Terrastock 2006


I think I’m still wrung out from Terrastock. I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of days now and getting nowhere fast, not because I don’t have anything to say about the festival but because I feel as though I’m still in there. There’s an aura clinging to me —a happy blissed-out feeling— that must be directly related. (Lest you worry I’ve gone all Peace & Love on you I wager I’ll be back to my usual misanthropic self in no time.)

I’m not going to offer you an overview of the entire event —AS220’s done that for me, pretty much (complete with photos, even) here.

Instead I’m going to tell you which bands were my favorites —some I was unfamiliar with, and others impressed me anew. I may throw a couple of caveats or quibbles in there —just to be contrary.

1) Black Forest/Black Sea. Formerly a duo led by former Iditarod members Miriam Goldberg [cello, voice] and Jeffrey Alexander [guitar/electronics/various], now a trio augmented by Miriam’s sister, BF/BS played a set on Sunday afternoon that seemed far too short. I loved their textural precision —the cello harmonizing beautifully with mandolin, guitar, and vocals. I need to see them again, preferably when Jeffrey hasn’t been up for a week straight organizing a certain festival.

2) Charalambides. They played at the late, lamented Eli’s Mile High Club when I lived in SF but I missed it. (Tom Carter later told me that one of the bands got mugged on the way to the show so maybe I should be thankful I stayed away.) So I was happy to get another chance to see them live and they didn’t disappoint.

3) Lightning Bolt. OK, as a local I feel incredibly remiss that I’ve never witnessed the ‘bolt. When I lived in SF the Providence scene was spoken of in hushed tones and the reverence rested pretty squarely on LB’s shoulders. Maybe that’s why I’ve resisted for so long, because I had this inkling they couldn’t possibly be as innovative or as interesting as their reputation would suggest —that their singular mystique with the SF hipsters had as much to do with the limited, handcrafted releases, the staunch independence, and the live performance gimmickry (they always perform on the same level as their audience, rather than on a stage) as with the actual music. And now that I’ve seen them —well, not SEEN them. ‘Cause you don’t SEE Lightning Bolt —you see a tightly-wound crowd of their acolytes. (That makes them sound like a cult, doesn’t it? What would you call them?) Craning my neck to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive duo in their natural habitat, I wondered if any second I’d get chucked out for being an interloper. Then the music started —a low buzz that grew and grew into a massive, overwhelming wallop. It wasn’t …bad, exactly, but it was pretty samey. Crash, bang, rumble. It was kinda like if Skullflower had been wrangled into a Thrasher pool party and been asked to “shred, dude.” It makes for great fucked-up party music, if your party is a mescaline kegger. But it was monstrously, ear-splittingly loud. I fled after ten minutes. Lightning Bolt make me feel crankily old and out-of touch (even if I did graduate from RISD the same year they did).

4) Kemialliset Ystävät. Kemialliset Ystävät shares some members with Avarus, who also played at the festival. If I had to characterize Finnish sounds, I’d say that a Surrealist’s finely honed sense of whimsy seemed to be at the forefront. Plenty of humor animates this music, chiefly a Schwitters-like love of delightful nonsense. Ystävät sounded like an orchestra of Rube Goldberg contraptions, all wheezing and clanging and chirping in perfect harmony. Music should always be such a joyous discovery for the ears. Another Finnish discovery: the delightful tape-loop experiments of Kemialliset associate Kuupuu[aka Jonna Karanka].

5) Spires that In The Sunset Rise. Astonishing female-led quartet that called to mind a heavily folk-influenced Slits. The four band members traded off on instruments constantly throughout the set —an impressive array of harps, guitars, cello, drums, harmonium, banjo, mbira, spike fiddle, and bells. People often talk about “visionary” music but this struck me as the real thing —organic, unselfconscious, and earthy, they left the most indelible impression of any of the bands I saw this weekend.

6) Tanakh would be on this list if I hadn’t missed their (very early) Friday night set. I’ll have a proper review of their latest album soon, I promise.

I definitely enjoyed myself more this time around. Perhaps it was the fact that the bands were skewed heavily towards the pastoral folk end of the psych spectrum (T1 was more heavily garage-influenced), or that I didn’t have a twenty page paper to write (thank god). I got to catch up with friends I see all too rarely, I went record shopping, I saw Lightning Bolt at long last.

I’m so ready to do it all again next year.

MP3Kemialliset Ystävät, “Paha” [from the T6 Compilation]

MP3Kuupuu, “Myrsky Lualu”

MP3Spires That In The Sunset Rise, “Imaginary Skin” [Available from Secret Eye]



Gone Terrastockin’


Spring Fever Short Attention Span Theatre


  1. I’m listening to all four Spires tracks available from their website … I think I like this music a lot. It’s very strange and I’ll need to get used to it.

    I have never heard the Slits, but I’m reminded of Gang Gang Dance and Under Byen, sometimes early Danielle Dax. And the dissonant clanging harks back to that good old Sonic Youth noise.

    Have you listened to my “1,000 Dreams” mix? It has a somewhat similar vibe to it …

    • The Danielle Dax comparison strikes me as pretty apt. Gang Gang Dance, too, although as much as I like them I find their music awkwardly self-conscious at times. Like they’re trying too hard. But that’s for another post I guess…

      Thanks for the mix link! I hadn’t seen that, no.

  2. James

    True story. I attended a fund-raiser for WFMU (the hipster freeform radio station in New Jersey) a few years ago, at Maxwell’s, in Hoboken. Lightning Bolt are on the bill. I don’t know much about the group at the time, and I had no idea that they played shows at audience level. As another group performed their set from the stage (and I don’t even remember who that was, which says something), the two musicians in Lightning Bolt quietly snuck their instruments, *and* a set of amplifiers into the back end of Maxwell’s stage room. I watched them set up, but I thought they were just pulling equipment around to set up onstage later. Mistake! Less than a minute after the other group finishes their set, the lights in Maxwell’s are switched off. Total darkness, and I’m not only standing a few feet from Lightning Bolt as they crash through an ear-splitting set, but I’m less than a foot from one of the amplifiers they’ve set up back there. My ears rang for the rest of the next day.

    I have to say, though, the drummer is a monster on the kit.

    • Oh, man, I would not want to be unprepared for Lightning Bolt. Ouch ouch ouch. I have to say that they are great at what they do and the drummer is really impressive. I just found the whole thing both overwhelming (in terms of loudness) and underwhelming (in terms of the lack of textural detail). Given that I’d spent most of the weekend seeing bands that used a lot of delicacy in their work, I think I just wasn’t in the mood for what LB had to offer.

      Maybe if I’d seen them at Ft. Thunder back in the day, it would have been a different story. Who knows?

  3. wow, going full force psychedelia folks aren’t we?

    (I was guest posting at a great small french blog, Songs to the Sirens, It’s full of this sort of stuff)

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