Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The White Cascade, Irata, Free Electric State by Wild Bill Heroic


enter Wild Bill Heroic:

The ninja scroll is on the coffee table. I can't ignore it any more. It's like a little billboard in the house, something I can't walk by without at least a glance.

I was chosen. I have to do this.

I'm a show ninja.

I don't sleep. I have my best ideas at 3:42 in the morning. I can show up at any show, at any time or place, and I can be anyone you encounter. I'm the smiling guy with the beard, hovering by the bar. I'm the 23 year old girl, drawing stares. I'm the quiet redhead with the camera, snapping shots of the band. I'm the jaded but awake guy behind the bar, slinging drinks. I'm the gear nerd, who watches compulsively as the band sets up and takes precise mental note of everything they see. I'm in the dark room, I'm in the cigarette smoke that hangs like a canvas by the end of the night. I walk by the hot dog vendors and I drive home where the rain fell and sat on the highway and caught my tires and yanked them dangerously and I walk by the stacked drumsets and I step outside, out back, onto Slim's patio and I hear the thump and grind of tracks wafting without teeth from the booty club next door and the tourists' nervous grandeur as they wander around semilost and the kids by Hillsborough stepping suicidally into the street trying to hail drunkenly a drunken cab and somewhere above this the moon and then beyond baffling years and millenia of stars and galaxies beyond and beyond even that the menace that is the end of the universe and gravity is the creator and destroyer of everything, the fine balance between structure and antitime. Energy = Mariah Carey squared.

Unity, baby. Hippies and corporates agree, strangely enough. “We're all one,” say the hippies. “They're all sheep,” say the corporates.

I'm none of this, but I saw this, and I saw how the people slid through the room. The room slid right by them too, and it's going to be the same room tomorrow. New people will be here, they'll slide past each other in the same way and the ritual continues.

I'm a show ninja. I can't tell you how many of us there are. We travel by secret passageways, ancient techniques. I can't tell you about them. There is a tunnel that leads from every venue in the states to every other venue in the states and if you try hard enough, if you hold your PBR at exactly the right angle, its entrance is just barely evident on the periphery.

I emerged from this tunnel at Slim's, emerging in a carnal room where bass cabs had rattled loose the higher brain functions of every mammal in the room. Something very physical was happening, a change beyond drunkenness. I was taken over, my inner caveman saw his opportunity, came rushing towards the light, and made it into the room. I couldn't follow conversation, only music, and my body darted around like a ferret almost independently of the dull thud thud thud, bowling balls headed uphill among inverted synapses.

The ninja scroll said I'm needed to write about shows. To give press to bands who aren't expecting press. To bump past the drunks. To wish I had a camera.

I rested my can of PBR precariously on the flush lever of a urinal as I pissed and stared off into space, half-reading the scribbles on the wall. My feet sloshed in someone else's cold urine and my sneakers slid a few inches, and somehow this was a transcendental moment.

What happened was that Irata drove from Greensboro and played. Jon Case's huge amounts of curly hair flew, defied gravity, and just generally behaved like a jellyfish in a washing machine as he assaulted and battered his P-bass. From a tall Ampeg cab, powered by an Ampeg head, came a natural force as rhythmic as a rockslide, but equally as violent. Jason Ward wore a red, white, and blue sweatband above his eyes and played a red, white, and blue Ludwig kit. I swear this guy could power an entire city with the sheer energy of his playing. Hook him up to a turbine and give him a pair of drumsticks. Your choice, the city of Houston or the state of Alaska. The expression on his face when he's in the deep throes of rhythmic ecstasy is the middle ground between goofy grin and dangerous intensity Micheal Jordan used to get when he was at the top of his game. Jason Duff is the third, the guitarist, and would typically be the member most associated with aggressive playing. Duff, however, plays with infinite soul. He lags purposefully behind, writing melodic lines that somehow always slur just behind the dump truck with its breaklines cut that is Case and Ward's rhythmic engine.

The most common emotions communicated by instrumental acts are the typical serious emotions and don't get me wrong, I dig a good epic as much as anyone, but Irata is evolved from a totally different strain of howler monkey. Sarcasm abounds, like when Duff ends a measure with his slide and circles what would otherwise be a closed-end phrase back into itself, as does swagger, like when Case and Ward lock in on a lethally thick riff that would make Sleep blush.

Most importantly, and most relevant to the night at hand, this was a band at the top of their game and this was a band having the time of their lives. A lot of people were in Slim's – a whole lot of people – and they dug it. I retreated up the wall using semisecret mystical ninja techniques and checked my scroll. Pursue the shadow thieves... check. Defend the contested mountain pass... check. Advanced falconry... we'll get to that next week. See and enjoy Irata... check.

A happy crowd, a weekend in downtown Raleigh safely isolated from the freaks. Some people live the sideshow, ya dig? They go to these dead nightclubs every dead weekend and dance their dead feet to dead songs and go home in dead taxis to have terrible dead sex with these functionally defeated cubicle stuffers until the next weekend when they drink themselves cool and move their dead feet back to the ass clubs and trudge dutifully past the enormous bouncer who gets his kicks from beating all shit out of the trust fund kids whose discarded twenties pay his rent and bills and buy him a little pouch of Buddha a few times a week for his troubles, for his ankles, because it's not easy to be 300 pounds, even when so much of it is muscle and you're expected to hold on to the act but all he can think about when he cracks his fist and the blood makes its way from the kid's nose to his knuckles is the price of a movie ticket and its all a goddamn sideshow. Everyone plays their part. It's celebrated like it's wilderness, but you and I and the potted plant know that it's as spontaneous as a day at the DMV.

“Some days we don't let the line move at all. We call those days week days.”

I can't remember if that was Patty or Selma Bouvier. I can't ever remember which is which and they have the same voice anyway and I have successfully lost control of this writeup. It's all a free-for-all now and anything could happen.

From the infinite scope of human experience came a band called Free Electric State and, in less than a year... how do I say this? It's not like they've grabbed a corner for the scene or filled a niche, it's not like they're getting something that's owed to them – nothing even remotely dramatic, no narrative really. It's so simple it makes me giggle and then people start to wonder and I have to find a new set of friends that doesn't mind my fits of high-pitched gigling.

One day, FES very casually appeared and began playing shows. A lot of people liked it. Then a lot more people liked it. Now a whole lot of people like it. There's this beautiful simplicity to how they work as a band, how they present themselves. It's okay to enjoy rock and roll for its own sake. In fact, it's one of the noblest motivations.

On the surface, they're a reminder of the independent rock world of the mid '90s. However, as you really listen and engage with what they're doing, you realize that they've put you in a trance. They'll be rocking along, like in “100 Days,” with its pounding, jagged 4/4, and you'll be nodding your head with all the bliss you can summon, when you suddenly realize that ShirlĂ© stopped singing two minutes ago and by this point the band is as hypnotized as the audience by self-perpetuating riffs, by the physical sensation of rock and roll, by the electricity that not only flows through the walls and through the air but also through our minds, that yanks the pump in our chest that sends the blood that sends the oxygen and the little parts of the molecule are ultimately held together by static charge but I don't understand the science of it past that, not this late at night. All I know is we have batteries that power us. Some of us are rock and roll machines, and our batteries run optimally only when they're powering hands and arms and feet that power the forces of physical sound which is to say rock and roll loud enough to feel it and that is how I feel about Free Electric State.

This is my book report about Seeing the White Cascade Play Slim's and it's called This is My Book Report about Seeing the White Cascade Play Slim's by Wild Bill Heroic. My favorite part of the book was when Matt Guess took his guitar and he played his guitar through what appeared to be 53 different guitar pedals. A guitar pedal is what a guitarist uses to make their guitar sound like it's being played under water or to make their guitar sound like the collision of two rockets launched directly at each other from neighboring planets. The good guy in This is My Book Report about Seeing the White Cascade Play Slim's was Matt Robbins. Matt Robbins was the good guy because he used his precise and methodical drumming to set the clocks in an orphanage and if the orphanage had set their clocks by any other drummer's playing they would have slept through the fire that swept through the orphanage and we wouldn't want that, would we? So, Matt Robbins was the good guy in the book I'm writing my book report about (This is My Book Report about Seeing the White Cascade Play Slim's by Wild Bill Heroic) because he saved a house full of orphans from dying horribly in an orphanage fire. Orphans with diseases, by the way. Matt Cash was the bad guy in the book because he set the fire, but I suppose it's okay because the cheeky little arsonist is a fantastic bass player.--Wild Bill Heroic

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