Boris - Rubber Gloves Rehersal Studios - April 26, 2013
Take a little walk to the edge of town, and go across the tracks. Rather than a viaduct looming, there you will find the incomparable Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios. Described on its website as an "industrial dive bar", I take this to mean that the quantities of dive involved in the construction of RGRS were of industrial scale. It truly is a monument to dive bars, dank, dark, loud and poorly ventilated. There is one toilet per sex, and I wouldn't touch it if my nearest and dearest had fallen down it and desperately needed extracting.
This isn't to say that RGRS isn't a fantastic venue. If you think a venue like this is incapable of putting on a good show, then may I direct you to the nearest corporate mega-bowl where your wallet will be politely extracted. Navigating the long line, formed thanks to the bizarre restrictions that you must sign in as a "member" of the "club" to drink inside, we arrived just in time to catch the end of DFW stalwarts Pinkish Black's set. With the early arrivals crammed into the, at a rough estimate, 40% of the available space which forms the room where the gig is played (the bar and bathrooms are through a door, away from the stage), you could hear the distinctive wail rise over the pounding drums from quite some distance away. Certainly the line to get in, twisting out into the darkness past a sometimes-functioning street light, are aware Pinkish Black are on the stage. It's a good thing when you can hear a sound and go "that sound, that is very Pinkish Blackish" because it means a local gem like this (and they are undoubtedly a local gem) have nailed down a distinctive sound, and that it works.
Pinkish Black were followed by Thrones, and I must color myself stupid, as I was totally unaware that Joe Preston, formerly of the Melvins and High On Fire, had a solo project. An unassuming-looking older guy, Preston took to the stage with nothing but an 80s-style bass with no head and a drum machine. He then proceeded to blast RGRS to pieces with the slowest, sludgiest, bassiest set you could ever hope to hear. It's just one guy. It's just one bass guitar. He's the support act, and he's playing songs ten minutes in length that don't have any drums, just chords played on a deep, distorted bass. It's incredible, and not just because it's Joe Goddamn Preston, one of my bass playing heroes, and I had no concept he would be here. Those populating the tiny dark room, characterized by its three ceiling fans hopelessly trying to stop people and machines overheating, are stricken with a lack of any idea how they may legitimately react. It only gets stranger and cooler - Preston gives a short speech about how long he's been doing this now, cues up a sample from The Exorcist ("THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"), lets it loop for what seems like an eternity, and then somehow comes in exactly cued with a drum machine to give us a full mesmerizing ten minutes of filthy, low-down set closer "Obolus", a shoe-gaze experience much like drifting out helplessly into space, only expressed through mind-bogglingly slow, venue-rattling bass power chords and vocals distorted to the point of sounding like a church organ. Seriously, it's on Spotify. Fire it up.
Boris at Rubber Gloves: Like a barell of dry ice.
Boris, obvious not only because they are from Tokyo but because they are the only people in the venue without beards, take to the gloomy stage shortly after, as the gig room becomes packed to the point of everyone in the room setting like concrete into their current positions. The ceiling fans, by this point, seem to be more of a mockery than anything. Boris, a three-piece, albeit one wielding the incredibly rare guitar-bass single instrument double fretboard combo, start with two members on stage, one of whom (Wata) is a small Japanese lady in a pretty dress, displaying absolutely no emotion whatsoever. That's a curveball, but I decide to run with it, because frankly more metal and stoner rock bands could do with members like that. She looks like she delicately sips tea in between busting out blazing solos and drop-tuned power chords that just sit in your ears for minutes at a time.
I like this about Boris. I enjoy their somewhat bizarre persona, an ear-splitting stoner rock band from Tokyo named after a Melvins song (from Bullhead). I especially like the contrast between Wata, the guitarist, and Atsuo, the drummer, who has seen a lot of the more expressive, face-pulling, standing-up in breaks, shouting "COME ON!", making rock symbols drummers and decided that is exactly what he wants to be. He is a man for whom the large Zildjian gong hanging behind him, which he can strike whenever he gets overexcited, was expressly designed. More power to him for this, I'm just not sure he involved Wata in it. He's the Japanese answer to our own "this drummer is at the wrong gig" guy, only you're a lot less likely to see him, because to say Boris are fans of dry ice would be to say Rick Perry is mildly fond of the second amendment. RGRS is turned into the howling moors from whatever your favorite horror film is that has moors, only those howling moors, heat-wise, are located on the surface of the sun, and the power chords ring and ring.
Now and again, in an act which I can't decide is joyous naivety or willful misdirection (often a thin line when it comes to decoding some bands, especially the non-Western), Boris will, apropos of nothing and following directly on from some sludge epic, kick into something resembling a delicate ballad, with porcelain china vocals from Wata, who looks almost apologetic to be singing. Atsuo will spend the whole time mugging from behind the drum kit, while Takeshi manfully struggles to extract a precise sound from a double fretboard guitar easily the size of him. Seeing a Tokyo sludge metal band, diametrically opposed characters all of them, tear into RGRS from behind an impenetrable wall of dry ice after Joe Preston has spent ten minutes sampling The Exorcist and singing like a church organ will go down as one of the strangest concerts I've ever seen. Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios on a Friday night. There's nowhere quite like it. What's the next booking guys, an Azerbaijani 80's power-pop duo, a la a Middle Eastern Pet Shop Boys? Actually, screw it, I would totally go and see that.
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