Big Digits and Chinese Stars at Middle East Upstairs, July 5, 2008
As dance/electro duo Big Digits (a/k/a MCs Mac Swell and TD) were setting up a laptop to serve as interim DJ Saturday at the Middle East upstairs, they confided that their usual DJ was unavailable because “he’s out buying schoolgirls’ panties.” This joke was as disquieting as the Digits’ dance moves and lyrical fare: bodily jerks, karate kicks, and headbangs accompanied the spastic synth-guitars of “Making Progress,” and the techno-driven “Fashion Able” saw TD scream something about liking fashion even though he was wearing white cutoff shorts and socks pulled up mid calf. A knowing sense of humor emerged between songs, legitimizing the chicanery as mere friendly artistic expression: after taking a shot of whisky that was like “a nightmare born in his mouth,” TD mock-congratulated everyone who was born on the Fourth of July for being “fucked by America,” a statement he subsequently retracted as “sounding grosser” than he had intended.
Any remaining traces of humor were shoo’d away when Providence noise-rock foursome Chinese Stars took the stage. Their introduction was a few breathy grunts from frontman Eric Paul. If the Digits’ moves and lyrics qualified as disturbing, the Stars’ were merely disorienting. During “All My Friends Are Getting High,” Paul’s convulsions (take Joe Cocker and add lots of speed) had him falling off the stage as the rest of the Stars looked on with shoegazer detachment, as though nothing had happened. Shrill guitars matched Paul’s falsetto whine: it was tough to discern the vocals from the music, but the combo of screeching guitars and vocals made for an ear-splitting barrage, a fitting complement to Paul’s barely audible verses in “Cheap City Halo” about “looking for a dirty angel” to impregnate with insects. They weren’t funny or friendly, but they rocked.
: Live Reviews
, Joe Cocker, Chinese Stars, middle East Upstairs