The Blank Club, San Jose, CA
June 25, 2010
Two years ago Umlaut was in New York City and I ran into an old Bay Area friend who I hadn't seen in 10 years at a Starbucks on 7th Avenue (Hey David!). It was a completely random encounter and later over lunch he told me I needed to check out a Brooklyn band called A Place To Bury Strangers. Since that random encounter several other friends of the Umlaut Nation have also urged me to check out APTBS. Well, fast forward a couple of years and, for one reason or another, I hadn't been able to catch APTBS live... until now. Better late than never...
Thanks to an invite from Hard Rock Chick, this was a painless surgical strike of an evening. I left Casa de Umlaut just after 10:00pm... Parked... Ran into Umlaut Nation friends out front (a shout out to Timo and Frank)... Went inside... Watched some of the awful support band... Went back outside. APTBS took the stage at midnight and halfway through their opening song I said to myself "This is my new favorite band.."
APTBS is the type of band I've been looking to find again for years... They are a band whose onstage personality is so loud and out of control I can't imagine what a band rehearsal is like because chaos is such an integral part of them. Their smoke machine belched noxious fumes onto the dark stage to shroud the room in a burlap sack of mayhem that my head was shoved into as a shovel hit me in the forehead... again and again. APTBS are the complete opposite of The Big Four in a good way. APTBS is band that is a pure uncut force of nature onstage... They give off that sense of danger in a performance where you don't know what might happen next... They are a band who throw themselves off a cliff just to see where they land and they dare an audience to follow them. They are my kind of band.
Fronted by mad scientist Oliver Ackerman on guitar and vocals, the wall of volume that APTBS is able to flatten an audience with is astounding. Standing against the stage I felt like I was in one of those Atomic Bomb tests in the 1950's... Engulfed in smoke... Embraced by almost unbearable volume... Flattened.
I'm a complete APTBS' newbie and I don't know any of their songs and I don't know alot about them in general (other than Oliver owns a custom guitar effects company that counts the likes of Wilco, Nine Inch Nails, and U2 as customers). My mind was a clean slate for them to make an impression on me.. and they did in a huge way. APTBS struck me as the spun out bastard child of two of Umlaut's all-time favorite bands: The Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3 ... and that's why I reacted so strongly to them... I'm always looking for a *new* band who are kindred spirits of those classic bands.
Since I was standing directly in front of Oliver I became hypnotized watching him manipulate his effects as he strangled his Fender Jaguar... and his battle with the guitar had the headstock swinging very close to my head many times... but I was in the mood for a little concert danger so several times I tried to see how close I could get my head to the Jaguar's headstock and not get bloodied by the tuning pegs. Thankfully I came out unscathed by this game of chicken... this time.
The finale of the set was like watching an epic hand-to-hand battle between 3 humans and the invisible beast called VOLUME. APTBS grabbed onto VOLUME and held on for dear life until they managed to wrap their collective fingers around the beast's throat and wrestle it into submission. Clash of The Titans...
As feedback bounced around the room, the band left the stage littered with murdered instruments, broken guitar strings, and even a little blood as Oliver cut his nose during the performance. Epic.
My head was spinning from what I had just witnessed and I forgot to do a merch audit. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I woke up the next morning with the show still ringing in my ears and the image of murdered instruments lying in pools of feedback. CSI Lock 'N Loll.