Boredoms, Kes Band, Bum Creek live – Forum Theatre, Melbourne International Arts Festival


While a vague sense of wide-eyed psychedelia tenuously connected the dots between the three acts on tonight’s bill, in terms of musical quality and showmanship the rift between local support acts Bum Creek and Kes Band and Japanese headliner Boredoms was enormous. The former two bumbled and botched, listless and lost in random, low-fi scrambles of freeform spontaneity. Boredoms were an object lesson in military regimentation and bravura, the tightest “rhythm section’ in rock.

They’re also the largest, ten or so drummers, bass player, and frontman conductor/MC/shaman Yamatsuka Eye leading the pack, waving his baton, bashing out chords on his “guitar trees’. These were head-high towers, branched with guitar necks tuned to different chords, eye-catching sonic sculptures bursting with promise. They also functioned as a reassuring totem, perched on stage surrounded by innumerable shiny drum kits, a firm reminder of the quality to follow the questionable support that pranced and frolicked around them.

Bum Creek entered shrieking and wailing, nonsense screamed into microphones between punk pogoing and silly walks. Kindly viewed, there set was all stop-start Dada mischief, lurching rhythms began then scrapped, throwaway guitar licks and bite-sized synth blurts popping up like zits. They seemed allergic to repetition of any kind, which made their brief foray into structure all the more frustrating: an intoxicating snatch of motorik synth surge and drum chug callously abandoned after one minute in favour of a miked-up trampoline. Kes Band were a little better, their regular free folk-rock line-up augmented with three member cowbell-beating recorder bleating choir. Theres was a clearer kind of noise, their gestures bolder, but again the prevailing mood was one of unfocused mess.

Boredoms began… with a bang, the drummers encircling Eye on his podium like a cult. Their make-up was interesting, a Benetton gaggle of diverse musical creeds, yet their agenda was complete uniformity. There were no solos, spotlights, or deviations from the mass; they were one solid lumpen force, repetitive rhythms beaten in unison, around which Eye wailed and whirled, adding sporadic dashes of frenzied colour with blasts from his guitar trees. Their two+ hour set began at the stroke of midnight, the drummers focused on cyclic, stingingly sibilant cymbal crashes, rolling like the ocean, or rather the Velvet’s ‘The Ocean’. This was the fanfare for the ‘first drummer’ to glide in, wheeled through the crowd, like drumming Caesar, on a mobile drum throne. Their set followed this course, the basic punk song refracted through Eye’ crazed hyperbolic goggles: extending to the horizon, blown out to extraordinary proportions. Rhythms would buckle and burst, exploding into splintered breaks, the joy found in following these shards in ten-strong shadows. Eye’ role, carousing the troupe into ever-increasing walls of volume, was like that of Sun Ra or George Clinton, bringing a comparable degree of large-scale avant-garde power to work on basic rock repetition. This could be the last word on punk rock, or at least it’s most grandiose statement, an emphatic demonstration of music’ most primitive operations.

Joshua Meggitt


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