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Thursday, 02 May 2013 14:39

Concert review: Goat (with Tone Rodent and Holy Wave) mystifies and excites at the Old Rock House, Wednesday, May 1

Goat at the Old Rock House Goat at the Old Rock House Mike Gualdoni
Written by Mike Herr

A sparse audience of sleepy-looking loners and softly chatting couples sat at the high tables on the edges of the main room at the Old Rock House. The local guys of Tone Rodent climbed onstage, each of them either tuning strings or tweaking knobs or putting on a good don't-give-a-shit face.

Mark Early started tapping out a vamp on his synthesizer. The pieces fell together; Matty Coonfield's big solid bass voicing and Adam Dick's slamming but slippery drum work coloring and scooping the vamp, then Adam Watkins and Jeff Robtoy's echoing vocals forming the sounds into song. For all the genre and subgenre talk people throw into orbit around Tone Rodent (everything from "noise" to "shoegaze" to "space rock" to the blanketing "psychedelic"), their songs tend, even this initiating build-up, toward the conventional. But when the build finishes and Watkins snaps off his last lyric, the band drops rock -- huge, lumbering, heavy-steady rock.

People were headbanging to Tone Rodent even as they were sitting, even if they were standing alone. The band's power is in dynamics and confidence; not revolutionary song structure nor the revelation of brand new sounds. Each song they churned out burned slow and had a familiar feeling, but the band's particularly well-realized dynamics and commitment to each song made you feel that this band's sound could fill out an arena or hit distant mountains at Red Rocks.

Holy Wave is a band from Austin, Texas with a sound exemplary of a whole generation's deep-rooted sympathies for all forms of pyschedelia in music and life. "Psychedelic" has sort of become an unhip way to describe things though, smelling vaguely of blues-rock and patchouli and Haight-Ashbury, so "psych" now describes whole legions of bands and sounds. If it's not pop or mainstream, it probably has psych leanings -- country, hardcore punk, gangster rap, whatever.

The growing crowd soaked up Holy Wave. The band was good: the songs coasted and floated through the room; the musicians pushed dirges and shrugged into sloppy-psych-garage messes with the kind of fluency people appreciate for the good taste in music each song references and/or the ability to emulate it. They were good, but I probably won't remember them long. The one moment they almost got to me was in the course of the last song, the band repeating the same phrase for minutes. But even then I felt like I was being dragged into the a psych rehashing of a musical trope old as raga, or at least Neu!, but lacking power or any real meaning.

Goat, draped in gypsy garb and obscured by masks, is a band more mysterious for its momentum than the joke-myth it projects. Last night was supposedly the band's 14th show ever, and everyone who paid to get in at the Old Rock House probably had memorized the "World Music" record (released just months ago) like a prayer. Why has the band blown up? With its members' identities hidden, it's hard to know if Goat shares links with other great bands from Sweden, big record labels, or any manner of powerful people who could grant the band international success like a pop-culture genie.

Or maybe it's that Goat portrays itself aesthetically but especially musically as a band of the world, a hand-woven mesh of Japanese noise, Afrobeat, Tropicalia, Indian raga, Scandinavian and Bulgarian folk, Hawkwind and American metal -- and the band does so in a time when global ideas and local pride are what makes anything cool and progressive, even music. But I'd like to think that their success comes from how fucking good they are.

Howling kinetic energy, deep, surprising grooves, and a sense of epic narrative gave not only its record but its set last night a sense of newness, a genuine excitement that most bands can't touch. The musicians haven't necessarily mastered all the styles they draw from, but they could fool you into thinking it by the strength of their songs and a unique translation. The bassist slides and dips his lines through the often simple, spacious grooves the drummer opens using single kicks on the back of the beat -- this interplay got everyone moving, then the guitars pulled forth emotions forming stories and reasons in the crowd's collective head, and finally the dual female singers raised each song into dance-chant like a more ferocious Tom Tom Club would but better.

If the only purpose this review can serve is GO SEE GOAT, that's cool with me.

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