All the Instruments Agree: An Exhibition or a Concert (Day 1) @ The Hammer
kist by chisa hughes, courtsey the hammer museum
All the Instruments Agree: An Exhibition or a Concert.
Hammer Museum, Day One
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2015
It was early into Day One of the cunningly curated weekend-long tonal experiment at the Hammer and the sparse earlybird crowd was a microcosm of what would later turn up in droves. Young, old, short, tall, the UCLA dorm rats alongside the nuzzling couples jostling the (suspiciously clean and pressed) punk crusties, all listened with strained credulity to the song-stylings of one Martin Creed. A controversial Turner Prize winning artist, Creed’s songs were as minimal as his exhibition pieces, the former consisting as they did of lyrics like “You’re like sight/You help me/You make me see.” His punky singing was appropriately homey and generously interspersed with complaints about repeating himself and not knowing the chords.
After some initial hesitation, the crowd entered into the spirit of the thing. Well loved by the likes of Franz Ferdinand and the Cribs, Creed won heavily applause for simple lack of pretension. The afternoon was blazingly hot and the audience collected its wits slowly, attention finally settling on experimental duo Xina Xurner only when the first sheet of white noise came blasting from the second stage. An L.A. duo whose self-described specialty is “cunty noise-diva-dance anthems that ooze sex, death, and decay,” fronter Young Joon Kwak had the crowd from the first whoop. Tall and imposing in paint-splattered tights, Kwak strutted and howled like a panther as I moved in stage right for a closer look. She spotted me and, mic in hand, loped offstage, put her face into mine and gently pushed me horizontal with her forehead, my fingers scribbling notes and pen in danger of tangling in a sudden, entirely welcome explosion of fluffy black hair. Well on top of me by now, she moaned “YOU ARE SOOOOO CRUEL!” before bounding off into the crowd. I hadn’t covered a show in over a year so this was a glorious, heart-stopping welcome back to the biz.
Odwalla88 went on next, the Baltimore-based twosome holding forth with funny, disorienting Gertrude Frankensteinian cross-talk poetry over electric percussion. Not surprisingly, the crowd proved into what Chole Maratta and Flannery Silva put down. The pair turned them over sizzling to Tarek Atoui, who gave the best-sustained performance of the afternoon; a heady mix of dance beats, Arabic art music and heavy white noise pummeling. As documented in the New Yorker magazine, Atoui’s usual method is to bombard listeners over a course of hours into a trace state but here he managed the same effect in a few minutes. People began to loosen, then move, then sway, as Atoui posed manfully behind his deck and did his stuff. This trace party ended but the vibe spread through the gathering crowd as three clownishly dressed fellows called Lobotmaxxx Featuring Ron Littles clambered onto the other stage and doused those present with their own brand of tonal gasoline. These bodystockinged hip-hop parodists laid into those present with a will, extending the tribal beat into rib-rocking absurdity as the audience became less concertedly stoic and more exhibitionistically weird. So far, so awesome for the event’s conceptual framework.
Kist, an Indiana-based Kiss tribute band was the next mindfuck in this shock-the-monkey marathon. Since L.A. crowds are notorious worldwide for lack of get-up-everybody’s-gonna-move-their-feet, Kist sweated hard for every bit of get-down-everybody’s-gonna-leave-their-seat. Still they managed it, as parents brought their toddlers close for a look at this loud museum exhibit and a listen at what staved in Grampy’s ears Back When. Some enraptured wisenheimer held up a flaming Bic at the “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night” finale.
After this rousing ludicrousness, much of the crowd drifted outside and I followed, mingling as the north entrance of the Hammer transformed into the richly skanky music scene now only occasionally visible in select parts of Silverlake and Echo Park when the cops aren’t looking. Voices rose, weed lit up and the usual posing and grabass ensued as the crowd grew younger and less confused over whether to wear their rocker or art faces tonight. I ducked out to charge phone and give my vape pen some play, returning at twilight for Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, late of Throbbing Gristle and legendary in the art and music worlds alike. Her/his performance consisted of lyrics read in a graveyard voice over spare accompaniment. S/he spoke of death and corruption and oppression and threw pages to the ground indifferently as words wrenched from a long and turbulent life rolled over us. Audio problems plagued the windup but few noticed and fewer cared.
After this blast of gorgeous rhetoric came Landed, a Providence, R.I.-based noise rock act that wasted no time in raucously ripping into their business, driving about a quarter of the audience outside but dousing the rest of us in cleansing metallic skronk. This immersion nicely reoriented those remaining for Glitterbust, featuring surfing icon Alex Knost of Tomorrow’s Tulips and Kim Gordon, late of Sonic Youth. Snaky bass lines led into a woolly feedback blast in which melodies imploded and vocals rose and fell. This tumult dispersed hugely into the hot night air, rattling the Hammer before bounding out into Westwood to scare the undergrads. Saturday nights are often full of regret and mine was that I couldn’t attend Sunday’s program as well.