[ATTENDED: May 20, 2016] Disappears
This was my first show at the relatively new Fillmore Philadelphia. The venue is really nice. There’s a balcony with bleacher seats and a very large floor area. It’s also reasonably easy to get to (although kind of hard to leave–bottleneck city!).
I was there to see Explosions in the Sky, but I had given a listen to a few songs by this opening band and was certainly looking forward to seeing them.
I was intrigued that their sounds was described as a mix of shoegaze, krautrock and garage rock. Three things which don’t really seem to go together. The tracks I listened to were really rather dissonant, which I found interesting. It also seems that each album is a little different, with the earlier stuff being a bit more garage-y.
I was also intrigued to read that Steve Shelley, drummer from Sonic Youth, played with them for an album and a couple of tours. But he was not with them now, having been replaced by Noah Leger. I’m not sure what Shelley did with the band, but Leger was really amazing to watch. More on him later.
The rest of the band is Brian Case on guitar and lead vocals with second guitarist Jonathan Van Herik and bassist Damon Carruesco.
The band came out and Case’s played a very unusual, slightly dissonant chord over and over for a few minutes (hence the krautrock part). Carruesco was playing a really solid bass line (I was parked in front of him). I couldn’t really hear what Van Herik was doing, but it seems like he was adding interesting textures and background noises to what Case was doing. And this noisy clatter went on for quite a while before Case stepped to the mic. And when he sang, it was like Mark E. Smith of the Fall but more deadpan.
Case was fun to watch because he used his whole body to play the guitar, swaying with the angular sounds or banging his fist against the body of the guitar to count the beat one step before he played the chords. I also enjoyed when he was simply playing one string while singing. He also held his guitar at a very strange angle (no photo available) while singing–by the body and held out towards the audience. But Case didn’t sing all that much–Disappears songs have few words. Mostly he played sounds on his guitar. Sometimes chords, sometimes notes sometime squeals.
Standing beside him was the quiet Van Herik. He often seemed to be playing noises, but more delicate ones. I had to watch his strumming hand to figure out what he was adding–it was always there but it was hard to parse at first. I think he may have also been mixed a little too low (or Case was too loud, whichever).
While I enjoy chatty banter, I also enjoy a band who is there to play and that’s all. I think that all Case said throughout the whole set was We’re Disappears. We’re from Chicago. And a shoutout to EITS.
As I mentioned, I was standing in front of the bassist. As the songs went on I realized just how important his job was in keeping the songs from disintegrating into chaos. His basslines were always steady and whether they were simple or complex (and some of them were), he was right on. His expression didn’t change much, but he stood there anchoring the whole show.
And then there was the drummer. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been focusing on drummers a lot lately. Perhaps its the bands I’m listening to or perhaps drummers are just doing more complicate things, but I’ve been really noticing how a great drummer can really impact a song. And Leger was mesmerizing.
His drumming was constant but it different in every song. Since most of the songs were born of repetition, so were his drums, but it wasn’t a simple snare bass snare bass. Each song featured a different rhythm. For one song, the entire drum sound was played by clicking sticks together and then hitting the snare on the eighth beat. Another song was nearly all hi-hat with occasional snare hits. Another song was a series of drum rolls from snare to floor toms over and over and really fast (I tried to get a video of that but failed).
There was an amusing moment where the lights switched to a red and white strobe. I was watching Leger as he looked up and made a goofy face upon seeing what the lights were doing. I also really like in this photo how you can see his body is totally still but the drum stick is flying like mad.
After the show I was looking at the EITS merch and I wanted to see if Disappears were selling any CDs. I went over to their side of the table and Case and Leger were there selling their stuff. I was delighted to get their CDs and chat briefly with Leger. I asked him about the strobe lights and he said he had no idea that was going to happen. EITS have their own lighting guys but as the openers they rely on the house lights. I regret now not talking to him more and telling him how great his drumming was. I also could have chatted with Case more about his guitar playing which I found really mesmerizing. Especially the final song (which i don’t know the name of) because I’d say they played the exact same thing for about 4 minutes before finally wrapping things up with mild changes as the set ended.
Since I didn’t know the band’s music, I don’t know what songs they played. And Setlist.com is not helping me at all. It sounded like they played primarily from their new album and yet when I see some of the Setlists for previous shows, they seem to have varied quite a bit. If anyone knows the songs they played from the show, please let me know.