Black Pus at Turf Club, 5/9/13
with Seawhores and Slapping Purses
Turf Club, Saint Paul
Wednesday, May 9, 2013
Some folks make it look easy, and some folks make it look hard. Brian Chippendale makes it look hard. Really hard. So watching Black Pus is discouraging; I don't care how well you think you can play, how savage you think you can get, you don't come up to Chippendale. You just don't. When he's behind a drum kit, everyone's a pygmy.
Where he gets it is anyone's guess. I kept an eye peeled for him during Slapping Purses (great as always, and brief, too; halfway through, he murmured "this is one of my last shows." Bummer news, but here's hoping his will to quit weakens). The crowd was thin enough for me to spot Chippendale if he went topside, but nothing doing; just his kit and a tower of speaker cabs and a bay of pedals set up on the old stage, the one where the riser and the shitty tables used to be way back when.
He showed up halfway through Seawhores (they played a low-concept, high-decibel set, straight fucking metal, unless you count the En Vogue samples). He tuned a couple drums, fiddled with a pedal, milled around a little, unassuming as all hell, as if nothing extraordinary were about to overcome him. When he's off the clock, Chippendale is alert and amiable and housebroken. He ties his shoes and checks his iPhone just like the rest of us.
But after the Seawhores took their bow, Chippendale slipped into his mask and his firing range ear protectors, soundchecked himself, and tore in, now utterly transformed into a chattering savage. Subhuman or demigod? Hard to say. It was a ghastly racket he made; the sound from the stack of cabs was pulverizing, powerful enough to jiggle the spit that had collected in my bottom molars and rattle the keys in my pocket through a shield of human bodies thirty feet thick, all of whom, slowly but surely, approached a sort of epiphany as the set went on and on and on and on and on.
It wasn't all clattering and banging; Chippendale has a bizarre singing voice upon which he dumps plenty of affect and pedal magic, and the drum fugues were separated by oceans of pretty beguiling vocal loops. But when Chippendale drums, he becomes irresistible and transfixing. I don't often see performers reach such rapture. It's off-putting, actually, to watch someone become engulfed utterly, like watching someone lose their mind.
As one-man-bands go, Black Pus is the most prodigious. In this project, Chippendale shows off some versatility that he can't or won't in Lightning Bolt. A little surf here, a little jock jam there, some free jazz, some speed metal. Just before his last song, while asking the crowd what they wanted him to play, he cried, "I CAN PLAY ANYTHING." Just because it's tongue-in-cheek doesn't make it untrue.
By the time he was done, the crowd had spilled up onto the stage to get a better look at him (Chippendale never, but never plays on a stage). They stood on the bannisters, too, the ones separating the venue floor from the bar. Though Chippendale's enthusiasm never waned, the crowd's did, if only a little; a shifting of weight from one foot to the other, a couple glances at the clock face, a few stifled yawns. We were only human, after all. Chippendale's endurance is greater than ours, and he can withstand his own punishments better than we can. At a little over an hour, it was a great set. At half that, it would have been miraculous.
Critic's bias: I'm fond of his work.
The crowd: Don't trust anyone over 30.
Overheard in the crowd: The usual chatter before Black Pus and very little thereafter.