Deerhunter and Boredoms perform at EMPAC

The Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center welcomed Atlanta-based indie rockers Deerhunter and the Japanese noise rock act Boredoms presenting their BOADRUM 9 performance this past Friday evening as the kickoff event of the “New Nothing” series. The event was rather well-attended, perhaps due to a surprising level of interest from local media outlets or the introduction of advertising on the popular indie music website Pitchfork. The entering audience was greeted with an impressive stage setup. In the middle of the concert hall was an octagonal stage, carefully supported by chains just above the seats, littered with what at first appeared to be a mutant interpretation of the traditional rock set up. Behind this, a second stage was constructed, elevated to compete with the stage already hovering over the lower portion of the orchestra seating in the concert hall. This setup unfortunately provided Deerhunter with one of their two glaring performance arrangement shortcomings—having to perform behind the main act’s gear. (The second drawback was the limitation provided by the hall’s fixed seating arrangement, which proved to be too formal for the act in question.)

Deerhunter started their set with little fanfare, jumping straight into the music with just a short introduction. The one hour of nearly continuous music was evocative of the crushing swells and melancholy of My Bloody Valentine, tempered by frontman Brandon Cox’s sighed lyrics. At parts it seemed like a solid stretch of ethereal guitar, layered with plentiful distortion and delay, with Cox’s vocals ebbing up only to swiftly fade back into the mix. While they started strong, by the middle of the set they were clearly losing the interest of many in the crowd, helped in no small part by the overly-formal seating arrangement. They stopped playing only once, to make a joke in an attempt to inject some humor into what at times was a cold audience, prior to starting their final song. Altogether, it was a solid set in what was ultimately a non-ideal environment. Those who may have found the band boring may have preferred to see them in a more intimate setting, which would be more conducive to their self-described “ambient-punk.”

Boredoms then trickled onto the suspended stage after a brief intermission, along with the seven additional drummers brought in for the special BOADRUM concept performance. Notable additions include Zach Hill, from the famed math rock band Hella, and Jeremy Hyman of indie media darlings Ponytail, along with five other indie rock luminaries. The set began with a slowly building cymbal swell conducted by the unfailingly energetic Yamataka Eye, which built into a deafening roar and switched over into a tribal tom beat. At this point, Yojiro Tatekawa was carried in on a pedestal held up by eight stage hands while simultaneously performing a drum solo over the tom drone emanating from the stage. He was then lowered onto the stage and joined with the 10 other members in what became more or less one continuous song that took the ensemble clear through to 11 pm.

Eye’s instrument of choice for the majority of the performance was a heavily-customized seven-necked Fender Telecaster, with four necks on one side and three on the other, played by striking the necks with a large wooden dowel. Accompanying this creation was a similar series of conjoined slide guitars, with each neck set to produce a specific chord. Other instruments in the band’s impressive arsenal included electronics, a traditional electric guitar, and keyboards (performed by Yoshimi P-We, notable for her title role in the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), in addition to the base of nine drum kits. The set closed with the readily-identifiable “Acid Police,” consisting of a pulsating tom beat played simultaneously by all nine drummers, with Eye’s vocals contributing by either shouting vocals or incoherently yelling and flailing around the stage.

Without a doubt, if one word could be used to describe Boredoms, it’s ‘epic.’ From the deafening volume to the sheer energy of the entire group (and most notably Eye, whose constant energy belies his 45 years) to the very design of their instruments, their show was a cathartic assemblage of the modern, primal, and even spiritual. Fortunately, the venue issues that plagued Deerhunter’s set did not negate the impact of the Boredoms performance in the slightest, ending the night memorably. If this is the kind of performance we can continue to expect from EMPAC’s “New Nothing” series, the upcoming shows are highly suggested for anybody interested in expanding their understanding of modern music.

The New Nothing series continues on October 30 with Zs and Little Women and on November 13 with Skeleton$, Luciano Chessa, and Dan Deacon.