Disappearer, Russian Circles, and Boris at the Starlight Ballroom, Philadelphia, PA

On a steamy August night I found myself walking into the Starlight Ballroom afire in anticipation of the first Boris appearance in Philly in two years, as well as my first opportunity to see Russian Circles. Not to leave Disappearer out, I just wasn’t at all familiar with the band and what they did. That being said, let me get to the meat of this review – the show itself.

Disappearer (Boston, MA) was up first and boy, what a treat. It’s a great thing, indeed, to go see a band you’re into and then have an opening act you know nothing about take the stage and throw down like these guys. Thick, heavy, and at times lush instrumentation, in conjunction with soulful yet anguished vocals, Disappearer hit the crowd with a well crafted sonic assault that pulls from a number of different genres. I’m not wholly into screaming vocals these days but such a style worked great with the music that these guys pumped out. Great choice for an opener, though I don’t think I would go to see a show these guys were headlining.

Next up were Russian Circles (Chicago, IL). I had heard the buzz about these cats a couple of years back, listened to a small amount of their output, yet never really followed the band’s trajectory. After seeing their live performance, however, I realize that this was a mistake of near criminal proportions. The three (Sullivan, Turncrantz, Cook) that make up this outfit are most certainly putting out some of the most visceral yet thought provoking instrumental work that the heavy music genre has to offer these days. The set they played was well planned and showcased the band beautifully, from more ambient moments to crushing heaviness and back again. This was no mere change-in-volume-trickery, but the combined effort of artists who seem to have a unique understanding of dynamics which, in concert with an uncanny knack for playing off of the crowd’s energy, made for an incredible performance. The guitarist and bass player played with an intensity that was surpassed only by the drummer who, though at times looked to be in the midst of a spastic fit, attacked his instrument with focus and fire; pummeling forth the percussive textures inherently necessary for this band’s unique brand of heavy to work. I’ll be keeping my eye out for future performances, as should any fan of heavy instrumental music.

And then – Boris (Japan) took the stage. The wait (two years!!) was finally over, and Takeshi, Wata, Kurihara and Atsuo were onstage in front of us, ready to deliver the goods as only they can. Boris is really one of my favorite live acts (not to discount their impressive and incredible body of studio works) and they don’t come around too frequently, so I was psyched as hell! You never know quite what cross section of material you’re likely to get from a Boris performance (unless previously stated), and this night proved no different: selections from albums older and more recent, lilting ambient melodies to balls-to-the-wall rock, vocal harmonies (yes, actual singing) to bottom heavy drone (which was how they went out – drooooooooonnnnnniiiiiinnnnnngggggg). Atsuo was off the chain, doing a bit of crowd surfing before hopping back behind the drum kit to attack the gong and keep the beats coming. The chemistry amongst the band, as always, was energizing; the kind of feeling you get from seeing people doing what they love to do, what they are driven to do. Seeing Michio Kurihara perform with Boris blew me away, he’s an incredible musician whose contributions fit and flow with the rest of the band seamlessly, and to see him in a live setting was the icing on the cake. Consummate performers bringing psychedelic, melodic, droning, hard-ass, beautifully crushing rock to a city near you! Hopefully.