah, the urban wilderness that is LA! The wild smog in the wild air settles all over you like a fine coating of pancake makeup applied to a nude model. You stroll through this thick atmosphere and feel the desperation and faded glory assault your senses. Crumbled and stained sidewalks and curbs seem half real beneath your feet. Whole blocks of dirty and ratty tents stuffed with people driven half mad or all the way mad by drugs and no food and illness and inner demons. Mexican transvestites preen past the gauzy green glow of the neon lights in the window of the botanica. As the sunlight fades a new city rises from these ruins. This is the city of other senses. This is the city of smell. The city of human urine and car exhaust and heat bleeding out of old stone walls. This is the city of touch. The cracked and callused hand of a homeless man as he shakes you hand waiting for his moment to start the hustle for change. This is the city of sound. The sound of Ranchera and Mexican dance music blatting at full volume. The sound of desperate shouts and garbled screams coming from unknown directions. This city keeps you on your toes. It was into this city that myself and a few pal ventured last Saturday night to check out the spectacle, the phenomena, and the outright surreal indecency of the Acid Mothers Temple's "New Japanese Music Festival".
To call this a "festival" requires that one's ability to visualize or conceptualize is deeply rooted in a Marx Brothers aesthetic. Perhaps it even requires something beyond The Marx Brothers. A bit of 3 Stooges mixed together with Monty Python and the Firesign Theatre all soaked in Ayhuasca and shot up your nose by an Amazonian shaman. That might approach it. Now that you've rearranged your perspective you're ready to call this event a FESTIVAL! It consisted of several permutations of 3 of the ever expanding Acid Mother's Temple lineup. In this case that would include, Kawabata Makoto, Yoshida Tatsuya and Tsuyama Atsushi. Each assembly of these same three people would get up and play for between 10-20 minutes, then they would dash off backstage to take a quick smoke break and run back on to "become" the next group.
Musically there was an entire gamut to run. There was a healthy dose of beautiful and damaged Gregorian drone chanting. This was surrounded by contact microphone noise sessions of pant zippers and scissors. There were longish riffs on various "famous" and not so "famous" songs by Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Miles Davis. These were delivered in a wacky, hand-made Captain Beefheart tone that, to me, was a bit off putting. While the sentiments of slap-dash deconstructionism are commendable, after standing in the sweat and cigarette drenched club for a few hours, the joke wore thin. It began at times to feel like a test of will. The atmosphere in The Smell contributed to this by acting like an unhealthy sauna. It was the reverse of every positive feeling one could have in a space. The thickness of the air filled with human sweat and bad breath and cigarette smoke and vague industrial smells and of course, urine was inescapable.
Better were the sets of Ruins solo and the great grand finale of Acid Mothers Temple pile driving it home. The Ruins set was a master work of intense drumming. While playing along with a sampler and guest bassist Yoshida somehow channeled the sound of several drummers playing furiously all at once. The beauty and devastation of the songs, filled with manic energy and wild swerves of tempo was inspiring. Best of all however was the massive cathartic, freak-power lift off of Acid Mothers Temple . It's hard to describe the massive push of sound pressure created by AMT live. They seem to literally strangle the music out of thin air and then ride this throbbing monster for all it is worth. The spontaneous and chance filled collides with pure daring and intent to create hypnotic magick. AMT is one of the best live acts going and it would behoove you to drive, fly, crawl on bloody stumps, skip, or roll to wherever they are playing and dig it.
This wild trip to LA didn't end with the last collapsing chords of AMT though. From there our San Diego foursome (the impossibly tall and handsome Philsy, his lovely pixie-booted wife Yuko and "The Two High School Girls" Eric and I) and some other pals (wise acre, music magician, actor and all purpose freak Brucey and sweetheart of the rodeo and dog-bar lover extraordinaire Helveta) scampered off to one of those LA ex-Rummy/Barfly, now taken over by hipsters, bars called, "Footsies". As to what happened here perhaps the less said the better! Let's just say that tequila and Tabasco is a lovely way to go and that watching large gothic girl dig cell phones out of their cleavage to show you pictures of themselves hung-over in a taxi is not. Really what this night was about was connection and freedom. It's a blessing to be with great friends laughing and riffing on time present and past. It's a blessing to get out of your head once in awhile. It's a blessing to see the variety of human experience. And finally it's a blessing to hear the pure caterwaul and inspired free-form lunacy of Acid Mothers Temple no matter what the line up, smell or cost to mind and body.