Friday, September 15th, 2006
I am going to open this review by stating that Wednesday night was my fifth straight day of concert-going, including the two-day soiree on the islands last weekend. Which is the say that my head was probably not right. Just a caveat.
If any bootlegs of Serena Manesh’s SxSW set exist, they probably sound a little like “KKKCCCHKKKSSSSSSSSGGG”, but with maybe more bass. But despite it being sonically incomprehensible, it was still a spectacle and a half and one of the best things I saw that week. The Norwegian glam-gazers were a whirlwind of scarves, hairs and guitars flung around the stage and a refreshing dose of over-the-top, in-your-face showmanship in a sea of introvert indie rockers. They had originally been slated to make their Canadian debut back in the Spring but had to cancel because of immigration issues related to getting back into the US, but had all that sorted out this time around as they finally rolled into Toronto.
Also in tow were Oklahomans Evangelicals, touring in support of their debut album So Gone (which I reviewed in June). On the record, I found the overriding feeling to be of youthful energy and optimism – live, however, there was something significantly darker going on. In part it was their stage setup, decking everything out with foliage, pillars and a smoke machine and relying on just a pair of green and red floodlights on the floor for illumination. The result was a kind of Hallowe’en funhouse meets haunted forest vibe which turned out to be pretty apt. Musically they were as high-energy as I’d been told, but more anxious and frantic than exuberant and rambunctious and overall a little unsettling. Though the story/cautionary tale about making out with transvestites was pretty funny.
Serena Maneesh’s set may have been short – barely 45 minutes – but what it lacked in duration, it more than made up for in volume, stage destruction and sheer ridiculousness. They often get dismissed as a My Bloody Valentine tribute but what I witnessed was a band channelling the spirit of The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” with the chaos knob turned up to 10. I think the mix was far superior to the one in Austin, but damned if I could make anything out – instead, once again, the band’s physicality counted for as much as their music. Frontman Emil Nikolaisen, resplendant in leather, bandana and frills, was a dervish on guitar while sister and bassist Hilma Nikolaisen was a giantess Nico, bounding about the stage the rhythm of the omnipresent drone.
But curiously, for all the band was putting out on stage, there seemed to be this fundamental disconnect with the audience. It was a reasonable-sized crowd, but for a few exceptions most people seemed to be watching with the eye of the curious and not the converted. Which is fair since they’re not the most immediately accessible act, but it did make the general vibe in the club a little odd – I think for a fully enjoyable experience, you have to be totally into what the band is doing and I didn’t sense that level of buy-in from the audience for much of the show. They were cheering heartily by the end but that may have had much to do with the band’s wanton destruction of their stage setup. Everyone loves a good demolition derby. The fact that drummer Einar Lukerstuen’s kit was strewn all over the stage in many pieces also pretty much guaranteed there would be no encore.
Photos: Serena Maneesh, Evangelicals @ Lee’s Palace – September 13, 2006
MP3: Serena Maneesh – “Un-Deux”
MP3: Evangelicals – “Here Comes Trouble”
MP3: Evangelicals – “Another Day (And Yoor Still Knocked Out)”
Video: Serena Maneesh – “Drain Cosmetics” (YouTube)
MySpace: Serena Maneesh
Pitchfork rounds up the activities of the former members of On! Air! Library!. I’ve talked at length before about Daylight’s For The Birds and their new album Trouble Everywhere out October 31, but Claudia Deheza’s A Cloud Mireya and Alley Deheza’s School Of Seven Bells both seem worth investigating as well. All bands should break up so productively – I just got a copy of the Daylight’s record and it’s so very pretty.
File under: unexpected. PopMatters bids farewell to The Dance Cave, the dingy club atop Lee’s Palace where I also spent many (many) a wasted night in my twenties. Though I don’t think I ever liked it nearly as much as the author – it was just somewhere to go.
np – Daylight’s For The Birds / Trouble Everywhere