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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friday: Crystal Castles Batter the Warfield, Broken Limbs and All

Posted By on Sun, Mar 6, 2011 at 12:34 PM

click to enlarge Crystal Castles at the Warfield Friday night. - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Crystal Castles at the Warfield Friday night.
Crystal Castles 


Friday March 4, 2011

@ The Warfield

Better than: Asphyxiation and/or skin-hooks.

Alice Glass has a crutch and she's not afraid to use it. The Crystal Castles vocalist broke her ankle in Tokyo, and she's onstage at The Warfield waving her cane like a sword.

It's beyond fitting that the hoodie-cloaked singer should turn her injury into entertainment. After all, that's what the Toronto duo of Glass and producer Ethan Kath is about. Videos shot in graveyards. Lyrics alluding to rape and S&M. Hooks made of glitches, bass and screams. Track titles like "Suffocation," and "Pap Smear." Glass and Kath make torture porn for the hipster set, packaging sex and death better than Norwegians or the almighty Gaga.

But few of tonight's crowd-members look like their names sport an umlaut. The median age is roughly 22. They crash into each other and make out and scream: "I can't believe I'm drinking!" Pitchfork-approved accessories abound, from fishnets to fedoras, and there's at least one dinosaur costume.

click to enlarge Alice Glass, with crutch - RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
  • Alice Glass, with crutch
Opener Suuns' set was a fitting warm-up -- abrasive but not jagged enough to cause real pain. The Montreal foursome wove bass and drums with what sounded like siren whines and lawnmower drones. Singer/guitarist Ben Shemie was at his worst when attempting banter--"Aw shit, it's Friday night!" -- and at his best when bent double over his guitar, or shuffling around the mic like a deranged clogger.

But working through material from their two full-lengths, Crystal Castles and its confusingly-titled follow up, Crystal Castles, the headlining duo take raw noise to its logical and nihilistic conclusion. "Baptism"'s high-pitched bleeps ring out in confusing contrast to the vocalist's distorted howls. "Celestica" is rougher and less melodic live, with Glass' voice stretched past its limit. Though anchored on a steady beat, "Empathy" sounds and feels like little more than skeleton-rattling sound waves. In the pit, the audience blows bubbles into the strobe-lit smoke and jumps around to pop them.

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Kath bends his hooded head over his keyboards. Glass, with her bandaged leg stuck out at a stiff angle, jumps up on a stand, leans into the crowd, brandishes her crutch and flaps her bird-thin arms. They're as awkward and angular as their music: stripped of rhythm, blasting cold, hard noise.

During the duo's encore, I leave the pit and head to the back of the theatre. A man in front of me is recording the show on his phone. Its screen flashes with the strobe, recording nothing but the blinding light.

click to enlarge RICHARD HAICK
  • Richard Haick
Critic's Notebook

Best post-concert revelation: I've only ever barely understood Glass' lyrics, and this show was no different. Lyrics Mania, however, informs me that the duo has a song in which the singer does nothing but repeat: "Death Ray" ad infinitum.

Strangest collision: Tripping on a girl dressed as a bear.

Most entertaining sideshow: The guy doing the macarena, by himself, in the back.

Critical pronouncement: Trent Reznor has an Oscar, so who knows.

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