Oren Ambarchi / Boris / Sunn O))) @ Avalon; New York, NY
Not much traffic heading into the city yesterday, there were plenty of tickets left for the show at 6pm when we got to the Irving Plaza box office. Met Ian’s old lady for dinner at the Heartland Brewery location near Union Square and tried their Belgian Cherry Chocolate Stout. It was nice. Got to Avalon just as the doors were opening and stood outside maybe three minutes before we were inside the club.
Positioned at the front right-hand corner of the stage, the first thing one would notice had to be the wall of guitar amplifiers that took up the majority of space on Avalon’s stage. There were at least six, if not eight or nine full-stacks set up in a line behind a drum set in the middle of the stage. Three Ampeg amps (two with 8×10 extension cabinets and one on the other side I couldn’t see), an orange stack (with two 4×12 cabinets) and three or four Sunn model-t amps with multiple 4×12 cabinets. From my vantage point I was only able to capture Takeshi’s gear. It looked kind of like this:
The opening act was Oren Ambarchi, who played guitar drones through multiple effects to create a really heavy, low-end pulse that shook the entire room. One piece lasted about fifteen minutes, I counted at one point he was going at about three beats-per-minute. It’s impossible for one to search for meaning in all this noise, but it’s still pretty interesting to hear and see develop from start to finish.
The set transition was relatively quick. Boris came out at about 9:15 and played for an hour, a set that had Ian and I constantly exchanging shocked expressions with how impressed we were. They opened very intensely with “Blackout” before launching into four or five of their quicker numbers (including “Ibitsu” and “Pink”).
With the band in full-gear, they started “I Just Abandoned My-Self,” at which point Takeshi switched to guitar through his Sunn amp and suddenly the volume level increased tenfold. This last half-hour of Boris’ set was almost excruciatingly loud. They closed with the opening track from Pink, “Farewell.”
My overall impressions were that Boris is a band that “brings it” in a live setting, more so than any band I’ve seen in quite some time. Intensity and sound aside, all three musicians are very adept and talented. The female guitarist (named Wata) puts most of her male peers to shame. The drummer (named Atsuo) was probably most impressive of the three, the only part of his kit that was mic’d through the PA was the gong. He’s that loud and fierce that they don’t have to send the rest of the signals through the PA system.
The set transition lasted longer between Boris and Sunn O))). With dry ice being filtered into fog machines to set the atmosphere, the drums were cleared from the stage and Oren Ambarchi set up his gear alongside the members of Sunn O))) to join them during their set. They came out in their druid costumes, all seven of them (including the guest guitarist and Atsuo, who beat the hell out of his gong) and launched into this sustained low-end drone that lasted for about an hour. It was pretty interesting and at times very cool. I could see how some would consider it boring, but for what it is, I enjoyed it. The fog was rolling, the red wine was flowing, and Boris’ drummer was invoking the spirit of the gong. Fists were pumped and chords were strummed at insanely sporadic intervals.
Great show. Had my ears ringing for quite some time. Hopefully no permanent damage was sustained. Today’s better, no ringing but they still feel clogged. Here’s some Boris to whet your appetite and entice you to check ’em out on this US tour.
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