Tuesday June 12th, 2001 at El Torreon in Kansas City, MO
Anal Cunt, Origin, Autoerotic Asphyxiation & Pretty Little Flowers
What is the line between crust and grind? Does it have to do with the speed or the rattle of the bass? Is it more to do with a guitar that either solos or doesn't solo? Are screeched vocals more prominant in one than the other? I, generally, think it has more to do with the amount of patches sewn on the other patches that make up the drummer's shorts; it seems the most objective of all distinguishing measures. Controversy solved I can proclaim freely the night opened with Houston's Pretty Little Flowers, who are hereby declared to be... a crust band.
The bass rumbles and rattles, and the guitar simply alternates between two or maybe three drop-d power chords that are distorted beyond recognition. The band provided two types of vocals that are best described as shriek and cookie monster. Sometimes when the vocalist alternates between the two it sounds like the singer is having an argument with himself and that makes me smile. A lot. This however wasn't really the crowd that smiles at shows. Maybe they're grind? No no no, it's crust. Definitely crust.
Although the band didn't get the audience moving (and lets face it, what opener ever does?), the hundred or so folks stood politely with arms folded and occasionally gave nods of approval or smatterings of applause in the very brief moment between PLF's songs. The highlight for me however occurred when the drummer was playing a different song (misreading the set list) than the rest of the band and it took the band half of the song before they realized it. I'm guessing the drummer can pretty much be on autopilot for most of his band's set. You know, just poke him with a stick when it's time for a breakdown or the grinding guitar to play alone (but not solo, definitely not solo).
Things only took a turn for the worse when Autoerotic Asphyxiation climbed on the stage. I'm an ageist ass to be sure but these kids were young. Like they probably just finished a freshman year of high school and all of them got wedges every day, swirlies every other day. The swirlies were particularly bad for their working-on-growing-my-hair drummer as his braces surely rust in that hard Kansas Public School water. Appearances don't mean anything but let me share some more. As the band sound-checked a hideous noise came over the PA and when I looked closer I saw it emanating from the best equipment you can talk your parents into buying you for Christmas. The giant CB700 drumkit (dual kick of course) was the centerpiece of the folly with a tom that was high and dead and terribly out of place.
The band began their set with a disjointed song that was too open and complicated for the band, and especially for their opening song. And although the band repeated this mistake with their final song twenty minutes later, the middle was filled with quick death-metal that generally worked. The guitarist moved quickly on his BC Rich Warlock and was surprisingly good. Those hours with his Super Nintendo must have really loosened up his fingers and he jumped around the neck with quick leads and quicker buzzing chords. The rest however was passable at best. The singer (also exhibiting some degree of "The Cookie Monster vs. The Shriek") never looked up from the microphone he kept buried in the mop of dirty blonde hair that fell nearly to his chin. Is he in there somewhere? I wasn't really ever sure, as the only thing he said to the audience was "This is our last song."
The band is young and they'll get tighter, get smarter and maybe learn how to put on a show. In the meantime I'd stay home with the phone cord around your neck and work on some autoerotic asphyxiation of your own. That or listen to the grind band that played early. Wait did I say "grind?" I mean "crust" the crust band that played earlier.
Origin brought a big shift to the stage with professional gear, tighter musicians, and even a bit of crowd interaction that inspired the crowd to mosh it up. ...But more on that later, let's talk about music first. The band opened with hectic death that didn't relent in their long set. The double bass was mechanical and cutting, the guitars (there is no bass) hummed and roared a constant barrage of shifting rage, and the vocals lorded it over it all. Finally a metal band I know could kick my pansy, emo ass!
In the opening number (the title of which was announced in the unintelligible death tongue which I don't yet understand) the band attempted the chorus of demons (you'll remember this choir's previous work with the devil's violin ensemble) with both guitarists joining James Lee's assorted grunts, growls and other horrible sounds brought forth from somewhere other than human vocal chords. Actually, time out I want to start the rumour right here that Lee has had a vocal chord transplant and now sings through the larynx of an evil horned goat that once was lorded over by none-other-than Anton LeVay. Spread that rumour. The traditional press will eat that up.
Although the band played a long set the audience seemed to get more and more into the band as time went on. The fans that took to moshing however weren't the friendly sorts I'm used to at street punk shows or even at hardcore shows these ones were mean metal heads. I could tell. One gentleman in a white shirt made sure to throw a punch each time he ran into the outer retaining wall of kids. I took one of 'em and I can tell you if I took a second someone would have been holding my camera while I tackled the fucker. He was bigger than me but I guess I know security in the club better so I'm sure I would have come out all right.
The fuck-it-up moshers only got to be a bigger problem when Anal Cunt took the stage. A couple of skinheads whom I didn't know made sure to get in the mix quickly and when they weren't agreeing with the racist sentiments of vocalist Seth Putnam, they were busy throwing each other into the crowd for sport. The bouncer standing on stage eyed the duo cautiously throughout the night, but a club that is less skinhead-friendly might have asked them to leave. Ultimately they caused no real problems and bruises are sexy.
Mostly let's just continue talking about the crowd and such as music isn't really Anal Cunt's forte anyway. In fact quick sloppy guitar, shrieked vocals and smatterings of drums pretty much define every song, and each song is largely interchangeable with the last. The band's shtick, and the only reason anyone knows their name, is their offend-everyone lack of sensibility. This is a band that writes songs with titles like "I Became a Rape Counselor Just So I Could Tell Rape Victims They Asked For It." And if that is too brutal for you then you can probably stop reading at this point.
It's a difficult thing to reconcile. Is the band racist? Are the members of the band racist? Are their songs satires? Is this a glimpse into America? Is there a joke here? Can any joke about "queer homosexual faggots" be funny? I suppose it's about context but the band has never defined that context. So as the band instructs the audience to shout the chorus of "towel head," and you look over and see the skins in the audience shouting along you wonder: "Do they get the joke, or is the joke on me?"
Frequently we were warned that if we didn't buy a shirt from the band (which incidentally were reasonably priced) that we were "gay Jews." Oh the horrors of being a gay Jew. Oh, umm I guess? One of the bands standard bits is to play an intro to a popular band's song, then go into their normal grind only to finish the song twenty seconds later with the phrase "you suck" or "you're gay." Putnam decided to take it a step further that night and when he announced the band was playing "Hootie and the Blowfish" he added in "pretend I'm a big-lipped nigger." Is your stomach queasy, are you amused, outraged, bored?
The band however were tame compared to the first time I saw them five years ago. At that show the band was violent and frightening. There was real danger as Putname threw microphone stands, bar stools and fire extinguishers into the audience and I hide behind the mains like the sissy he said I was. Someone dared to play (play?!) back and threw a trashcan at the drummer. The drummer jumped up, the crowd gave up the rebel, and the drummer chased the ruffian out of the club where the insurgent was beaten bloody on the sidewalk. This time however all Anal Cunt had brought was a collection of white trash insults that I heard from the kids in the neighborhood when I was 11.
P.S. Pretty Little Flowers, I'm pretty sure they were grind.