Live Review: Subtle @ Abbey Pub 4/15/06
Why do I go to live show after live show? It’s an elusive chase. Ninety-five percent of the time the idea of seeing a band is better than the reality, and it seems anymore that I leave a show liking the musicians less than I did going into it. It’s not that I’m looking for a life-altering experience. All I want is energy. All I want is to hear a great sound, to see a passionate performance, to feel I’m a part of something reflective of the beautiful, happy process of creating art. At the very least, I want to be entertained, but it seems nowadays that groups take themselves too seriously, or else they don’t enjoy what they’re doing, and so they run through lackluster shows with scowls upon their faces and this only makes me grumpy. So why do I go? Why don’t I spend Saturday nights in my apartment, relaxing in the bath, listening to CDs and eating cartons of Soy Delicious? Why do I put myself through the misery of going to painful show after painful show? Because every once in awhile and act like Subtle comes around. Every once in awhile I find myself at a show where all of the elements come together and I forget where I am, what time it is, that there’s a tall guy in font of me blowing smoke in my face. I forget that I’m at the Abbey Pub. I feel like I’m at a fucking great show and nothing on earth exists besides the riot on the stage, the music on the air and the groove in my booty. I’m sure it helped that this was an earlier show, and as on old lady approaching the quarter-century mark I’m usually ready for bed by the time the opening band comes on. But with a seven o’clock start time Jel hit the stage with daylight still filtering through the windows, and his hard-hitting beats, along with the quirky energetic rock of fellow opener Fog, whisked me though the hour and a half before Subtle began its set. The proscenium itself was a tell. Anytime there are large red forks hanging form the ceiling and a backdrop not-so-subtly suggestive of female genitalia, you know you’re in for, well, something, whether awful or extraordinary. Despite these signs I was still not expecting what I got, and that’s one of the liveliest, one of the tightest, one of the best performances I’ve ever experienced. No exaggeration. Subtle came out in outfits of matching coral, with Doseone donning a ruffled blouse and the faux fur of a zebra around his shoulders, out of which he pulled many a cheesy, inexplicable prop. If you’ve never seen Doseone, just picture, in look and in mood, Al Franken dropping sweet rhymes and you’ll get the idea. He wore big, ugly spectacles and an electronic belt complete with scrolling marquee. He moved around the stage lithely, grabbing from various places random knick knacks he would sing to for a second before moving on to the next. The focal point of the stage was a bust with striped head and removable skullcap, out of which Doseone pulled even more goodies. Despite all of this movement and impulsiveness, the sound was incredible. While you usually expect a fun performance to be sacrificed for a glorious noise or vice versa, here nothing was lacking. The beats, sampling, and instrumentation came together seamlessly and powerfully behind the words of Doseone, which were as smooth and breathless live as they are on record. For an hour they played a packed set featuring much of A New White and also some new tracks, and the breaks between songs were few and scant, except to let Doseone make good-natured, deprecating musings on our whiteness. A good time was indeed had by all. Cumulatively this was the show you think about when you think about live shows. It was the epitome. It was the reason why I’ve wasted so much time this year covering blah after blah.