Crappy Gang Gang Dance photo by Jennifer Maerz (who offers her apologies)
Gang Gang Dance/Ariel Pink
June 18, 2007
Better Than: Taking mushrooms at a Middle Eastern bazaar.
There seemed to be two trains of thought about Gang Gang Dance opener Ariel Pink last night. From friend A (with a shake of the head): “This is too retarded for me.” From friend B (observed with a note of optimism): “That’s a weird scene up there.” The music landed somewhere in between, as Pink is nothing if not an awkward tangle that fans gawk at nonetheless, leaving his audience parsing out warped pop passages from the wreckage. Last night, the instrumental carnage was rougher than usual. Having rotated out over half of the band members Pink toured with last time, the show was an exercise in heavy instrumental smothering, guitars over bass over synths over drums over static over Pink pacing and mumbling into a microphone.
The result was like trying to tune your radio to an AM station, but missing every song by a hair. When they did come into focus, though, tracks like “Alisa” transcended the frustrating chaos to become what Pink does best -- new romantic for cool stoners. And there seemed to be enough moments of relative clarity to keep the revelers pleased; a coupla glowstick kids near the stage waved their neon wands around in approval, and people clapped with enough enthusiasm at the end of Pink’s set to produce a single-song encore.
But where Ariel Pink made his electro-live concoctions claustrophobic, Gang Gang Dance allowed theirs sprawl into wild international rhythms. The headliners’ set was one unbroken song, twisting through various components and continents. On stage, we saw only a guitarist, a vocalist/percussionist, a drummer, and a console wizard hitting all manner of synths, drum pads, and electronic gadgetry. But together they conjured instruments both sampled and imagined…over the course of their tribal electro-jamming, I heard the ghosts of xylophones, saxophones, pan flutes, steel drums, and all manner of noisemakers absent from the stage. Pixie-ish front lady Liz Bougatsos wailed like a banshee, bleated like an animal, chanted like a disciple, and cooed like a Siren. She punched myriad control buttons on her mic to distort her vocals, or curled onto the stage, furthering the sorcery Gang Gang Dance brought to bear on the crowd. But throughout there were unusual rhythms you could move your mind (and maybe part of your shoulders) to. The show was enchanting, it was overwhelming. The music had moments of intense beauty and crazed beat fuckery, and in the end Gang Gang Dance was pretty damn awe-inspiring.
Personal Bias: The last great Ariel Pink show I saw was in the basement of Li Po back in February. Maybe he’s best witnessed in dank caves, surrounded by a crush of music geeks and a sound system so low-rent you expect the worst and get the golden moments.
Random Detail: View from the crowd, of the crowd. 70 percent: looking glazed like jelly donuts, but pleasantly geeked out. 26 percent: doing that hippie dance that’s performed no matter the genre (picture dudes wrapping invisible taffy around their wrists). 2 percent: Wearing funny fuzzy hats even though it’s summer. 1 percent: Shaking glowsticks last seen wrapped around the cocktail waitress’ drink tray. 1 percent: zine man Jay Howell! Working on a new full-color book for the summer!--Jennifer Maerz