So we had TWO folks come back from Battles with reviews. Here’s a hilarious take on it by reader Steve Kedrowski! I hope he wins more contests, because I like grumpy people.* And people who reference Gravity’s Rainbow in show reviews. Steve, bless your well-read soul.
Wake Me When the Show Starts: A Middle-Aged Man Goes to the Fonda
Every so often Lucinda will post a contest for free tickets to a show, and they are normally for bands I know and love, but invariably I lose out on the tickets because I didn’t know the name of the original bassist’s second-cousin. On Monday she was giving away tickets to Battles, a band I mainly know from the single in rotation on satellite radio, but there were no prerequisite questions, so this happened to be the time I managed to win. Therefore, I attended Tuesday’s show as a near blank slate. If you’re a huge Battles fan and you missed out on the tickets because of me, I apologize, but the place was nowhere near packed, so I don’t feel that guilty.
I’m in my mid-30s and I don’t make it out to shows as much as I used to. This year there were only two shows for which I actually went out of my way to buy advanced tickets: Flaming Lips at the Hollywood Bowl and Sebadoh at the Troubador. The Henry Fonda Theater is a midsized venue. Most of the bands I like have either already made it big or never will, so it’s been years since I’ve been to a club like this. The upper floor was closed off so there was nowhere to sit. I bought a Red Bull and vodka to give me a little pick-me-up. It was $11. In another ten years it will finally sink in that these are red flags trying to let me know that I’m not welcome in such places. But for the time being, I persevered…
I knew Battles were math-rock, but I didn’t know their songs were all instrumentals. (The song I was familiar with features some indecipherable shouting that I’d mistaken for a vocalist.) What does one do while listening to Battles? You don’t sing along because there are no words. It’s up-tempo enough to dance to, in a very herky-jerky way, but no one was dancing. If you are a musician, you might listen intently to appreciate the 11/8 time signatures, but the joys of something like this are like the joys of reading Gravity’s Rainbow or downing a nice shot of wheatgrass.
It’s music that doesn’t exactly command your sustained attention. It might work well as background in a movie, or even in conjunction with a cool video. It might work as party music (if you don’t care whether or not there are girls at your party). But as something to make you forget you’ve been standing for two hours and your back hurts, it doesn’t work.
*like myself, for example