Most of the artists involved in the Panache Showcase, which took over the Knitting Factory on Friday night, tended to emphasize style over substance (see: An Albatross). But in this respect, Los Angeles foursome The Mae Shi represented the exception to the rule—they turn style into substance. The Mae Shi are a gigantic ball of energy and enthusiasm, marrying No Age-like showmanship and intensity to their anthemic spazz-punk musical catalogue. Though they supplemented their set with a few props, such as performing part of the show beneath a gigantic rainbow parachute that they unfurled over the crowd, it never seemed like a plea for attention and it worked well with the Day-Glo madness the group personifies. Floating on a sea of major key guitar melodies, a packed house easily bought into The Mae Shi’s half-inaudible speed punk, half drunken sing-along. The foursome brought everyone along for a 45-minute ride, and by the end, few seemed eager to get off the bus—myself included.
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Eddie Gieda – vocalist for An Albatross—is an evangelist for nightmares. It might have been the only gig the guy could get, considering he looks like a D-list Steven Tyler on acid. Nonetheless, if his performance with the circus sideshow that is An Albatross is any indication, Gieda has embraced the occupation with every ounce of himself. Between Gieda’s onstage antics, which frequently included walking over the crowd, and bassist Jason Hudak nearly sticking both his fists down his own throat, it was clear from the get go that An Albatross’ mish mash of psychedelic rock and spazz punk were secondary to their absurd stage show. But though it provided merely a soundtrack to their freaked out circus, An Albatross performed it well, bludgeoning the crowd with sonic knives for 45 minutes straight. I’m still not entirely sure what I saw, but I’m now a believer.
The self-proclaimed “last hair band in Seattle,” Akimbo’s curly locks may be the only frill they brought to their CMJ set at the Knitting Factory. This made them somewhat of an anomaly amongst their Panache showcase compatriots, when you consider that they were preceded by a set which ended with 6-foot inflatable gargoyles being thrown about the crowd and followed by a group that consisted of what appeared to be a coal miner, Steven Tyler’s evil twin, and a demon-possessed bassist. This is all fine, though, since Akimbo doesn’t really need anything extra to bring their brand of ear-splitting rock to the table. The left coast trio are a throwback to punk and hardcore acts of old to be sure, but their driving, almost tribal, brand of punishing rock remains fresh because of the sincere confidence with which it is performed. While they didn’t have the stage presence of An Albatross or The Mae Shi, who followed them, there’s something to be said for a band that can just get up there and throw down a quality set with no bells or whistles attached.
Unfortunately, due to a room crammed full of folk, my original plan to see Gang Gang Dance was curtailed, and I ended up finishing out the evening with Growing. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Creating a dense sound that utilized a combination of drones and a collage of tweaked sounds and samples, Growing not only proved to be one of the best bands on the Social Registry roster, but also one of the best in modern music. The last time I saw them, a few years ago, they were opening for Mogwai, and the set was much less inspired. Since then, they’ve learned to feed off each other, especially when improvising, rather than getting lost in their own worlds. Like their name suggests, this is a band that continues to grow.
A cloud of fog settled over the room during the Psychic Ills’ set, and it might have been the culmination of multiple joints being lit at the same time because everyone looked stoned—whether they were or not. And while my own drug of choice this evening was gin and tonic, I was still able to close my eyes and got lost in the band’s sound. I honestly think that’s the group’s intention. If people were dancing around during their set, I’m sure they would be a bit freaked out. I saw no dancing, but I did see a room full of people all getting something different out of their set.