When it comes to the avant garde or experimental aspect of music there are few who probably do it as well as the band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I could not risk missing the chance to enjoy their display of musical prowess even though I had attended the all day Ozzfest 2007 affair the day before so I headed down to the Highline Ballroom to see what was going on. Their The End Records label mates Tub Ring would be direct support along with a new band called Made Out Of Babies. If you want to learn more about this show, just scroll past the logo below.
Artist: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
Venue: Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Tub Ring, Made Out Of Babies
Label: The End Records
I have to be brutally honest in saying that I was not really planning on hitting this show because I had attended Ozzfest the previous day and that was an all but draining experience based on the amount of running around I was involved in. Yet when it comes to any of the artist roster of The End Records one is advised to recoup their strength as best as possible, for even if they are aware of the bands music in the audio sense, you really cannot be totally prepared for what is in store for you at a live show. This would be the case as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum returned to NYC for a performance at recently opened Highline Ballroom. Joining them were label mates Tub Ring and an independent group by the name of Made Out Of Babies.
Made Out Of Babies are a female fronted Hard Rock group that seemed to lean on the Melancholy/Screamo side which struck me as an odd mixture of genre but yet we are finding bands mixing all sorts of aspects together these days and often having it work quite well. I felt that they were showing some solid potential during the performance in the musical sense and while I was digging some of the riffs and song structures being laid down I preferred when singer Julie sang in her clean voice as opposed to the screaming one. It started to become a bit much and was making me lose interest in the song but in all honesty it takes a few more goes for me when the band is doing continual screaming. This is far different from guttural Death growls. For the most part the crowd and I enjoyed them and it will be interesting to see how this group progresses going forward. Despite the occasional tune that I liked I did not like the fact that the singer merely walked offstage without thanking the crowd for being there during their set. Tub Ring was up next.
Tub Ring: I caught Tub Ring when they appeared with The Gathering a few months ago as those Dutch superstars made their return to the US. Unfortunately for the guys in the band the particular venue offered them a scant amount of room to perform on and they did so with all of The Gathering’s gear right on top of and behind them. It made for a congested set and if you have ever seen videos or clips or their performance you realize that this band needs room to breathe and move. Tonight the Highline Ballroom would offer them a perfect setting and it was on from the moment they came out. They are an insanely entertaining band that shows they are all having fun with everything that they do in their music. Its energetic stuff and tonight they would lean on “The Great Filter” once again in terms of material addressed. Lead singer Kevin Gibson comes off as quite engaging but one should always keep their eyes trained on keyboardist Rob Kleiner who climbs aboard his rig and swings them around and pretty much does anything he feels like to the instrument. Keyboard manufactures everywhere should use him in the field to see how much abuse their devices can handle. The other amusing part of the bands set would be the fact that guitarist Jeff Enokian was playing with a taser gun and shocking himself during the performance. Yes folks, this was really happening. The great thing was that everyone in the room was getting into them and this was a lot different from that Gathering show, but I believe the club and its horrid setting was largely the culprit as well as the bands audience being slightly different from that in attendance tonight. If you are a fan of stuff like Mr. Bungle you would really enjoy what these guys bring to the table. And now without any further adieu would be my first exposure to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and I had no idea what to expect with this one.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: I’m pretty confident that music fans who lean more to that which is avant-garde or experimental will probably get the picture and point of these guys clearer than most of us who strictly follow the conventional stuff. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum or SGM as we will call them for the remainder of this review is an incredible example of all the open roads that one can take musically and a concert of theirs really needs to be approached with an open mind. I had some exposure to the bands material with the re-issue of their 2001 album “Grand Opening and Closing” but had not yet heard their newest one “In Glorious Times” and that made the night pretty full of grand discovery for me and any others who were in the same boat. I made sure I was right up close to the stage for this one and I was glad I was in this position based on the amount of rather curious instruments located up there. There was a standard drum kit but next to it was a massive percussion set which not only had various kinds of hand drums but also racks of metal, pieces of wood and a few things which I had no idea how they would be used. There was also a giant piece of wood which I heard was called the “Sledgehammer Dulcimer”. This instrument is at least seven feet long and apparently strung with piano strings and played by Dan Rathburn.
As I awaited them to hit the stage when the lights went down I was suddenly drawn to the activity off to the rear of the venue near the entrance – when I turned to see what was brewing I was treated to the site of the band actually marching through the crowd with banners and hand instruments along with a trombone and recorder for good measure. They were led by singer/guitarist Nils Frydahl and if you were not aware of this fact, all the members sport makeup and interesting costumes. The other band members and their instruments are Mattias Bossi (drums), Carla Kihlstedt (autoharp, violen, organ, etc), Michael Mellender (percussion), and Dan Rathburn (dulcimers, trombone, bass and more). It was really interesting to watch them perform tonight as each member seemed to play a couple of different instruments which allowed the audiences visual and audio sensors to be treated to a wide variety of musical colors as opposed to continually knowing what was coming next. I really cannot describe the brand of music that this actually was as there was Folk, Funk, Spoken Word, Jazz, Fusion and Rock all blended together and while this might be the case as far as definition goes but despite this the aspect of being interesting and able to keep you focused on what was happening was very, very clear all around the room. Nils sometimes tells stories before the songs and it generally applies to the content of the track. I was finding myself quite impressed with the goings on, and kept training my attention on Carla who was not only a multi-instrumentalist to the nth degree but also very pretty. Carla was not the only female on the stage tonight as the group also had these two dancing girls or “living marionettes” as it seemed and they were walking around and bopping into one another for the entire show. They were also made up in costume and face paint and didn’t speak a word for the performance.
Everything about the show was dramatic and intriguing tonight and Nils surely kept you focused on all that he had to say when he opted to speak. The singer speaks in a slow, deep tone and comes off as a sometimes quite foreboding. At the end of the show I realized that the capacity crowd and I were all lucky to have been here to witness something as different and as special as this. The lighting tonight was also heavy on the dramatic and used so many deep reds and blues that my shots only came out so, so. Oh well, at least there is some visual record of the proceedings to go along with the memories of tonight. The show left me with more interest in looking into this band again and a little deeper in terms of their music. I cannot recommend it enough to readers that they try to do the same if the chance is offered them for it is a show that you will not soon forget.