Perambulating the Bounds

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Rat Bastard’s Merry Band

My favorite part of yesterday’s Laundry Room Squelchers set (http://www.squelchers.com/) was the end – no, not because it was over, but when Rat Bastard decided it was time to end the set and he walked down the line of amps and turned them off one by one. Dad was telling the kids it was time to turn off the TV and go to bed.

The Squelchers’ set is largely a visual experience. There’s sound, lots of it, at high volume, but it washes over you while you watch the musicians go through a stream of rock performance gestures in exaggerated and absurd form combined with Jerry Springer show chaos. Rat plays guitar, and strides out into the audience on stiff legs. Leslie Keffer flings her head and long hair down, but in slow motion, or turns to the audience in a dramarama confrontational way. Alex Diaz lifts a wah-wah pedal over and behind his head. And one of the other women wrestles on the ground with Kate, from the noise community here in Nashville, who stormed in and threw herself into it.

All of it orchestrated by Rat Bastard. He’s a middle-aged guy, a veteran, and puts together the group for its tours and decides what instruments or devices they are going to play. The set is relentless, loud and leering. As I understand it, there’s always women rolling around on top of each other (maybe it’s coed sometimes – someone can set me straight on that). It reminds me of Dave Cloud’s honesty about his own lascivious nature.

Rat Bastard travels around with his band, a bad example dad, except … unlike the proper suburban dad, Rat ain’t hiding nothing. Honesty is one of the defining qualities of noise music, an honesty and openness so extreme that it is basically dysfunctional in conventional settings, especially conventional music business settings. Noise music says isn’t it fun to turn the volume up real loud, aren’t women with guitars sexy, aren’t the poses of rock performers completely ridiculous, doesn’t the sound quality of a screech break your heart.

The Squelchers started out with a solo set by Alex Diaz as Xela Diaz. He launched loops from reedy harmonica chords and vocal sounds, and then sang over that. It was lovely and consonant, something like Tyondai Braxton’s solo performances.

Taiwan Deth played another strong set. A lot of it had steady rhythmic grooves done with pretty simple means – Angela on guitar and Derek on a stripped down drum set he played standing up, without a lot of manipulation. I want to take some notes during one of their shows. It’s hopelessly uncool, but at my age that’s kind of a moot point and and it would help me put my finger on why their sets seem so cogent.

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