Julian Reviews Damo Suzuki!
Damo Suzuki at The Biltmore
August 8th, 2009
While Defektors were providing the solid opening act of the night, Tim
and I arrived to see that Damo Suzuki was sitting behind the merch
table striking up a conversation with some random person. There he
was! Right there! In all his small Japanese man with long hair
glory! The frontman of Can, one of most crucial bands to come out of
the Krautrock scene and which had a major influence on dance and
post-punk bands to follow, had nothing better to do than try to sell
off his own t-shirts, buttons and one hundred dollar box sets.
We immediately shook his hand, got pictures with him and got him to
sign our stuff (I had a rare Can single, Tim had a poster of some
unrelated band he snatched off the wall just seconds before). He was
very endearing, kind and a bit on the tiny side. If my pocket were
slightly bigger, I would’ve shoved him in and and taken him home to
display on my mantel.
Then we went to be a part of the audience and noticed that there was
hardly anyone there. Probably at its peak, there was 80 people. And
some of those people were probably just there for the DJ night that
was to come immediately after. Evidently being a frontman for Can,
having Mark E. Smith write a song about you, having The Mooney Suzuki
name their BAND after you, have Kanye West sample you and influencing
JOHN LYDON AND FUCKING RADIOHEAD can only get you a crowd about the
size of a good turnout at the bingo hall.
Anyways, Defektors left and after a bit of waiting around, Damo went
on stage and was joined by the members of everyone’s favorite local
noisemakers, Sex Negatives. I should take the time to explain here
that Damo brings local musicians from wherever he’s playing to be his
backing band, which is not only cool and inventive, but easy on the
wallet as well. They started quite suddenly and blasted solidly for a
full hour, if not more. Damo made his patented pseudo-language
singing overtop, while the band was playing around the E note with a
fast, repetitive beat. I would compare most of the set to Sonic Youth
doing a hardcore punk cover of Neu!’s Hallogallo, or the heavier
moments of Boredoms’ Super Roots 7. There was some grooves and
stretched out drones that interrupted some of it as well, but it
mainly followed around the blaring use of EEEEEEEEE.
The audience weren’t much in a dancing mood. I understand that we
were watching a German performer, but they didn’t have to act like a
German audience. Some, however, were clapping along and it was a
rather pitiful sight. Tim and I played a game which I made up right
there and then, “Drunkenness or Polyrhythms?” I think you can guess
what our choices were.
After one hell of an hour (and a bit) of the repetitive assault, a
girl went up to the guitar player and gave the “cut it off” signal
(I’m sure some drunk girls in the back were getting antsy at this
point). They ended, Damo thanked us, we thanked him and then out of
nowhere, dance music came on and these girls drunkenly flailed around
with each other in the middle of the dance floor, as if any sign of
what just finished seconds ago vanished in an instant.
I went to see Damo in Victoria two years ago (footage of that
Both of the sets were different in that the band in Victoria seemed
like they wanted to be Can and it sounded like they had a couple of
different tracks, while the band in Vancouver sounded like they just
wanted to do their own thing and were tenacious with their motif.
However, both of the sets were very much the same in that they were
inspired, hypnotic and had the great Damo Suzuki doing equally
inspired vocal riffing overtop. It’s always a treat to see him, and
you never know what you’ll get.
-Julian “Jesus Christ, I Should Stop Listening To Tago Mago And Get
Out Into The World” Bowers