April 24, 2007

Reunited and It Feels So Good

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I will openly admit that I have never been much of one for electronica. But the Fanclub Facebook flyer (try saying that 10 times fast!) for Friday’s show said “danceable,” so I was pumped in any case. What I got was a darkly danceable, damn good show.
Ike Yard is a groundbreaking no wave (or possibly industrial — it depends on who you talk to) electronica band from New York City, the first and only United States group signed to renowned UK record label, Factory Records. The band was spearheaded by post-punk experimentalist Stuart Argabright, a well-known driver of New York City avant-garde culture in the 1980s (along with other big names like poet Allen Ginsberg and Sonic Youth). Their Friday performance at the Lost Dog Lounge was not only their first performance in 25 years; it was their first ever performance outside of New York City.
The show was opened (and closed) by a warm-up (and warm-down) DJ who, despite the similar sounding nature of the good majority of his stuff, was actually a lot of fun. His pumping bass, reggae/pop inspiration, and big operatic build-ups had several Michael Jackson wannabes and a familiar old guy of Fanclub fanatic fame going nuts. His record-scratching ability and Buzz Lightyear-esque sound effects were undeniably catchy, though it was almost more entertaining to watch him bounce around (he probably had to ice his neck for hours afterwards) than to actually bounce yourself.
However, the energy and anticipation of the onlookers was clearly focused elsewhere. Ike Yard’s coming performance had been touted by Fanclub as “legendary” and “a rare opportunity to see a piece of music history” (check out their Facebook event info, or the Fanclub website itself). People were understandably excited. Now, I’m not going to go so far as to call the show music history, though it was certainly a first in more than one way, but it was a pretty gosh-darn cool show (or god damn for all y’all of the un-politically correct variety).
Like I said, I’ve never been big on electronica, generally thinking of it as easily done and sans a lot of listening pleasure (no offense meant to any electronica fans), but the seamlessly blended, incredibly varied sounds of Ike Yard were really quite impressive. Their “songs” included everything from scratching to beatboxing to acoustic guitar to (pretty much incomprehensible) Radiohead-esque lyrics. By which I mean it sounded like he was moaning some extremely dark, half-asleep message at us. Kudos to anyone who caught what he said. But don’t get me wrong, the effect was cool — you didn’t have to know the words. Ike Yard’s music was characterized by a crashing background bass, providing a dance-inducing beat for the heavier, darker surface. The overall ambience, given off by angry ‘the-future-is-bleak’ lyrics, sirens, screams, and frequent outbursts of loud distortion sounds was a paradoxically unhappy one. Dance y’all! Dance for the Devil! Or something like that — it was an incredibly well executed paradox. Really, really cool.
Although the music was much, much more than I expected, the show unfortunately had two undeniable shortcomings. First, a lack of charisma. Ike Yard’s music is definitely ahead of its time, but the experience of jumping around to three old guys with keyboards and computers who never actually addressed the audience was pretty trippy. The closest the band came to the audience was the lead keyboardist, who was obsessed, in a very OCD manner, with signaling at the sound guy. Though in his defense, electronica pretty much hinges on the sound guy. However, the same keyboardist, also had a slightly unsettling tendency to throw his clenched fist around.
The other problem was the audience. Those who came knowing what they were getting into were clearly enjoying themselves, dancing insanely (myself included — busting out the trippy techno robot I’ve been secretly practicing for years). Those who had come to the Lost Dog Lounge for a night of lounging unfortunately didn’t last very long. Its really a culture that requires a little (read: a lot of) crazy. So next time you feel like going nuts look up Ike Yard, because their music is really very intricate, very well done, and definitely worth your time.