Walking into the E.A.R.L.’s back room on Monday night, I could immediately tell that something was different. In the back corner, where there are usually benches for sitting, was a full set up of drums, a guitar, a bass and white Christmas lights. Intrigued, I wandered around the room with the extremely small crowd and waited to see what would happen.
Around 9:30, three guys came out to the makeshift stage and picked up their instruments. What I thought at first was a soundcheck evolved into fuzzy sound that then transformed into a 15-minute long instrumental metal jam. This was Vegan Coke, an Atlanta band that plays the hardest metal around, but without any vocals. The songs were long and it was sometimes hard to find any real melody in them, but the droning sound had a weird effect of suspending time and making me feel like I was in some kind of feverish dream. Vegan Coke played for about 40 minutes, which meant they only played about four songs, but the set was solid and I had a feeling I might enjoy listening to the album on some clear warm night, driving around the city.
After Vegan Coke abandoned the corner, a band called Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers took the main stage. The frontwoman, Shilpla, stood in front of a harmonium in the center of the stage, accompanied by a bassist, a guitarist and a drummer. The music started and within the first few notes, Shilpa broke into an unearthly scream. Her voice, which is rich and deep when she sings, transforms itself into a roar and she yells the repeated choruses. I was completely transfixed by this tiny girl with the enormous voice. As though to prove that her size didn’t define her toughness, Shilpa requested a shot a whiskey and downed it in a gulp right on stage. The entire band finished their set with an upbeat number and every member, drummer and bassist included, danced happily around the stage. I was sorry to see their set end.
Finally, the night’s main act, Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. (say that three time fast), a Japanese experimental and psychedelic rock group, came onto the stage. The four members of the band are all older Japanese men, but with their long, wild hair and easy smiles, they could easily be mistaken for hippies straight out of 1960’s San Francisco.
Led by frontman Kawabata Makoto on synth and guitar, the band broke into a loud cacophony of sound, playing their hearts out to the now-large crowd. The sound was indescribable, at once alienating and strange but also danceable and inviting. Although I am not really a fan of psychedelic, freak-out jamming, I could totally understand why this band has such a huge following. There was something about the music that pulled me into some space between consciousness and dreaming and almost gave me the experience of some sort of lucid hallucination. The experience was disconcerting, to say the least, but in a weird way, I liked it.
I haven’t been converted to a fan of noise rock quite yet, but I left the E.A.R.L. with a new perspective on this genre of indie rock and I think that if Acid Mothers come back to town, it may be a show I’ll have to see again.