Last night, Tera Melos, a band arguably on the bleeding edge of experimental rock music, played a show at Modified Arts in Phoenix. I was there to experience the proto-melody madness, but found myself preferring a local opening band more.
I always enjoy Modified Arts as a venue—intimate, urban and distinctly artsy (this is an art gallery after all). I’ve had good luck with band here too. Two years ago, I was part of a crowd of about 15 people who came to Modified for Vampire Weekend. They even invited a member of the crowd, which turned out to be me, to come up on stage and play the congas with them. Not more than six months later, Vampire Weekend became overnight hit. They appeared on every prominent blog and music chart, topping out with the release of their first, critically acclaimed album last year.
Now whenever I go for a under-ten-bucks show, I expect something big. Tera Melos was definitely big with experimental elements—maybe too big. While they set up, the three band members hauled out wooden boards filled with 10 or more loop peddles and effects boxes on each—impressive but excessive.
I don’t doubt the skill involved in managing so many peddles, but Tera Melos’s no-holds-barred style was too much. They alternated between random, hard-to-hear samples and oppressive walls of noise. Just when you thought you’d found the rhythm, they would take it away with a blast of screeching sound.
As for the crowd, a small group used the chaotic chorus to demonstrate a new type of moshing I’ve seen at a few shows lately. It involves simply flailing around. I’ll call it spaz-moshing.
I’ve been to experimental concerts before and I find the trick to a well executed set is control. Deerhoof, for example, was an awesome show. They came to the Clubhouse last semester. They balance their technical and experimental themes with tight coordination and control. Perhaps this comes with being a more established and longer-lived.
In retrospect, the band before Tera Melos saved the show for me. The Wizards of Time, a local band that sounded nothing like Tera Melos, excited me from the start. During their setup, they brought a homely lamp out on the stage. Questions abounded. Would they use it as an instrument? Was it some kind of gimmick? Could this be the pioneer group for lamp-rock?!
As it turned out, the lamp was simply aethetic, but The Wizards of Time held their own musically, blending folky themes and eccentric elements like kazoo interludes. It was as much fun to watch as listen.