By A. Stone
"This city is a cold and lonely place / I want to look into an unfamiliar face. / If you come with me you're my best friend forever. / And we can make new memories together."
"(Won't Somebody) Take Me Out Tonight” - Molly Nilsson
There are nights here in Albuquerque that feel electric. Every puzzle piece fits, every lover gazed at in long looks that say "I love you," every acquaintance of intrigue met without reservation, & every note of a line-up, heaven sent, drunk in by the pores of your being. Such was the case on a brisque early February night at the Small Engine Repair Shop, current home of La Chancla— an ancestral domicile of the body & spirit of ABQ’s DIY scene since the early 00’s.
I rolled up to the venue with my new pal Chet, former house venue doorman for The Bayou (RIP) in Moscow, ID. We arrived a little early to find the place more or less deserted. A few souls milled about, unfamiliar faces that moved unhurriedly. A strange empty quiet laid heavy in the air. As the time drew closer for the first act, Somniloquist, to take the stage, the night formed into a whisper of what if: would the show be a bust? But slowly, an umbilical tug, a subtle, electric tingle ran through the atmosphere as a crowd suddenly appeared as if from thin air.
From there on it was magic. Chet & I were joined by another new friend, Frankie the grocer. My high affectionate regard for both provided a generous refuge & filter to weather the 3 hours of glorious mania that ensued.
Somniloquist took the stage in a multilayered sonic epiphany that rose and rose in a beautifully orchestrated cacophony, birds sounding from a small Tascam portastudio that ran through some pedals and melded well with their strong Shoegaze sensibilities. This style, framed tongue in cheek as Doomgaze, manifested as a true wall of noise. Their vocals drowned out but sometimes mouthing a source audio from one of their Tascam tapes full of field recordings.
After their set, I managed to pick their brain a bit on their use of the portastudio & whether their use of a Roland SP404 was driven by desire or necessity. They explained their setup excitedly & I was able to hear about how they fell out of love with a more pluralized band thing: "All my friends moved away so I was like 'Fuck it.'" We also got to talk about how dreams inform the majority of their work in the project and some of their conceptual ideas around creating tangibles for certain records.
Denver band American Culture hopped up next — the primary band I had reason to anticipate at the show. I’d been informed of their existence by the illustrious Slim Sly, the front person of Pink Lady Monster, one of Denver's best up & coming bands. Chet also had a personal connection with American Culture, having seen them play everything from a business convention to a Taco truck.
American Culture’s sound was an altogether different, albeit enjoyable, rolling cacophony. Artful breaks that let in judicious guitar squeals added to the appeal, a very familiar wall of Jazzmaster sound akin to many bands one could see in a dingy basement somewhere in the bowels of Philadelphia in the mid 10's. It surmounted in a funny mix, like a love child between Bruce Springsteen & the Ramones.
Frontman Chris Adolf's awkward-yet-endearing, mustachioed stage presence paired well with witty heartfelt lyrics that felt palpably direct - words that had light heart & heavy soul. All together they created a passageway from the opening intensity of Somniloquist & the oncoming ethereal heart fuck of Midwife, who in short order wandered onto stage and set up shop behind her signature yellow circuit bent telephone mic.
The true coup d'etat in this strange temporary country of energy & noise was the presence of Midwife (human name Madeline Johnston). Midwife recalled catching Berlin-based Molly Nilsson at the Denver DIY space Glob. Johnston’s gaze and care on stage feeling strongly akin to Nilsson’s presence. What made this magical was that Nilsson specifically chose to perform at Glob, which neighbors Rhinoceropolis – the fabled DIY live/work space - where Johnston gave birth to Midwife.
Midwife seemed to speak to every person individually in the crowd through her yellow telemic as if sending love letter voicemails from outer space. Her guitar work felt artful & direct, reaching the core of what she had to say and how she wanted to say it. This was palpable when looking around the room at even the most hardened audience member spellbound.
And this is where I will leave any sort of objectivity & say that the night overtook me. I manicilly (and manically) bounced around, exchanging words with friends and performers in equal measure, feeling powerful & awkward & magnificent, the essential feeling that I see myself & my peers around me always searching for. And receiving just that: a world that for once confirmed this feeling.
While my focus was drawn outwards from here, my attention thwarted by the possibilities of the passage of time and dirt and work put in, The Batrays closed out the night, an energetic passageway, this time back to so-called reality. Their cavemanesque, raucous surf pop energy let people come back to earth, smoke a fucking cigarette, and rationalize the intensity of what we had all witnessed.