Monday, August 30, 2010

Live Review - Justice Yeldham - Majestic Dwelling of Doom 8/27/10

“Merde!” In 1896 this opening line to Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi echoed through a Paris Theater. In case you do not speak french or have never seen a Godard film, the word means "shit," which is exactly what quickly hit the fan that evening. Upon hearing the utterance, the crowd ignited into a flame of critical brutality-- to do a thing as bold as cursing in a public performance was simply unheard of in civilized society at that time, and the patrons revolted, storming the stage and burning the place down. In the past century or so we have obviously moved into a different level of acceptance when dealing with artistic expression, but there are still hidden corners of the planet where art is being produced with the same intentions as Jarry's, namely to shock and assault the audience for the betterment of all involved. Friday night’s show at The Majestic Dwelling of Doom by Australia's Justice Yeldham was a night that I won’t soon forgot and has left me with many unanswered questions about what to expect from a musical performance, especially when a performance becomes hi-jacked as this one did.

I arrived fairly late to show, around midnight, and I stepped up to find the usual cast of characters socializing outside along with some unseen faces. Some of those faces were very fresh faced, yet any innocence that these young-uns carried in would be dismantled within the next 45 minutes. After making the rounds, a sound of indecipherable electronic screeches began to pulsate from the revolving doors of the Doom manner. Time to party.

As with most acts like Justice that I have minuscule to no knowledge of, I did as little research as possible before stepping in, purposely avoiding the Weekender post, which was very hard to do. I like to be surprised. I entered into an already crowded room with the fanatical noise heads and curiosity seekers perched as safely close to Justice as possible. Laid before him was a multitude of effects and distortion pedals which he knelt before like a priest before the altar. Pressed firmly against his face was a piece of glass which he played by the way of screams, moans and a contact mic.

The music was not discernible from most extreme noise that I experience. In my post a few days ago over the Dharma/Pocket Change I spoke of the control that an artist can exude in the face of seeming chaos. There is a sense of safety one experiences as an audience member when in the hands of a confident, focused performer, and this is what kept Yeldham's performance, essentially a man chewing on glass, from being a freakish oddity and instead rendered it a piece of art to absorbed. The music was intense and hypnotic. Watching him play this instrument, seeing and not understanding the way he created the caustic sound that filled the basement, was an experience unlike any other. The looks of delight and energy the audience was giving off kept the affair a communal one, the synergy at noise shows is unrivaled.

You could tell by the degeneration of the glass that the spirited but exhausting final stabs were meant to bring a close to the powerful performance. Then a challenger entered the ring. The man who in hazy retrospect must have been 7 feet tall looked like a rejected Street Fighter character from an Alabama meth-farm with his tattered sweat pants and natty dreaded (or just unwashed) locks. By this time most of the curiosity seekers had exited, leaving a group of about 30 or so to finish out the set. It was quickly apparent to the audience that this guy was either part of the performance or here to upstage it. After much reflection and Internet research, I’m still not totally sure one way or another.

His initial enthusiasm was not out of the ordinary for a wasted noise dedicate, but I think he knew that he had missed most of the performance and therefore needed to make up for some lost time. From his pants he pulled out something sharp that from my vantage point 3 feet away seemed to be a razor blade. As if in a trance he began to slide the edge across his forehead, each slice about a inch in length. There was a moment of clarity at witnessing this almost ritualistic exercise, and I watched in awe as the blood began to flow from the wounds and drip into small puddles upon the floor. The noise blocked out any sort of rational thoughts I could have in the immediacy of that moment. I stood there enraptured by the combination of wonderment and fear that rushed through my veins as the events unfolded in real time.

“I hate you!!!” screams Yeldham as he raised his instrument above his head and brought it down with brute force upon the devoted fan’s skull, sending glass in all directions (luckily by this time most people had made their way far from him). He smelled really bad too. The impact of glass on skull obviously didn’t help the fresh wounds which continued to ooze all over himself and the basement, making the place looking like a crime scene. As everyone made a beeline for the exit I saw Yeldamn take the man and give him a very cautious hug. This sight gave me relief from the tension balled up in me that I was unable to identify at the time, but now attribute to the joy of knowing I had just witnessed a finely orchestrated performance by, if not rehearsed, a dedicated visual artist committed to pushing the boundaries of violence, music, performance and the role of audience members. I would later find I was wrong.

“I challenged the Train, and the train won!” Our mystery man belted out before exiting the performance . I scanned the damaged that had taken place, not taking any pictures out of fear they might be confiscated later by police as evidence. There was a certain transcendental awe that swept up over my body, facilitated by alcohol consumption, that I had to snap myself out of in order to head out side and get away from the smell of sulfur.

As I exited the space I could already hear the rumblings of what had happened amongst the patrons that spend their entire time out side. I was jumping from conversation to conversation trying to put together the pieces from fragmented re-tellings. I heard talk of him being a schizophrenic who was suffering from a break down, that he had to be pulled off the train tracks earlier when going head to head with it and that he may have also shoved glass up ass earlier in the evening. All of which I found out later to be true. Then my investigation was suddenly interrupted and the story quickly became all too clear.

“I HAVE SEX WITH CHILDREN EVERY NIGHT!” Without having to give a second thought to who it might be, I turned around to see the man taking the pew to deliver his sermon of delirium. “I will destroy you Zionist” he began to scream at the young men trying to reason with him. “..but I am an Atheist man!” You really think that is going to help, buddy? This quickly escalated to the guy grabbing these guys by the collar and in case you forgot, all the while still dripping blood. This change of scene plus the impending police sirens coming down the road let me know it was time to gather my posse and get the fuck out of there.

After finally finding my queasy compadres, we headed across the street to the car. By this time the police had already arrived, and this mythical beast that was thundering around minutes earlier was now subdued by the fuzz to a mere mortal like the rest of us. Turning away from that sad scene I saw Justice crossing the street at the same time as me. “great set, I really enjoyed it” I told him with a smile and a non cynical thumbs up. He looked at me and for a brief second the worry and concern that was all over his face dropped and he acknowledged the compliment and quickly went back on his way.

What a night. I know that this review spent more time speaking of a crazy dude instead of the music which was the centerpiece of the show, but to me it is all one in the same. Jarry would be proud.

post script - Big shout outs go to Natalie V Davila, the Doom crew and Rob Buttrum who put their necks on the lines and clean up blood to bring us great shows like this. Thanks to Bradley Santulli for the video.


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