A Place to Bury Strangers at the Urban Lounge

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No more than 50 people witnessed a true noise virtuoso last Thursday night at Salt Lake City’s Urban Lounge.

Oliver Ackermann and A Place to Bury Strangers would ordinarily exceed my live threshold for distortion and sheer volume.  In fact, I passed on their show here in 2008 with the blithe observation that I was getting too old for that kind of live show.  I think that a lot, “I’m not 20 anymore, what am I doing here?”  Which is true and I’m not.  But there’s nothing like a little drone that threatens the space-time continuum to keep you feeling young. 

Locals Laserfang opened.  The band showed a few flashes of interest when they played denser arrangements but drifted into a Roger Daltrey RAWK mode by default.  Next up was All the Saints.  Touring on Fire on Corridor X, the Atlanta-based band more than stood their ground before the assault from APTBS.  They are clearly one of the most loyal customers of Ackermann, who owns the petal shop Death by Audio frequented by luminaries like MBV.

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The sheer enertainment of watching percussionist Jim Crook pound his drums like a thing possessed was worth the night’s price of admission alone.  Crook prowls the stage like a cornered animal between songs and beats with such inhuman ferocity that it was exhausting just watching him.  All the Saints played for maybe 30 minutes and I don’t think Crook could have continued another minute.

IMG00197A Place to Bury Strangers frankly started a bit slowly, owing perhaps to the modest crowd and also some power problems.  The amplifier for the drums kept shorting out and was eventually remedied by pulling the smoke machine off the same breaker. 

The band started with “Gimme Acid,” “Exploding Head,” and “Fix the Gash” before launching into a mildly psychedlic light show.  The lights themselves didn’t accomplish much but in combination with the awesome level of distortion started to put the performance over the top.

Interesting to watch was Ackermann, who I noticed doesn’t wear earplugs, and his growing frustration with his output as the show went along.  He couldn’t create quite enough distortion to arouse the hounds of hell from their slumber or generate enough squawl to render a healthy man infertile. 

He eventually slung a half-beaten guitar over his shoulder, slogged halfway through closer, “Ocean,” and then let the ambience ride for several minutes.  In the interlude…the term hardly seems appropriate for the pain we suffered while he hunkered over his laboratory of circuits…Ackermann, by now completely self-absorbed, had deftly switched enough plugs, wires, knobs and cord runs to blow the Bridge to the River Kwai. 

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What followed was a remarkable demonstration of distortion-as-stagecraft.  Ackermann continued searching for the perfect deafening squelch, furiously raised his guitar, broke all but three strings, and was eventually left manipulating the noise by twisting the tuner on his guitar neck until it was ready to burst. 

Bandmates quit behind him while he obliviously worked his pedals and what was left of his guitar to get that certain something that was eluding him.  Finally, Ackermann tossed his guitar from his knees, threw up his hands in resignation.  And it was over.

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One Response to “A Place to Bury Strangers at the Urban Lounge”

  1. Frank Huntington Says:

    BEST set list I’ve ever seen.

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