Live Review: Liars @ Logan Square Auditorium 6/18/06
I have a confession to make. I’m RFC’s "Chief Indie Rock Correspondent," and I hate indie rock shows. Is she being ironic, you ask? Is she being and antidotal hipster hipster? Why no, my friends. I am being earnest and humble. The fact of the underground rock matter is that a lot of underground rock falls into three categories: 1. Cutesy pop rock 2. minimalist slow pop 3. Chaotic electronic noise These three categories are not conducive to great live experiences. It’s not that I loathe Death Cab for Cutie, or I think Low is boring, or I find Boards of Canada pretentious. It’s just that the music of some artists, when transposed to the stage, loses something, whether it is due to a crowd, or my own physical drain, or a performer’s immobility. Some music, for me at least, isn’t appealing live. It was meant to be listened to while I’m in my own element. Seeing certain musicians live, however, should be a requirement for anyone who wants to claim to have any sort of credible live show-going repertoire. Certain musicians move beyond the framework of an indie rock show and merge into the limitless confines of aural transcendence. Some music is meant to be experienced rather than listened to. And Liars is among the select modern bands whose music is at its most meaningful when it is live and coursing and threatened by the potential for collapse. With Liars your element is at the mercy of the band’s own terms. Around 10:30 on Sunday night, Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross began playing their hour-long set to a Logan Square Auditorium crowd that seemed split between those who knew what they were getting into, those who weren’t sure of what they were getting into, and those who knew and didn’t want to get into it. It was easy to either be scared or sexually aroused by just the sight of Andrew, whose black and white checked blouse and skirt sat snuggly against his bony frame, and whose wild mane and primordial facial hair gave him a disposition to match the sounds he was creating. Hemphill was a cutesy indie counter weight with boyish looks and rumpled hair that belied his powerful, percussive capabilities on guitar and drums. I couldn’t even see Gross through the mess of flailing bodies in front of me. Those who weren’t flailing stood slightly dazed, perhaps waiting for “The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack,” which never came. Liars did trek through several tracks from Drums Not Dead, but mostly the intensely percussive songs, including “Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack!” and “A Visit from Drum,” and they also pounded through older tunes. Overall the sound was less post punk and more primal fury. Unleashed upon us was a noise so intense and seething, so rhythmic and incessant that it struck nerves and resulted in contorted faces, convulsing bodies, or emotional outpourings. It’s besides the point to critique the sound quality of a Liars show. To be honest, I didn’t even make the slightest note of the show’s production. It was all about invigorating noise, the mushy feeling in the gut. The energy was altogether profoundly personal, profoundly sexual, and through much of the show I had my eyes closed and found myself lost in the sound of raucous guitars, grumbling, screeching vocals and pummeling beats, elevated to that height of introspection where thoughts and sounds mesh, and I forgot that I was at an indie rock show, forgot the smell of sweaty bodies, forgot that I was among a crowd of music snobs somehow unmoved. Yes, there were some stone cold bodies, but mostly the crowd seemed appreciative and there was much jumping, much head-banging, much moshing-lite. Andrew worked us a bit, jabbing his guitar in our direction, sauntering oh-so seductively. He stared at us numbly. He yelled at us. He talked to us in a conversational tone that was intriguingly normal. It all reminded me of my stint substitute teaching for the challenged kids at an Indiana high school. Except Liars are perhaps geniuses, and are less likely to call me a sexy bitch than they are to make me feel like one. Indeed, this is one show I’m happy to add to my show-going repertoire. I’m also happy to add it to the fuel of my libido. Watch out fellows. Indie rock shows can still excite me, after all.