In the Crowd: Shellac
August 27th, 2005
I'm not even gonna get into how this show just about didn't happen, how I drove 3 hours from Vancouver on some girl's word that she'd show up and that I could have one of her tickets, about how fucking amazingly nice the people at the Vera Project were, or about how this review will be missing the Scout Niblett portion since I was standing outside waiting for this girl while they crashed beats and screamed their way through an hour set.
When I finally did get into the venue, it was just as Albini and Co. were launching into their 90 minute set. I missed them walking out with their ever clever Electrical Studios jumpsuits on, but at that point it didn't matter.
When ‘Pull the Cap' hit, it was pure Albini, with his trademark guitar strapped around his waist, Bob Weston firing out the low end bass and Todd Trainer hitting the drums as though they'd just hit him first. ‘My Black Ass' exploded with all the force that it showed on the album; loud, noisy and Albini yelling his 43 year-old face off as though he were half that age and just dumped.
With Shellac, it's as though you've entered the studio and are merely watching the jam sessions of 3 friends. From banter between Bob and Steve about who's pitching at the Mariners game tomorrow, to drummer Todd standing up and saying "I won't be at the baseball game tomorrow," from Albini making the band redo certain parts until it sounds how he wants it sound; all this adds to the intimate Shellac experience (can intimate be used to describe a band as loud as Shellac?).
A new track ‘The End of Radio' was perhaps the strongest of the set. Albini approaches the microphone like a drunken politician intent on convincing the world of its own destruction, hits the microphone with his head and asks ‘Can you hear me now', thanks "his sponsors", then remembers he has no sponsors, then discusses the joys in pronouncing Martina Navritolova's name. Weston's 3 bass chords sounded as though built into one's brain, and Trainer's drumming was, as expected, exceptional.
‘Wingwalker' was another highlight with all band members standing with arms outstretched as Albini warbled through the story about a guy who gives up everything in his life to build an airplane that deep down he knows he'll never finish. Through it all, Albini provoked the audience with questions like "is it better to try and fail or be smart enough to realize that you're going to fail?" It was the rare treat of a nerd asking the questions for once, not answering them and it was priceless. In true Shellacian fashion, the ‘encore' was Albini announcing: "pretend we just walked off stage and now we're back and ok, we'll play two more songs."
A night with Shellac is really like no other. One gets the sense that the wiring in Albini's mind is as intricate and outright complex as the amps that he custom builds for touring with the trademark one knob for volume. One of the many moronic questions asked during set was "what kind of amps are those," to which Weston replied "guitar amps."; he cut the guy a little slack and added, ‘look on the Internet, that will tell you what's inside them." In a way, its admirable for Shellac to answer questions considering the amount of stupid ones they get. On this particular evening, they were blessed with the ever-thoughtful "how can light act both as a particle and mineral", "how old are you", and "did you enjoy your lunch in Portland today?"
What makes Shellac an exceptional anomaly is that in reality, Albini can make more money and have less headaches recording bands. On the Electrical website, it says he charges 650$ a day for recording which isn't too bad considering the music genius you're getting. Playing shows night after night is tiring for a group of old guys and with tickets being only 10$, there's no way they're rolling in Jaguars back home. Further, its not as though they're touring on an album and trying to sell it at the shows. At the end while Weston was selling shirts, one guy asked where the CDs were and Weston told him: the store.
If that's not enough to convince you that Shellac is a rare treat these days, how's this: what other band finishes their set, then walks to the side of the stage and sells reversable t-shirts, answers your stupid tech questions, and shakes your hand before you can offer yours?
- Derren Susin | 2005-08-31