Being a patron of live shows in Salt Lake City I have an almost second-home relationship with the Urban Lounge. I have mindlessly studied the exposed rafter ceiling, particle board décor, patronized the comfy benches and even ventured into the privacy-be-damned bathrooms more times than I care to remember. But on Tuesday Boris turned the Urban Lounge into a wholly new and strange environment to which I had no relationship or history with. The heavy use of a smoke machine and the sensory-overloading, transcendental loudness of the Japanese trio (rounded out to a quartet with touring guitarist Michio Kurihara) obscured any sense of tangible relationship I once had to the Urban Lounge. The thick smoke transformed the stage era into a strange middle-place between heaven and earth.
To say Boris is loud is too limp of a word. Even to say we were immersed in sound is too weak. Boris’s twin-towers of stacked Orange and Sunn amplifiers absolutely submerged the Urban Lounge in bottomless sound. With my sense of spatiality severely compromised, the first notes of Takeshi’s legendary double-necked Rickenbacker leveled the finely tuned instruments in my inner ear making balance a chore and breathing a labored process by the oppressive, sternum-rattling heaviness. This wasn’t a show, this was pure hedonistic and masochistic worship of sound.
Boris is easily one of the most versatile bands working between the margins heavy music. Spanning their insanely prolific catalogue, Boris moved between the melodic heavy-hitters off Pink, to the noise-laden thrash-punk off of Heavy Rocks. Boris’s set was punctuated by ambient passages sung by guitarist Wata, and evolved into moments of full on drone/doom metal slugegfests with a chest-rattling low-end dictated by the enormous sound system. Drummer Atsuo also proved to be one of the most versatile drummers I have ever seen. Moving between comfortable BPMs during the midtempo melodic numbers, subtle, expressionistic flourishes during the ambient tracks, and full-on, eight-armed, double kick drum madness, during the thrashier songs. Watching Atsuo was more than worth the price of admission.
With as loud as Boris was the heaviness never seemed like a misanthropic device to keep the audience at bay or to keep them from joining into the emotional connection between band and audience. During the set drummer/band leader Atsuo would engage in an intense stare-down with an audience member while his face contorted wildly, phonetically calling out the beats as he destroyed his drumset. Towards the end of the set he stood triumphantly on his drum stool with an enormous gong behind him and called for the audience’s cheers as he struck the gong during one of their insane feedback-drenched crescendos. While this move is a staple in douchebag rock bands 101, these call-and-response sessions erased the boundary between band and audience. As the choreographed shouts from the audience punctuated the space between huge gong swells, for a moment the audience were no longer spectators, but equal noisemakers engaged in the cathartic act of making a racket.
Red Sparowes, who easily could have shared the bill, opened for Boris. With Isis now broken up, Bryant Clifford Meyer’s side project is proving to be one of the most inventive and powerful forces to rise out of the stagnant pool of post-rock. Their instrumental long-players were accented with some gorgeous pedal-steel work and were performed under a white bed sheet of projected images that augmented the bands airy soundscapes perfectly.
The double-act of two of the most innovative bands playing under one roof made every wasted minute of waiting through lengthy sound checks and 45 minute long band smoke breaks of past U.L shows completely worth it. In fact, was I even in the Urban Lounge that night? I couldn’t really tell.