[live video & review] No Age @ the Middle East
To the teenagers rocking the front of the No Age show on Tuesday: sorry if I punched/elbowed/kneed you in the face/shoulder/body. I realize I’m between six to eight years older than most of you, but once I felt that churning, nearly buoyant guitar attack of “Eraser,” I had to throw down my camera and sprint head-down and elbows-squared into the crowd. Because fuck that, no way imma photograph kids having all the fun I wanna have.
Last time I saw No Age, I was nearly blacked out at 6 am in a warehouse on the outskirts of Austin, Texas. I don’t remember songs, just waves of oscillating feedback and blaring percussion. But regardless of whether or not they actually played songs, that’s the impression they leave; it’s totally primal. And although this time around they definitely played songs, they exercised their same blunt control over a nearly elemental sound; a chaotic balance between noise and melody, Dean Spunt’s jarring voice grating against its own pop hooks, Randy Randall’s guitar lines washing away their own focal points. They played hard, loud, noisy, and to the point.
The shattering feedback warbles of set opener “Life Prowler” clearly shook the all ages crowd and forced battle lines early on: those with the obsession readied for the pit and moved forward while those of a more faint disposition sifted to the back. The circle prepared and the rock worship underway, No Age ripped a set comprised of a generous mix between their albums to a criminally undersold, but totally manic, crowd.
Boston’s Needy Visions started the night with their oh-so-infectious garage pop. Hearing the Visions perform “Weymouth,” a song about getting drunk, stoned and jumping into the ocean, so close to winter time left a mega-warm, albeit bittersweet, impression and it seemed as the set progressed, the songs became more deranged and guitar driven. Even better: watching the faces of a bunch of teenagers react to singer/guitarist Dan Shea banter (“We remain the Needy Visions, here’s a song”) and introduce songs called “Dudes in the Night,” “Fuck the System” and “Neil Young’s Coke Nose.” “Is this guy for real?,” I imagined. And hoped: “This is fucking rock and roll, bro.”
The Lucky Dragons preceded No Age with a set of crowd-controlled ambiance. Dude Luke Fischbeck sat onstage with a computer, a mixing board, and what looked like a moded theramin. Basic tracks ran in the background while the crowd took blank cds from the stage and held them over the theramin-object at varying lengths, angles and patterns to shifts in tone throughout the room. I once saw the Lucky Dragons at a church in Sydney, Australia. At one point they had the entire “congregation” holding hands and running in circles. Although the downstairs performance lacked that level of involvement, it was no less transcendent and utterly devoid of context.