Black Moth Super Rainbow with Dosh and the Marshmallow Ghosts
September 10, 2011
Turf Club, St. Paul
"It's so nice to see the Turf Club full!" was the sentiment shared by many at the St. Paul club on Saturday night, as patrons flooded the bar in droves for the first time in recent memory.
The Turf is about to face some tough times, with half the street in front of the club already torn up and a giant PVC pipe running the length of the sidewalk from the light rail construction, and things are only going to get more inconvenient for people hoping to catch a show at the University Ave. spot. So it was nice to see that the venue snagged a band with a sizable draw like Black Moth Super Rainbow (the show was originally booked at the Triple Rock, but moved to the Turf because of a booking conflict), and you could tell by the smile on manager Josh James' face at the end of the night that he was pleased by the healthy turnout as well.
The night opened with a performance by Black Moth Super Rainbow offshoot the Marshmallow Ghosts, a Halloween-themed side project that was led by BMSR banjo, bass, and guitar player Ryan Graveface, a.k.a. Dreamend. In keeping with the spooky theme, the three Ghosts wore ghoulish masks and were basked the flickering glow of a video projection, with Graveface singing through a distorted microphone secured inside his mask that transformed his higher notes into a hollow, ominous wail. Though the overall ambiance was impressive, it was the bass player that really held the group together; with a white porcelain doll mask covering her face, she masterfully alternated between pulsing individual notes and strumming entire booming chords, and it gave the performance the dark undertones needed to pull off the Halloween vibe.
The night shifted when Dosh performed. The Black Moth Super Rainbow members left their instruments on stage and Dosh played from a circular array of keyboards, drums, and mixing boards in the middle of the room. With such an intimate set-up, I had the opportunity to approach Dosh's equipment and watch from just a few feet away, and it reinvigorated my appreciation for his complicated but clean arrangements.
It's that balance between a flurry of notes and an inherent sense of order that makes Dosh's music so mesmerizing; his beats are exceedingly precise and his piano arrangements simple, and yet he layers each measurable element to create a sound that is incommensurable. As the club filled to near capacity, those standing closest to Dosh remained quiet and awestruck, riding the wave of each song as it crested and fell back down into nothing. And for those further back in the room who weren't quite as attentive, Dosh wove in a cover of Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place" that was at once familiar and so similar to some of his other Rhodes melodies that it didn't seem a touch out of place.
Black Moth Super Rainbow are another group who use their music as more of a teleportation device than a form of direct expression, and it was fascinating watching the crowd react to their onslaught of sound. A row of more serious onlookers stood solemnly at the edge of the stage while a sea of more excitable fans jumped and jerked their limbs behind them. There is a subtlety to Black Moth Super Rainbow's music which is mostly rooted in lead singer Tobacco's heavily manipulated and robotic vocal melodies, and it seemed deceptively soothing and dichotomous to the crowd's thrashing. At times, it reminded me of being at a Skoal Kodiak show, if Skoal Kodiak was fronted by GLaDOS from Portal.
As the band's rushing melodies reached their peak, a man from the crowd was lifted up and surfed with his hands outstretched, looking very crucifix-like as he floated atop everyone's arms. It was a sight I'd never seen at the Turf and seemed to clash with the majestic psychedelia of the band's music, but there was something really peaceful and joyous about the night's lone crowdsurfer, and it united the room in a single moment that was really quite beautiful.
Personal bias: Went into this show blind, mostly to see Dosh because I'm a fan.
The crowd: The crowd seemed pretty young overall, with some all gussied up for a night on the town.
Overheard in the crowd: "Who are all these photographers?" "I don't know, probably a bunch of hipster blogs or something."
Random notebook dump #1: Another first for me, at the Turf or otherwise: At one point toward the beginning of Black Moth Super Rainbow's set they had a pizza delivered directly to the stage, which they proceeded to munch on throughout the performance.
Random notebook dump #2: I was really impressed by the prowess of BMSR's drummer, Iffernaut, who played so aggressively that the tiniest misstep was noticable (of which there were hardly any throughout their lengthy set and encore). I went in expecting a computerized electro act and was surprised by how prevalent her beats were in the music; it gave the set a sweaty momentum that carried all the other instruments.
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