09.23.08: culture blotter {my bloody valentine @ roseland ballroom}

rocktober, the month or so in which joe and i do most of our concertgoing for the year, began not with a bang but a...something, at the first of my bloody valentine's two NYC shows at roseland ballroom last night. locals who caught their sunday show in the catskills warned that the complimentary ear plugs were a must-have rather than a suggestion ("you're gonna fucking need 'em to endure their noisy 20-odd minute climax"), and they weren't kidding: i actually needed one of the spare pairs i'd brought along, as the...something jiggled my first set right out of my ears and down to the grotty venue floor.

but i'm getting ahead of myself. my bloody valentine: a shoegazer band famous for using every pedal ever made and spending something like £250,000 (nearly bankrupting their record label) to create loveless (1991), their second album, which tops all sorts of critics' lists and sounds like seraphim snagged in a garbage disposal. they're genius if you're fond of a certain kind of brown noise and insufferable if you don't (poor jen had a rough time with my shoegazer phase when we lived in england; as a brooklynvegan commenter put it, "the only band that inspired more shitty bands than MBV, is Pavement." [sic]). i fall somewhere in the middle and vastly prefer a few of MBV's contemporaries (slowdive and ride); i turned london upside down to find the you made me realise EP back in the day, but loveless only joined my CD pile when The Man With 42 Blue Coats, my abrasive ex, made it my twentieth birthday present (right after we broke up, as i recall - very emo). joe discovered that copy and loves it (and is hipster-mean's polar opposite), so hey hey circle of life!

we squidged in our MBV-approved plugs and settled in for the main act at about ten last night, and as soon as the band kicked into "i only said"'s siren loops, joe lit up like a boardwalk carnival. it's a real pleasure to see the missus bliss out that way: having to wait for two hours as rude beer-fetchers knocked us across the floor was less than cool, but his holy shit that's kevin shields right there! face made up for it. i...don't have the best hearing anyway, and between the sonic assault (MBV show recaps - positive ones! - are full of superviolent descriptors, which is sort of weird when one isn't talking about metal) and the foam, i couldn't always tell which song i was hearing. i just barely heard the "thorn" chorus, but i'd known it was coming: i'd seen the set list for the previous show.

then, most of the way through "you made me realise" at the end of the set, came the something, a feedback apocalypse that's apparently closed all of this year's shows. it lasted roughly twelve minutes, came in at about 130 decibels (that is, above the threshold of pain and right around jet takeoff), and was loud enough to break up a kidney stone, as joe put it (as someone twittered, "my bloody valentine is shattering my bones"). forget feeling the crunch of the reverb in your sternum: this twisted around in my guts (i'd be willing to bet that a few of the people who left early went to throw up), got my skin buzzing, and made it hard to breathe. some people loved the effect and flung their arms out to absorb the waves, at least at first. me, i'm kind of shocked, strongly suggested ear plugs or no: sitting through the end of that show without them would have blown our eardrums. kids irish fortysomethings today!

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 is tinnitis a performer's fault or a fan's? should MBV be liable if someone went deaf last night?

02 loudest show you've ever seen? was it worth the ringing ears?


uncle paul said...

We stood right in front of the stacks a couple years ago to see Mission of Burma - totally worth it, but I was up all night asking myself "what if the ears never stop ringing?" and that was the last show I ever went to sans earplugs.

Anyway, that record is likely to be shattered since I just plunked down for two tickets to next week's SF show (still on sale? bizarre!) so it will be time for some industrial plug shopping on the Intertubes.

lauren said...

for a minute i thought you meant mission of burma - they're also playing in SF. truly, rocktober's love is all-encompassing!

i think it took rather a while for the roseland shows to sell out, too (in retrospect i feel a bit silly for rushing to buy our pair at 10:00:00 when they went on sale, but then again, the missus really, really wanted to go, and we knew we were going to end up wasting our glasgow tickets). i too am mystified, but perhaps it's that tickets are awfully expensive by nonmegarock standards ($52 for the shows out here, as i recall)?

the free plugs were pretty good - a bit stiff, which made it easier to make little "maybe i want 10% of the pain for this song" slide whistle adjustments. my ears were not still ringing yesterday, while joe's (he favored the cheap hearos i brought) were.

uncle paul said...

Them were pricey tickets. But look how much money I save by cutting my own hair! I look forward to Tuesday's kidney-stone removal, but I expect really to light up like Joe at the Wire show on the fifteenth. Rocktober!

jacob said...

01 - it's not as if the performers don't suffer as well. speaking of mission of burma, megan and i saw them a month or two ago in boston (nice hometown crowd for them, btw), and roger miller had one of those plastic sound deflector things protecting him from the stacks due to his severe tinnitus/hearing loss.

and yes, we brought earplugs to see them.

02. david gedge was pretty loud when joe and i saw him in sf a few years ago. dan deacon at a house party in providence about 6 months ago.

megan said arab on radar was the loudest band she has heard. ears ringing the next day even though she used earplugs.

G said...

01 - happy combination of the two. fans should know better, and performers should realize that VOLUME is somewhat less impressive than actual performance.

02 - Toss-up between Smashing Pumpkins with uncle paul in SF and No Use for a Name (great Fat Wreck Chords punk band from Sunnyvale) in high school glory days. Ears rang for days. Which seemed cool at the time.

Hannah Mae said...

sounds like seraphim snagged in a garbage disposal - best rock crit simile ever!

Loudest show I ever saw was a combination of the band's native volume level and the venue: Karp (Olympia noisy rock band) in a tiny concrete box in Seattle Center, circa 1994. I went in fit as a fiddle and came out with the worst headache of my young life, despite the plugs. As G says above, it seemed cool at the time....