Scraping Genius Off The Wheel


  • Gary Suarez

video taken by (((unartig)))

Initially, it wasn’t all that clear why Unsane chose to play a one-off show this past Friday in Brooklyn. They had no new album to promote, nor any major news to announce, yet the devoted crowd at a sold-out Union Pool seemed perfectly content when frontman Chris Spencer suggested that they were just there to “hang out.” Fortunately, that meant a lengthy set from the iconic New York noise rockers stuffed with classics as well as more recent work. Kicking off with “Against The Grain,” a vicious track off 2007’s underrated Visqueen, the essential trio of drummer Vinnie Signorelli, bassist Dave Curran, and guitarist Spencer set a bizarre mood for the remainder of the night. During songs like “Scrape” and “Body Bomb,” Unsane were unhinged and bestial. Yet between tracks the guys acted playful and lighthearted, with Signorelli showing off rhythmically while Curran and Spencer shared some borderline bromantic moments. This dichotomy of catharsis and camaraderie spread quickly to the audience, of which I was an active participant at the front of the stage. Though most of the between-song banter was friendly, Spencer experienced a significant mood shift as he introduced “Only Pain” which he described as some sort of love song. His lyrics steeped in agony, Unsane’s founder roared his heart out on the gut-wrenching chorus, adding new dimensions to an already solid track. The band closed with a long slogging noise jam version of “Get Off My Back” (off 1995’s essential Scattered, Smothered & Covered), which astounded with its primitive wall of sound approach to devastation.

Though Unsane were the headliners, Made Out Of Babies made it a point to be a tough act to follow. Playing as a four-piece, the group came out on stage visibly eager to unleash some pent up rage and emotion. No member was more obviously in such a state than vocalist Julie Christmas, who seemed almost catatonic beforehand, save for the occasional sip from a glass of what I presumed to be whiskey. With a thin black band of makeup painted over her eyes and over to her temples, she seemed elsewhere. Yet when the set started, Christmas was more than ready to channel her demons into a devastating performance. However, within seconds of the opening song, she apparently–and one would hope unintentionally–cut herself directly on her right eyelid. She sang and writhed as blood quickly dripped and poured down her face as well as onto her hands. Within arm’s reach of the bar, I grabbed some napkins and offered them to her. Caught in the moment, Christmas was initially disinterested in tending to her wound, yet within minutes she relented and pressed them against her eye. Prior to the next song, another patron offered her a handkerchief and wiped the thick red mess from her right cheek. Injury was not going to stop Made Out Of Babies from playing a fantastic set heavy with cuts from 2008’s The Ruiner, including a feral version of “How To Get Bigger.” A captivating and terrifying frontwoman, Christmas is hard not to fixate on, yet credit must be given to bassist Eric Cooper for his throbbing low end grooves and emotive grimacing.

Noisy hardcore supergroup United Nations opened, as did hip-and-directionless locals Dark Vibe.


[Gary Suarez usually manages the consistently off-topic No Yoko No. He recently retired from Twitter.]

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