The sun dipped over the rusting warehouses on the wrong side of the tracks. The symbiotic business/art space, Wazee Union, sat skirting said tracks, seemingly leaving the decision of which side it was on up to the judgment of the observer. The dust kicked up by the cars as they found spaces mingled with the slight pot-haze from the cars that had already parked.
My Chuck-T’s added to the dust cloud as I dragged my feet in a slacker march, trying to blend into the line of people carrying amps and cymbals, hoping that they would know where the entrance was. A quick push through a wire fence and I had found Mago-Gogo. I’d been promised, and I quote, “fire-spewing robots, and blood thirsty samurai demons do battle!” So, yeah I was pretty excited.
But before blood could be shed there was the reason this little gathering had been put together. Bands for Lands, a great little non-profit dedicated to spreading a message of sustainability through creativity, had brought together a bunch of bands to play through afternoon-turn-night for the smattering of people that had congregated to watch. I picked out the sometimes genius, always insane local legend Little Fyodor, lounging on a camping chair talking to a man who seemed to have lost his way from an anime convention. This was all while a small canopy housed a two-piece female punk band whose attempts to wear horizontal stripes, hammer out two-chord “melodies” out of a little, overworked amp and overload the mic with Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ style squeals (minus the pop sensibilities) were shattered by what looked like a Gibson SG (could have been Epiphone I guess) in the hands of the singer. Even Steuben’s had made an appearance in their van of awesome lunchables, but, alas, it was short-lived when their generator gave out.
None of this really mattered though; I wasn’t there for sliders, dust or bands of varying merit. I was out for blood, and as the twilight hour loomed–as if the devil had dimmed the house-lights–and the drums started, I would learn if my blood-lust would be sated.
The percussionists for the band Odam Fei Mud began to beat in semi-rhythmic unison and as the drummer, sitting at the kit, stepped in, I knew we were in trouble. Anyone who has ever listened to a band like Slipknot knows that one missed cue from any of the percussionists creates a downward spiral of messy beats that you can rarely recover from, one that Odam Fei Mud never did. Unfortunately, it was a pretty lackluster performance that felt wholly rushed, like high schoolers covering intricate Tool riffs with varying degrees of “good-effort” success. As a soundtrack to the Kabuki-esque theater, the messy, seemingly unpracticed band matched the performances of the players under the red and white spotlights. The story was acted out without words and often left me wondering what physical cues I had missed to set up this new turn of events. It centered around a samurai in a pretty decent suit of armor as he slaughtered a Miyazaki like creature, with the help of two Gamorrean guards. To my surprise, these two guards then turned and beat the living snot out of the samurai. A quick set change and the samurai was suddenly worshiping a white mannequin who had been crucified upside down, while a farmer toiled in the soil. The samurai then drew his sword and struck the sacrifice. Finally, I was ready for my Kill Bill torrents of the red stuff! Only the squib misfired and shot out without the provocation of the samurai’s probing sword. As if insulted that their sacrifice was poorly executed, two rampaging samurais and a guy with a buzzed-head and black Hanes comfort T-shirt (who maybe forgot to bring his costume?) took on our lone samurai protagonist.
The fight that ensued might have been passable in the mid-twentieth century, but with fairly recent technology of DVD behind-the-scenes featurettes and YouTube instructional videos on how to sword fight, there really is no excuse for fighting like you were choreographed by YouTube sensation Star Wars Kid. After the battle had ended and the only truly significant casualty was my interest, it was the lone samurai’s turn to be crucified. After a few awkward moments of fumbling, the samurai stuck his head through a boxy sacrificial altar that had much in common with one of those photography stands with cut-out faces that you find by the sea or in zoos. As the evil samurais and the Hanes dude hacked away at the fake body on the altar, the samurai seemed to forget where he was, continuously dropping his head out of the hole, breaking the already strained illusion. As for the blood, it was another dance of misfired squibs, to the point where at the end, the most energetic samurai (he had his shirt off to prove it) just punched the patch where the squib was, so that it would burst in Bruce Lee-style glory. At its climax, someone backstage came out with a waving flashlight and announced that the performance had come to a close, and with it my blood-lust was lost in a wave of disappointment, a look that very much mirrored that of the players’ faces themselves. Maybe it was a bad night for blood?
During the performance I became fascinated with a young boy, sitting in his father’s lap in the audience, the lights and silhouetted movements of the players dancing across his wide eyes. I wondered what that boy saw as he clasped his hands to his ears in either protection or enthrallment. Things look different to a child, something I recently witnessed firsthand when I went back and watched the DVD’s of 80’s cartoon, the Transformers, and suddenly realized what I had thought as a child to be an animated Citizen Kane, was in actual fact far from it; and my hero, Optimus Prime suddenly stood out to me as John Wayne spouting 80’s inspired American jingoisms. I moved closer to the young boy, hoping to catch a glimpse of what he was telling his father, so emphatically. Was it how much he enjoyed seeing the blood? Was it that he liked the Akira Kurosawa-inspired visuals? I got close enough to make out his answer.
He explained to his father that he wasn’t tired. He had felt tired in the middle of the show, but now, at the end, he was wide awake again. I nodded, understanding what the young boy was going through, and headed back to the gap in the wire fence.