Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Throbbing Gristle's April 25/26th, 2009 Chicago shows



“We aren’t interested in show business, so shut the fuck up.” --Genesis P. Orridge

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing both sets of the April 25th show in Chicago this year. There were several Chicago musical "luminaries" there--most incognito--but I recognized a few here-and-there, just as I had at Psychic TV's 2004 Empty Bottle gig where I literally bumped into Genesis P. Orridge on the way out the front door for a smoke.

The Logan Square Auditorium concerts were the first time that TG had ever played the windy city on what was a four city tour (major ones only) of the United States. The last time Gristle played America, that rough beast heading towards Bethlehem was...residing in the White House, but that era's finally coming to a screeching halt as many of us suspected it would. America looks-the-grimier for it, maybe we'll avert ecological catastrophe, maybe not, but besides ourselves, we'll know who to blame: industrialists, and not the kind that play concerts. Logan Square Auditorium is a pretty old room and it was becoming apparent just a few minutes into the set that the structure of the building was never going to be the same, ever again. If you loved extreme music, this was going to be your night, and I spotted people in "Coil," "Can," "Kraftwerk," and even "Popol Vuh" (the last three being "krautrock" groups) t-shirts, something I'm certain to never see again in one place.

You didn't need to be on drugs to feel your consciousness being altered at the show, it was riveting, devastating, and in a way that's beyond rare. From the first set, which was an improvised soundscape to the late Derek Jarman's "In the Shadow of the Sun" (1980) made expressly for the group to score, to the second, comprised of a mix of oldies and new material, it was very much as the accounts of TG had always said they were: they were so powerful that they will change your consciousness forever, a completely immersive and subversive experience all around. Nietzsche said that there were only two Christians: "Jesus and St. Francis." Many have said that there was only one industrial group ever, Throbbing Gristle, and I would be hard-pressed to disagree with them. There's an unmistakable feeling when one bears witness to artistic truth, and like some kind of religious experience, it's irrefutable, and likewise, immutable. The occasion was truly historic, like having the good luck of catching the Velvet Underground.

The speaker columns were possibly some of the tallest I've ever seen and with every air-molecule vibrating violently, and the sensation within the crowd was akin to what it must be like to swim in a pool of jello, you could literally feel your innards moving. Beyond that, there was the sensation of something much bigger than the people creating the music, the sounds, and the people witnessing it, something you cannot put a price tag on, nor something you can sully with money. It was a shared and communal experience.

The link below will take you to a downloadable file of the second set, enjoy (or don't). Play at as high a volume as possible. It won't be exactly the same, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what it was like. TG allowed audience members to come into the Logan Square Auditorium without any searches. Read the quote above, and it will all make sense. Public music is public. You put it out there, or you do not, because once it is out there, it's no longer entirely yours. If money is all an artist is concerned about, it's no longer about the music or connecting with people anymore, it's just more business-as-usual, over-the-counterculture, commodified and dead at your door. Downloads don't seem so evil after that, but please support your favorite artists anyway.