San Francisco Bath House
Sunday, January 27
Brooklyn noise trio, A Place To Bury Strangers, took the stage around 11pm to hit the audience over the head with squalls of guitar, accentuated by smoke machine and strobe lighting. The only problem? The audience forgot to turn up.
Playing to not much more than a couple of dozen people – a shame, a terrible shame – APTBS delivered a brutal, pulverising set. It was exciting and enticing, it was visceral, it cut deep and through the light show – and the use of darkness, particularly – it was as if a visual representation of the sound was being offered. We could see the sound coming off of the guitar, bass and drums, deliberately buried vocals sitting in behind and working as another texture to the sound. One more layer.
APTBS has three albums out now – last year’s Worship is a thing of beauty. And there are several EPs to support the story too.
The references/influences might seem obvious (Jesus and Mary Chain, Bauhaus, BJM, The Cure) and so many great moments from punk, post-punk, sludge-rock, shoe-gaze and good old fashioned metal but the three members of APTBS serve it up as if they’ve never heard any other music. It might even have had some of the audience members wondering if they’d heard music before this evening; so alive, so vital, pulsing, charging – so huge.
It was dirty, sometimes close to downright nasty. And the band never spoke, no banter, no “hello Cleveland/Wellington”; no bullshit. Just the wrangling of noise into sound and the strangling of that sound back towards noise – beautiful and ugly all at once, a controlled chaos that was riveting to hear and see.
It was post-punk (newly) interpreted by post-rock players.
An hour later the guitar was discarded, as if nothing more could come from it. I got the feeling it was exhausted. Its dreams shattered, its screaming silenced.
And if it was sad that only a few handfuls of people were on site to drown in this sound then none of us would have known the band felt that way.
For as awful as it might seem to make comparisons to other bands, I feel like I just saw a kick-ass set by TransAm and a mind-melding Bailterspace performance layered together, lapping one another, licking at the audience from the stage, poking and probing and pulsing and pushing and searching and exploring.
It was too good to be seen by so few.