The Zoo, Fortitude Valley, Sunday September 9
Three acts, no vocals. It might seem like a tough sell for the average music fan, but the people filling The Zoo tonight are stoked at the prospect of a night of textural instrumental music.
Trio Henry, MacManus, Richards kick things off with an inspired jam. Treating The Zoo’s stage like it was their own private garage, the three-piece have a rollicking good time, fuzzing out and rocking before Bonnie Merccer takes to the stage. With her short set, Merccer creates a wall of sound constructed out of dissonant guitar riffs — no easy feat when you’re onstage by yourself.
Before seminal drone outfit Earth do their thing, front man Dylan Carlson walks across the stage with a noticeable limp and asks the crowd to turn off the flash on their cameras because he has a “medical condition”. An enigmatic figure that has existed on the fringe of alternative culture since the late ’80s, Carlson’s presence has the room hooked before Earth have even played one exquisitely long note. And though the cult of Carlson’s personality — what with a greying handlebar moustache and tattooed neck and knuckles that make him seem like some kind of stoic cowboy — would be enough to keep the crowd of Earth devotees interested, nothing can prepare The Zoo for the emotionally rich bounty that is Earth playing live.
Each new chord Carlson hits sounds like a lullaby; lush and enchanting, they hold the crowd to silent, motionless, attention. When the band work through their post-Hex material, including the brand new track Badgers, the dream-like quality of the songs lulls the room into a state of wonderful contentment. As Carlson’s guitar drifts throughout the room, his band provide tremendous accompaniment for the stripped down interpretations of the material taken from the Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light diptych; drummer Adrienne Davies matches the timbre of the records’ drum tracks with astonishing precision.
Even when the band step on their distortion pedals and venture into pre-Hex domain, the songs still have an ethereal sheen to them. Ouroboros Is Broken, the first song Carlson ever penned for Earth — which lives on record as a caustic 18-minute noise bomb — comes across tonight as a tastefully condensed, tonally-controlled number that brings imparts a sense of warmth and peace to the hooked crowd.
Watching Earth perform moves me, and I suspect most in attendance would similarly profess to have been affected by the performance. Bless you Dylan Carlson, do tour these parts again some time.
TOM HERSEY is a writer and Amazing Race aficionado.