Reviews

Aqui

Megan Milks

While there were 'political' statements 'aplenty what I got was this: 'Dance, idiots!'

Aqui

Aqui

City: Charlottesville, VA
Venue: Twisted Tea Branch Bazaar
Date: 2005-03-28

Aqui
Before Aqui touched down in Charlottesville, Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar was just another boho teahouse, half-full of aloof Gen Y-ers who'd come for the opening band. After Aqui, it was a teahouse full of sweaty T-shirts and shit-eating grins. During, it was what hell would be like if directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez -- sinister, violent, and hyper stylized, with forked tongue perpetually in cheek. Aqui is an art-metal band from the future, or so they say, and their live show might be classified as avant-garde, if it wasn't so much fun. Watching the quartet set up was, in a way, alarming -- rotating red siren lights, a "BEGIN. YES" banner, some atmospheric noodling from the guitarist as front woman Stephonik X mumbled "hello" again and again into her mic. Was this to be more performance-art dreck? But suddenly the noodling slammed into raging art-metal from the future; Stephonik X opened her throat and roared; teapots rattled; and several audience members struggled to close their gaping mouths. Having seen Aqui open for An Albatross, I'd known what I was in for. Still, I felt like a comic book character whose face had been flattened by Aqui's might. It took a second to pop my nose out of my skull but when I did the band had my full attention. Aqui's home base is Brooklyn, where they've picked up what's left of electroclash and brought it back to life using pounding metal as a defibrillator. The result is a sound both murky and exact, one that translates beautifully in performance. Live, Aqui was electrifying, charged by a hailstorm of drums (brought by Master Bob Stein) and a crackling bassist (Gbatokai Dakinah, originally from Denmark) who easily kept up with the thunder. On top was Gustavo Andrade, an occasional shredder with a frequently delay-saturated guitar; out front was one-woman hell raiser Stephonik X, about whom I will devote many paragraphs. What Aqui has revived from electroclash, besides the electro, is its intense, eerie performance practice and DIY Gothpunk fashion sense. Decked in ripped-up black capris over a fishnet bodysuit, her boots spray-painted silver and her jacket's back declaring "NO TRADITION", Stephonik X was a novelty even before she fell into her epileptic full-body shuffle. She finished the look with heavy under-eye makeup that accentuated a bull-like glare. This glare is important, as it was what X used to lock eyes with everyone in the audience before she came up and shoved you (gently). It was the end of the band's second tour promoting its debut album, The First Trip Out, and Aqui stuck mostly to songs from that record. While the band's debut is solid, it's got nothing on experiencing Aqui live. Most songs were expanded significantly from their two-minute album length. "When the Blade Dips Down", for example, was absolutely transformed, from a pulsing hard-rock jam to a menacing 6/8 headbanger driven by Andrade's jackhammer riffs. "What's it gonna be?" X cried as the band launched into "Roll". "Pleasure? Or action!" The quartet quite obviously draws the former from the latter. Writhing and thrashing every which way, X waded into the audience to nudge people into action while forcing low moans and shrieks from the depths of her demon-from-the-future soul. Behind her, her bandmates were just as active, pushing roiling, bubbling lines out of their ready instruments. The highlight? "Mission": if only because it required X to kneel in front of a tiny xylophone and howl while dinking out scales at the same time -- an impressive feat. X is what a young PJ Harvey would have been if she weren't so goddamned shy. Aqui's "Please Send Love" is basically Harvey's "Send His Love to Me" transported from the blinding desert to the cave-depths of hell, with the circling vultures replaced by he piercing, bat-like wails. But while Harvey's music takes her into the minds of multiple personas, Stephonik X is a persona. She never broke character, not even in off moments. When Stein hopped off his throne to get a drink, X asked, "Where'd he go?" in the same drawn-out, delay-soaked voice that she used when singing. This brought a welcome self-consciousness to the show -- thankfully, X does not take herself too seriously -- that made the melodrama more palatable for the skeptics. Even so, X is much more interested in making a political statement than in poking fun at herself. What was that statement? What I got was this: "Dance, idiots!" From the cotton fields of Mississippi to the streets of Havana (well, according to Dirty Dancing 2), music making and movement have historically been political acts, literally shaking up the status quo. X brought that philosophy to this narrow, unassuming teahouse, where she poked and prodded listeners into action until they gave in. Yeah, it took a while, but we got there. Eventually, the chairs got cleared, the inhibitions got tossed, and nearly everyone in the room started thrashing.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image