rough notes

Skinny Fists Lifted.

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Wow. I haven’t been astounded like this since Pink Floyd in 1994. Bands come and go, as do concerts, shows and club acts – but this is one moment that will stick in my mind. I was looking forward to this particular show for over a month now, and it blew my expectations away. Shit, that was good.

I first came across GYBE about two years ago, when I was situated in the T-Dot. Too many good (and awful) bands come through a large town like that, so sooner or later, one hears of the latest piece of eccentricity to hit the stage. After reading that the band – a string quartet with three or four others playing various rock’n’roll instruments – played heavily thematic and progressive music, without a singer, and was akin to Meddle/Ummagumma-era Floyd (my favorite kind of Floyd) in their level of pretension, I set about looking for tickets. Sadly, I have been kicking myself in the ass since then, as they have come and gone too many times for me to count, and I did not act.

Being in Halifax brought a sense of urgency to the situation when GYBE came through. I don’t think they come out here too often compared to Toronto (and I was right – the local weekly reports this to be their first visit since 1998), so I was bound and determined to check them out. ooooooooh boy was this a treat:

– aside from projection work, the band plays in the dark. I knew this already, but was not ready for its impact. Aside from grainy 8mm’s on the wall behind the band, one generally caught a glimpse of the odd cigarette butt being smoked on, a beer bottle catching a glimmer of light, or the end of a bow making its way into the viewing area for the films. Most band members were moved to the sides of the stage; some people murmured this through the crowd, wondering how it is such a large band can make it onto a tiny stage. As far as I’m aware, this is done intentionally – normally the quartet sits together, to the left, and faces the drummer.

Only the bassist was present at centre stage. He stood there, smoked a cigarette, smirked for the crowd, and played, and played, and played. In the dark. Like a childhood toy, GYBE needs some winding up to get started; during the introduction to every song that drones for so long, he simply stood there, waiting for his turn. The looking of “waiting” on his face helped as much as the cello to build the momentum for the song. Though the band lacks a voice, he certainly was its face. Bass-man’s face was caught as the screen for the projection work for most of the concert. Frankly, he was a very encouraging sight. I felt so much pride for him and his work. It was quite evident he had a song to play, a feeling to convey, and a crowd to win over with a message of some sort, and he loves his lot in life. This was a rather happy fellow.

[The band plays. Its great. It kicks ass. I restrain myself from getting down too much to the music.]

[Some songs played: Storm, Moya, and Motherfucker=Redeemer.]

[If you google enough, I’m sure you will find appropriate reviews of GYBE emperor concerts to fill in these details.]

Perhaps the most moving moment in the night came during the resolution, the ending to it all. The band showed film clips from a recent peace protest in NYC during the final moments of the concert (pre-encore). As one band member followed another off stage, the noise and crackle and reverb slowly dissipated, leaving only a crowd crowing for more, watching these images. Slowly, though, the crowd quieted down. It was a build-up of SILENCE, so opposite to the entire evening of music. I’m unsure if the crowd really caught on to the images at hand, or simply grew hoarse and tired, but, given the day’s events in the middle east, the images of people marching for peace and good will toward all men made for an incredible bookend to the last three weeks, and was a potent reminder of man’s folly, and careful and willing ignorance of one another.

Well, that’s it. My skinny fists are lifted. I knew all along they would be. I just didn’t realize they would still be pointing up into the air the next day.


Written by mitchellirons

April 10, 2003 at 6:23 pm

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