Zola Jesus, Talk Normal, Night Sweats @ Urban 02.27

Posted March 1, 2012 in

Zola Jesus. Photo: Angel Ceballos
I'm almost 25, which isn't, like, old old, but it's old enough to get just a little bit curmudgeon-y about things and not feel terrible about it. If I were king, or world dictator or cultural czar of America (we all have dreams) I'd have it my way. All shows would start at 5 p.m. so they'd end at 9, I could go home, catch a Cosby Show re-run and finish my book (please stop talking about The Hunger Games, dorks). Carnivore's "USA for USA" will be covered by every artist (Ya don't fuck with the eagle). I get a free shirt and maybe a porkchop dinner. I'm not trying to be condescending … just practical.

Unfortunately, I don't run things (yet). The ocean hasn't boiled and it hasn't swallowed up the continents (yet) and the sun hasn't collided into the moon (I fully expect this shit to happen in 2012) and so shows still start at 10 p.m. amidst my yawns and bitching. Whatever. Night Sweats are locals who take a while to set up. They have a guitarist who looks dead-up like Lou Reed, but they do that droning "spaceship landing" business that I just can never get enough of. In truth, I want it to sound a little more like Hawkwind, but it's got enough Wooden Shjips in its veins to scratch me where I itch. Straight psyche nastiness with two drummers, a synth guy up front, praying to his machine and faces contorted in bewilderment"like the Ewok scene at the end of Jedi … Insane space riffing and this follow-up song has the singer yelping like a dog. Everyone's sick to death of Joy Division and New Order comparisons, so I won't use 'em, but yeah, you know, you know. Baritone vocals. Excellent band that set up the late night right, despite the "lookatme" hamdogs twirling about in the audience, holding up their iPhones and just being unbearable. Band to watch in 2012 for sure.

Now, Talk Normal, the first touring band piqued my interest in the form of a slack-jawed burnout at Raunch Records telling me they were "really awesome mannn." I normally don't take music advice from strange men in record stores, this guy had a certain earnestness about the whole affair, a trickle of dried blood under his nose and he was super into the H-100s. Talk Normal is a two-gal group with a prickly dollop of no-wave influence, chock fulla obtuse noise and effervescent ryhthm. Sonic Youth/Kim G comparisons are imminent, and I refuse to feel guilty for making one. Ghostly sirens, haunting and wailing, like something backmasked and lifted from Bad Moon Rising. Definitely unique and pretty jarring, almost replicating tribal blast beats, galloping, swirling, guitar squabbling here and there. Good gravy, this stuff's hypnotic"Kim Deal singing gospel songs, Appalachian praise choruses from outer space and the between-song commentary is sparse and mumbly. Love the awkwardness, and I honestly get off on the crowd's inability to respond. They're standing here, looking stunned and thoroughly freaked out. Good stuff. I wanted to get my mitts on a cassette, but they had run out. Lame!

I back the bejeezus out of everything Sacred Bones touches. One of the premier indie labels of recent memory for sure (Amen Dunes, Religious Knives … I'm getting elitist douchebag chills) and Russian-American songstress Zola Jesus ain't no exception. Let's all get off that self-important Adele bandwagon, cuz Zola's got a set of pipes fully capable of waking the damn dead. What a stage setup, too: Violinist flanking the band, dude with a Hitler youth haircut, standing and pounding out ghost chants on what looks to be an oil container … and Zola, a three-foot-tall, blond pixie with a voice like a sailboat exploding (the description works … you should read more). She's up there, herky-jerky dancing, frollicking in the soupy melody like a moshing woodland nymph, enraptured in her own sound, the drums thundering and lightning flashing. It's like a freaking religious experience right now. Imagine if U2's "With or Without You" wasn't a terrible song for soccer moms, like it actually had the healing powers that Bono wanted it to have … What am I saying? I've downed, like, two Sprites and I'm on the next level. This is unreal. She's just crowdsurfed to the back of the venue, not missing a single beat in the song. I can't believe it. What a performer. What a show.

So, it's like 1 a.m. and I'm too tired to read my book. I don't even want to drive home. I just want to curl up in the back of my car, rock myself into a dull opioid sleep and hope, for one more day, that we don't get nuked back into the stone age. Great bands. Great show. You missed out. Burp. Sprite rules.
Zola Jesus. Photo: Angel Ceballos