Gig review: Damo Suzuki & The Holy Soul, Excelsior Hotel, 21/11/2010

the holy soul

The Holy Soul Pic: MySpace

There is an indescribable magnificence to the afternoon gig, especially in borderline summertime Sydney, when the sun sets at 8pm and you can sit in the sunshine with a beer before cramming into the basement confines of some unassuming venue to have your ears blasted by decibel defying noise.

It’s in this idyllic setting in which Naked On The Vague took to the stage, in the darkened back room of the Excelsior. The moment their chugging, churning barrage of noise attacked listeners, we all but forgot the sunshine outside and plunged into the sludge rock being hurled at us full force.

Singer Lucy Cliché was gorgeously fascinating, moving around with more verve than the music allows, whilst Matthew P. Hopkins emitted all sorts of shrieks and screams from his guitar. Unassuming bass player Nic De Jong was tucked away in the corner but indispensable with his firm riffs and thundering undertones married perfectly to Lachlan Vercoe’s drums. The songs seemed to blend seamlessly into one another, though unfortunately technical difficulties had them playing a short set.

Damo Suzuki – legend, genius, ex-frontman of Can and thus loved by anyone who has listened to krautrock from the last forty years. In person he was a diminutive powerhouse, with The Holy Soul providing an improvisational backbone. Visually they were fascinating to watch; The Holy Soul’s Trent Marden towering over Suzuki in the background, buzzing and grinding his guitar. There was no traditional process, in fact there were only two ‘songs’ performed. It felt more like a non-stop show with an interval, during which some members of the audience disappeared, seemingly sated by the krautrock master and his indecipherable mutterings.

Suzuki muttered, cried and called but hardly any of it was understood, not that it mattered. The beauty lay in the energy between himself and the band, jamming like they were in their garage. Kate Wilson was the unspoken hero of the evening, keeping the beat on drums whilst her com padres had fun experimenting in strange sounds.

It was a strange experience, the audience becoming almost part of the music, you could sense when a song was reaching climax and the tide of heads would begin bopping in time with bodies moving fiercely from side to side. By the show’s end the room’s ambience was shifting somewhere between aural bliss and slipping into a deep trance, as Suzuki humbly stepped off stage and began shaking hands with audience members.

It looked like a religious experience for some, a theory proved by an audience member post-show who gripped my arm and said “Even if he didn’t shake your hand, he touched your soul. He’s a sage.”

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