Young People – Washington – The Black Cat, DC – 2004-04-16

Young People
Where: Washington – The Black Cat, DC.

When: 2004-04-16

Explain to me why every show I go to, no matter where I stand, a triumvirate of annoying, drunk, and unnecessarily brazen hipster girls always seem to set up camp a mere three inches from my person. Don’t get me wrong, I like tight-T-shirted/white-skirted/messy-haired/sleepy-eyed hipster girls as much as the next red-blooded American (or Asian American). But when they do that “let’s rub each other and hug and fall all over the place like we’re on ecstasy even though we’re not but it’ll give guys boners so who cares” routine, I find it as erotic as my grandmother waxing the hood of a Camaro in short shorts. And when Liars-frontman Angus Andrew gave them free beers when they shouted and slurred at him for attention, I could only think to myself, “No, you stupid Aussie! You’re only encouraging them!”

Luckily, Angus and Co. are a bunch of super-nice, awesome lads who happen to play loud-as-shit and abrasive post-punk, so I won’t hold it against them. The new record, They Were Wrong So We Drowned, may have polarized the indie subculture with its 180-degree deviation from 2001’s They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, but it still found many advocates who saw glimmers of retarded genius in abrasive gems like “There’s Always Room on the Broom” and “They Don’t Want Your Corn, They Want Your Kids.” So Saturday’s performance at the Black Cat was less about three obnoxious girls constantly spilling beer on my kicks, and more about the three nice lads on stage performing the sonic equivalent of a lobotomy without anesthesia.

Openers Young People dove into their set of off-key/off-kilter folk with a certain degree of lacklusterness, to no fault of their own considering there were maybe a third of the people there that would eventually see the Liars perform. After a couple of droning, minimalist numbers, I lost interest and retreated to the back corner of the club and drank large quantities of ginger ale in an attempt to stave off an encroaching sickness. (I feel better now, thanks for asking.) After Young People, Get Hustle adequately injected the show with a healthy dose of avant-garde, preparing participants for the impending drone-a-thon of the Liars. Decked out circa-1920s threads (think vests, glittery flapper caps and straw boater hats), Get Hustle was the best percussive/cacophonous, atonal organ/shouting female vocals outfit I’d ever seen this side of the Atlantic. Way better than the Obnoxious Shouting Band in Vintage Clothes Project (who don’t exist, but should). All sarcasm aside, I respected their sound and their approach, but as someone smarter than me once said, “Noise will never trump melody.” Wait, I said that! Damn I’m smart.

Eventually, Liars took the stage for what was to be a memorable show, if not annoyingly short and markedly less explosive than past shows (from what I’m told – this was my virgin Liars experience). Aaron Hemphill elicited agonized squeals from his bass in what was his signature style – that is with his back to the audience and his head bent into the on-stage amp. Recent addition Julian Gross was a picture of deranged beauty, with his porn-star mustache, American flag halter top, and one glittering, ladies earring dangling delicately from his ear. He had written “Burn Me” across his chest in marker with arrows pointing to the patriotic halter top.

Music wise, the transition from Gang of Four standard bearers of the new funkcentury to coven-obsessed acid casualties seems to have deadened the Liars a tad, but not nearly enough to make Saturday’s show any less insane. Six-foot-seven (approx.) Angus danced on stage bedecked in a red hunter’s cap, neon-green blazer and a vintage nurse’s uniform, making him out to be a Holden Caufield/the guy from the “Money For Nothing” video/Nurse Ratched amalgamation. On the back of the nurse’s uniform was scrawled “Weapons of Ass Destruction,” which is both clever and topical! The band buzzed through They Were Wrong’s tracks confidently, if not a bit too fast, and completely eschewed anything from They Dug a Trench, which I can understand that a band would want to distance themselves from past successes in an attempt to avoid being pigeon-holed, but those songs rocked and I couldn’t help but to feel a tad disappointed. “There’s Always Room on the Broom” was beat-heavy enough to squeeze a little shake out of the audience, and Andrew’s manic performance definitely kept any potentially wandering eyes trained directly on him.

The Liars’ ability to blend the psych-electronica of Silver Apples with the coarseness of Throbbing Gristle elevated them to a position occupied by few in music today. Also, when the boys from Brooklyn thanked Black Cat-owner Bernie and local DC faves the Apes for their hospitality and friendship, the band’s courteousness drew many smiles and cheers from the crowd, which contrasted nicely with the buzz saw attacks of distorted vocals and abused guitars. That was nice of them. Ultimately, I left that night with a new-found appreciation for earplugs and stun guns (both of which I neglected to bring). Also, I departed into that good night with a curiosity about what these lunatics could possibly be doing next. I say, in the immortal words of our commander-in-chief, “Bring it on, you fucking Liars!”