by David Downs
Chips of drum sticks fly off of Jamie Stewart's bash-filled hard ones April 23, while hecklers quip at his soft Morrissey delivery. [Full review, photos and video after the jump ]Noisy Oakland art rockers Xiu Xiu blasted and whispered through new material off of their late 2006 outing The Air Force, as well as prior work during an hour-long, heckle-marked set at a three-quarters full, four-fifths drunk Bottom of the Hill Monday night.
High points included a breathless "The Wig Master" (which is also excellently remixed by Oakland's Why? On their new Reximed and Covered album) as well as more rocking songs like "Vulture Suicide".
Both extremes verify the band's sonic breadth. They do the mournful and abstract, as well as the vengeful and direct. On "Vulture Suicide", drummer Ches Smith just detonates his kit over Caralee McElroy's synth and lead singer Jamie Stewart's overdriven Fender guitar single coils. Whereas "The Wig Master's" gaps of silence oddly complement the Zornian arrangement of flute, accordion, effects pedals and xylophone bowing. We at Ear Bud were unaware one could even bow a xylophone.
Now, Ear Bud recently said "we don't get / can't fucking stand" Xiu Xiu, but a retraction is in now order. You got to think of the band less as a band and more as piece of art. Art does not always rock you, as evinced by Xiu Xiu's t-shirts on sale stating "Fun is for assholes."
Several assholes wanted to have fun Monday night, so when the lead singer started doing his avant jazz shtick, one of them yelled "Dissipation!"
Stewart responded with a middle finger, and the crowd cheered.
"Dude, you put the mic in your mouth, bro. Weird!" one heckler yelled after an emotional song that did include a mic sucking.
"Do Aneurysm!" one heckler said after Stewart mimed smashing his Fender.
"And out come the bros," Stewart parried.
The bros had a point. The band never looked the audience in the eye, and Stewart's breathy Morrissey stylings lack dynamism. However, terms like "obscure" and "inaccessible" are not always a bad thing. Stewart and crew seem to wake up every morning and say, "What can we do different today?" The Xiu Xiu answer is, of course: a fucking helluva lot.
Besides, when they're not being "creative," this band can rock so hard that the audience goes into seizures and the drum kits just keel over and die.
Photo and Video Set: