MICHAEL NHAT RECORD RELEASE @ VERMONT HOUSE

November 2nd, 2009 |

The first band I saw was Redemer, the focal point of which was this cross-dressing dude called Connie O who wore a tattered pink dress and hugged a MIDI controller while growling in that bestial “this is what Satan sounds like” tone that you’re probably familiar with if you’ve heard, well…any metal music. After the show, all anyone wanted to talk about was the drummer, who had this excellent pot-and-pan trash kit, like a junkyard version of what you’d see in a bombastic metal video from the eighties. Heavy music pretty much all sounds the same to me, but this at least looked good. I sat in the hallway and thought that at times it sounded like a lower-budget Marilyn Manson.

I like Marilyn Manson.

After Redemer, I sat awkwardly by while the residents of the Vermont House asked my friend Rudy to leave. He tried to charm his way out of the ejection, puckishly asking the dude who was kicking him out, “Is it because I made fun of your eyebrows?,” but that wasn’t why he was asked to get out of there. He was kicked out because he was touching girls and making them uncomfortable. Rudy: you’ve got to chill out, dude! Just because you’re using a mannequin’s arm doesn’t mean you can lift people’s skirts!

After that debacle, it was time for the star of the show: Michael Nhat. Fuck, this dude is a total hip-hop star! He was about to start the show when he realized that he’d left his beats outside, so there was this five minute stretch of time where everyone in the hallway was chanting “Michael Nhat! Michael Nhat!” Kyle from Narwhal Party hyped the crowd while we waited, asking us about our drug preferences (“Do you like shrooms?!” “YEAH!!!” “Do you like to shoot heroin?!” “YEAH!!!”), and eventually Nhat got there with his jams and started
bumping them. The crowd immediately raged and surrounded the rapper, a short Vietnamese dude with a very-Vietnamese beard and impeccable taste in sweaters. It was pretty great to watch him bounce around in the midst of his fans, clutching onto his microphone and once getting thrown so hard into his CD player that he inadvertently shut off his backing track. I saw part of his show last week at Environmentaland, and he was sitting down in a chair during that. This was very different indeed.

I didn’t hear a word that he had to say. It wasn’t really that kind of show, and I’m not even sure that he’s that kind of a performer. But some spark shines through in his performance—even if the words are distorted by a shitty mic, through a shitty PA, in a shitty room. And he has sick beats, and I really like the sing-songy nature of his flow. But to be honest, I’m having a hard time figuring out why exactly I thought he was special—was it the music itself, or was it the fact that it came out of this particular guy? I bought his record, so maybe I’ll figure it out later.

The next band was Narwhal Party. I walked out, because it was apparent from the first few notes that they were going to be way too loud. Maybe I should have stayed around to write a complete review, but I didn’t have earplugs—and my hearing is important to me! I don’t understand why bands do that. Seriously—do they really need an amp that big for a fucking hallway?

While Narwhal Party played, I lived it up and partied hard! First, I smoked weed out on Vermont with Sarah and Bob, who broke his pipe by dropping it on the sidewalk—oops! Then, I drank a beer out at Lou’s car, and explained to him why he should stop buying Coors Light (“fuck that family, man!”). Finally, I ducked into the Vermont House’s “hidden” bathroom to take a pee and had a really important moment.

There was a time in my life when I romanticized the punk rock lifestyle typified by a house like this one, but the secret bathroom smelled like shitty cat litter and I came close to puking. All I could think of was how glad I was that I was visiting and didn’t live there. All I could think of was how grateful I was that my house is not a venue and that my roommates are clean. Thanks, Vermont House, for giving me a spot to make realizations like that one.

The last act I saw was Voice on Tape. I’ve seen Lou so many times, but this one sticks out as the most crucial. He had this guy Isaac (from the house, I think) playing drums for him, and it was unlike any Voice on Tape performance I’d ever seen. Compared to the normal reverb-drenched, dense vibe of a Voice on Tape show, this was open and percussive. Normally Lou’s acoustic guitar is drenched with effects, but this time it was clean. In the past, his music has sometimes made me sleepy. I was pumped after this, though—I’ve never described Voice on Tape this way, but it literally rocked! I like this direction.

One of cool things about Lou is the fluidity of his performances. He knows these songs so well—it’s like they’re etched into him—so he can play them differently each time by just feeling them in the moment. It’s so impressive that he can adapt his sound to accommodate different backing musicians. In doing so for this show in particular, he invited a more tribal and aggressive feeling that fit the night perfectly.

The girls after the show told me that Lou was “our Elvis.”

And his was the last show I saw. Dylan Doren played after, but I was tired of live music and went on an adventure to buy doughnuts across the street. After that, the vibe at the party took a crummy turn. I realized it was time to go when this very small and very cute—yet obviously crazy—girl decided to try and seduce me by sexily singing along to the Steve Miller Band’s “Stuck in the Middle.” It was pretty awkward—I blushed, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was probably my least favorite song in the whole world (well, at least it was for that moment; I guess that song “The Joker” is even worse). I took that as my cue to leave.

A really fun night, though.

Geoff Geis