I can remember the first time I heard Black Moth Super Rainbow thinking that these guys were some hybrid strain of Boards of Canada and the Manson Family. Or, more appropriately, if the Boards of Canada had taken their psychedelic cult persona to it's logical extreme, packed their shit in a van and took the circus on the road, it might come off something like BMSR. But, with Black Moth Super Rainbow, there was something a bit more visceral about the music. Something that was darker, that didn't hint at an agenda, but actively engaged with your senses. Less Scientology, more Jehovah's Witness. Can you hear that knocking on your door?
Tobacco, the one-time front man for BMSR, has pulled a Bobby Brown and has gone solo. I'd seen BMSR at the Troubadour in LA, complete with crazy, low-fi, culty video, bizarro hype man in a Chinese hobo mask and Mike Watt jumping on stage for a couple of numbers. I wasn't sure what to expect from a Tobacco live show, but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be your run of the mill gig. And it wasn't...
One of the nicest surprises of the evening was Portland's free-form noise pop outfit Nice Nice, that opened the evening. I'd never heard the band's music before, so I had no expectations. Their improvised, beat-driven, noise loops we're something to behold. The band has been active for 10 years, and have been signed to Warp Records, which speaks for itself. They have a unique sound that lands somewhere between Black Dice, Steve Reich and Trans Am (who, incidentally, they are going to be touring with April.)
(*Nice Nice live at the Casbah in SD)
(*Nice Nice video for Everything Falling Apart)
The next part of the evening took the whole night in a radically different direction. One of the DJ/Mash-up artists from The Hood Internet played a full-on dance-party mix, and out of nowhere a gaggle of Tween Hipsters were writhing to the sweet beats, facial hair, leg-warmers and sunglasses all in a hot mess, showering each other with PBR! It looked like a scene out of Lord of the Flies! Now, I like a hipster dance party as much as the next guy (in fact, I've been know to throw a few of these parties myself), but it did seem like a bit of an odd pairing...until I knew the back story. As it turns out, The Hood Internet dudes dropped an AMAZING mixtape that pairs up Aesop Rock with tracks from Tobacco's Fucked Up Friends record. Now, Aesop appears on the Tobacco track Dirt, so this was much more of a natural fit than I thought.
Just as quickly as the dance party crowd was front and center, they dissipated when Tobacco came on, and the psychedelic-loving freaks were front and center waiting for the weird, and they were not disappointed. The show opened with a weird video mix of "found" footage and Chat Roulette (which is creepy enough by itself).
(*Tobacco's Fucked Up videos)
The next 45 minutes was a audio and video assault of the best kind. With Tobacco's solo work, you still get the complexity and layers of sound that BMSR is know for, but it is a lot more paired down and utilitarian. With visuals from ‘Fucked Up Friends 2,′ a blu-ray/dvd set of the band's collected weird videos, running everything from B-horror films to E.T. having sex, the show was one-part psychedelic freak-out and one-part hip-hop show.
(*Tobacco's Chinese Hobo Hype Man)
As the band ran through the tracks off Fucked Up Friends, and a few from Maniac Meat the most noticeable difference in how BMSR and Tobacco work live was the band. It was stripped-down, a bit more of a raw and direct experience, which in my opinion is really the essence of the music. While BMSR live was excellent, it felt like there were more people added just to augment the core. With Tobacco, you get right to the core of the music. It's a more immediate and visceral experience. In a lot of ways, it's kind of the same kind of experience as early hip-hop. Raw, direct, immediate, a little dirty and in the case of Tobacco, just a little bit evil.
(*Tobacco and his Fucked Up Friends)
For Tobacco, this is a jumping-off point. With his forth-coming record Maniac Meat coming out next month, which includes a guest appearance from Beck on 2 tracks, and having the first single "Sweatmother" in rotation on radio stations a month before the record drops, it's clear that Tobacco is poised to do some interesting things this year. If the live show is any indication, then it's going to be an incredible, awesome, dirty, evil thing.