When you attend as many rock shows as I do, the criteria for an “excellent” show changes. A band playing their instruments well is no longer enough. For me, an excellent show is now defined as one that inspires writing and encourages new ways of thinking. This holding true, the Young Widows and My Disco show at Rotture this evening was one of the best shows I’ve attended in a long while.

Rotture
Portland, OR
2011 – 06/08

My Disco

Though the crowd’s cheering hinted at appreciation, the evening’s crowd of largely male and clad in black showgoers felt unwavering and uninspired. Hence, I decided to retreat into myself to appreciate the intensity of My Disco. I had just come from a show at Holocene where the ambient electronic jazz grooves of Golden Retriever had turned my mind into an introspection-craving unit, and I wanted only to meditate. My Disco provided an atmosphere for my continued introspection, though in a starkly different way.

Listen to “Closer” – DOWNLOAD MP3

With their brand of heavy psych-dance rock, I gained from My Disco a hyper-awareness of my body. Eyes closed, I visualized alternate versions of me stacked atop present me, layering like transparencies. These alternate versions of me were animated. They lived in momentary bliss. They danced without inhibition, heavy with stomping and jerky, elbow-flailing movements. By contrast, present me began to notice the strain in my body, as evidenced by my arms being crossed tensely across my chest. And though my feet were tapping and my head was nodding, that limited movement was the upper end of what I could allow myself to do in a public setting. Somewhere in my mind’s eye, alternate “me”‘s were having a more honest and open time.

My Disco’s name may seem like a misnomer, but when one sees them live, it is obviously fitting. Their music should inspire disco dancing of the most intense variety. Inspiration can be pulled from the way the band members become wholly entranced in their own sound, vibing in a way that seems dedicated to losing oneself in the moment. We can take note, but apparently, we don’t.

As My Disco’s set continued, their deep drum rhythms conjured movement in more concertgoers, but participation was slow-building and self-conscious. This group lethargy led me to yearn for the past, or a hypothetical future, or another locale in current time, where people are not so limited by fear. Perhaps someday, conventions will no longer dictate that we, your average showgoers, will stand around relatively unaffected by rhythms which should make our bodies freak out in unison with our minds. Perhaps someday, we’ll embrace the primal desire to seize life and feel music with more impetus.

Young Widows

My Disco’s set ended at midnight. I was sleepy and work-addled. I wanted to go home, but I told myself I’d check out one track of Young Widows and then reassess my exhaustion. But as Young Widows began plodding and shredding immediately, and with an expert hand that testified to solid musicianship and pacing control. They orchestrated their set in a way a film director might plot out an elaborate script, sonically tickling and teasing a showgoer like myself for an entire hour. Sleep foregone, I remained torturously entranced instead.

If one were to stare at bassist Nick Thieneman for the duration of a Young Widows set, one might never suspect that they are as stylistically varied as they are. His swaying and headbanging are almost unrealistically consistent and intense. Beneath this callous exterior, though, Young Widows are damn sophisticated. To pair their music with the word “sophisticated” — an adjective usually used to describe a lounge in which one drinks martinis rather than a hard rock band — may seem paradoxical. Yet, every time I began to get turned off by a sound I found too “dive bar blues”-y or “mainstream hard rock”-y, Young Widows thundered over or crept under with an attitude that told me they were far from who I thought they were.

What Young Widows do is just clever. Every track attracted me anew, whether through a throbbing bassline, a squealing effect, an unpredictable transition, or all three combined. Young Widows pull from a seemingly endless bag of tricks, and their live show inspires writing and encourages new ways of thinking. It’s simply just “excellent.”

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