Live: The Heat-Intensified Symbols' Set at Snooze Theatre, July 29

symbols01.jpg
Justin Garrett
Symbols
With Family Drugs and Rabbit's Moon 3

The Snooze Theatre, Lake Park
Friday, July 29, 2011

Better than:
Standing around in a hot, dank, darkened room full of strangers without great bands playing.

Upon entering the Snooze Theatre on Friday, one could immediately tell something was amiss. The openers, Rabbit's Moon 3, were setting up in what was close to total darkness. Given the overall gloomy sound of the bands on the bill, this sort of thing would hardly cause someone to bat an eye. The lack of air conditioning and orange extension cords snaking out from every door of the building, however, proved to be an enigmatic twist.

Apparently, an error had occurred with the Snooze's account with FPL, prompting them to cut the power to the building. Rather than cancel, Snooze owners C.J. Jankow and Jordan Pettingill rolled up their sleeves and did what had to be done, leeching power from the connecting building.

As Rabbit's Moon 3 finished, Jankow addressed attendees:

"It's a weird night. It's only going to get weirder as it gets sweatier." He graciously apologized and thanked everyone for their understanding.

Next up was Family Drugs. We were lucky enough to speak with singer/guitarist/mastermind Marcos Marchesani earlier in the week, when he gave us a taste of what was to come. He blew all expectations clear out of the water. The guys began their set with an almost ostentatiously long and loud wave of feedback. The waves of noise emitting from Marcos' SunnO))) amplifier immediately grabbed the room's attention, transfixing everyone to the stage, no aversion in their gaze whatsoever. Marchesani began to play long, droning, chugging riffs, the kind in league with Burning Witch, Mind Eraser, and, at great length, Clockcleaner. With no shortage of feedback, the rest of the band joined in, the song beginning with a drumbeat reminiscent of a Nine Inch Nails song (namely, the opening track on disc 1 of The Fragile).

The momentum came to a grinding halt as their drummer stopped the whole operation. Apparently, there had been a mishap with the drum machine he had been playing along to. Marchesani defused the situation, yelling "Fuck it!" like a boss. They dropped right back in to where they had left off, finishing the song as if they had undergone no interruption at all. The rest of their set, which felt somewhat stitched together at times (as covered in our discussion with Marcos, none of the other members of the band are very experienced musicians), was captivating. Each of their songs built layers upon layers of long, milky, dreamlike riffs, backed by crushing bass lines. Overall, it was one of the best first shows that a band could ask for. The music was fresh, imaginative, and visceral. We look forward to seeing more of Family Drugs in the future.

As the audience reeled in the wake of the previous group, electric quartet Symbols began to weave its brand of haunting webs onto the sweat-soaked showgoers. They too were met with a modicum of resistance, suffering a handful of technical blunders. Taking a moment to resolve the issues, they carried on into "Failed Again," looking more confident than previously seen. Singer J.J. Richters, complete with gelled '90s undercut, stood firm, singing and playing his keyboard without the slightest nervous jitter present.

With the presence of the Band in Heaven's Ates Isildak and Bonnie Riot's Dan Potvin, the Symbols' live show differs from the recordings they offer on their official Soundcloud page. While the songs available on the internet are excellent, the presence of a full band gives the group a much more chilling, ethereal sound. Chilling as it may be, that did not stop the heat from getting to them. Halfway through the set, Richters removed his shirt and then removed keyboardist Lauren Dwyer's shirt. After sharing an extended, groping kiss, they delved into their caliginous cover of Nirvana's "Rape Me," sung by the then-topless Dwyer, who pleased the audience with flashes of the Kurt Vonnegut tattoo on her ribs.

Symbols brought the house down as they closed with a perfect performance of "Rifle in the Pocket." All members instantly fell into sync, playing along the harrowing, synthesized echoes of Richters' voice. All of the hectic issues surrounding the show faded into nothingness as all audience members were lulled into a trance by what was unfolding in front of them. Symbols has the rarity of drawing the minds of onlookers into pure hypnosis, a trait coveted by many but attained by few.

Critic's Notebook

Best Comment About Using the Restroom in the Dark Award:
Between songs, Marcos Marchesani addressed the issue by simply stating, "It's hard to take a shit in the dark."

Random detail: The overall age of the audience appeared to be youthful. As Family Drugs writhed through melancholy, deeply emotional songs, the audience, clearly excited to see their friend onstage, could not contain their excitement. They bobbed up and down, smiles cracking across their faces, contrasting oddly with what they were watching.


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