Weedeater cancelled from this show, leaving Wetnurse and Today is the Day. Despite the tiny crowd that had come out of the rain, Wetnurse really tore it up. They play an interesting mix of NYC hardcore with a lot of thrash influence and odd melodic flourishes. Invisible City is a neat album, especially the ripping bounce of “Life at Stake” and fellow barnburner “Sacred Peel.” I ended up with two copies of the CD because the merch guys didn’t have change, but such is life.
So the main event, playing all of Axis of Eden to a backing film that was created specifically for the album?
The main event was terrible. It saddens me to write this, but the lineup wasn’t up to snuff, the film was laughably bad, and breaking off stage between every song is a great way to kill the energy in a room.
The film? Well, the first five minutes weren’t terrible, and as a backing to “IED” was fairly appropriate. Things sounded a bit off, but I figured the drummer – not Derek Roddy – was getting into things. I was wrong. He was consistently off for the entire evening. It’s one thing to sound unpolished or a bit hasty, but when an album is 50% drums that’s a tremendous liability. Wrong place, wrong time.
So the first song ends…and they walk offstage. And the film kicks into high gear. By “high gear” I mean “a world of terrible filmmaking.” Sort of like that documentary American Movie, or a high concept Troma* film; something people worked very hard on, and yet manages to be a credit to the leveling powers of digital editing.
1) Woman wandering around parking lots asking about THE ORACLE and how you can’t outrun THE ORACLE. THE ORACLE, of course, was a woman dressed in black muslin.
2) Man wanders around empty apartment while yelling “Who made this food!?!?” repeatedly. Was probably not meant to be funny, but I couldn’t help laughing. That was a common theme this evening, sadly.
3) “Kung Fu” with AfterEffects “explosions.”
4) A woman answers the door of a home – two wisecracking cops (the best characters in the flim) start giving her a hard time. She abruptly asks them “Did you guys bring mayonnaise?” The cops – and everyone in the audience – stops to give her a puzzled look before answering in the negatory. “Well, you can’t make a dick sandwich without mayonnaise.”
5) Woman on a beach, holding a staff, pointing at two women tearing apart a loaf of bread. Did i mention she had a staff?
6) Obligatory Shakespeare ending as the woman who served as the most recurrent character blows her brains out. While smiling, natch.
Today is the Day is a thematically personal band; if anything, the lyrics are very obsessed with the narrator’s own sense of failure sandwiched between rage at being fucked over. It shouldn’t be terribly hard to find visual material to match, even without having to dip into the random slideshow of pictures school of music video production. So why did this happen? I have a theory, and here it is:
Metal is not Cool.
This is a generalization, as is what will follow. Of course I think some bands are very cool, and perhaps even Very Cool. I would put Today is the Day at the top of that list. But by and large, it is not supposed to be Cool in the way that fashionable things are Cool.
This has some upsides – dedicated scenes, devoted fans and an obsession with authenticity – and some downsides. The hypermasculine image of the genre drives away many women, gay men and a fair amount of those “creative types” of all genders and orientations. This limits the pool you can draw from for the largely unpaid or low-paid talent, especially students who are both getting a fresh start and portfolio fodder as well as possessing the right mixture of personal experimentation and creative obsession.
So you’re left with less talented people. I can see how having a whole movie built around your last album, released independently, can be an incredible draw. In theory, it is. But in practice? It was difficult to sit through and failed to serve the needs or peaks of the source material in every way possible.
After the video was finally over, they had enough time to play a ripping version of “The Man Who Loves To Hurt Himself” – in some ways this just made the evening worse. Clearly the drummer they’re travelling with cannot keep up with Axis of Eden and perhaps plans should have been altered accordingly. Oddly enough, Steve Austin’s vocals were stronger and less strained than the last two times I’ve seen Today is the Day, including the previous Knitting Factory show, easily one of the best live shows I’ve ever witnessed.
This show in Italy is an excellent example of how it was, and how it should be.
Everyone has an off day sometimes.
* By “high concept” I mean “A business model built around making great trailers and terrible films isn’t a business model, it’s a bonghit of dank stupidity stomping on your bottom line, forever.”