Fuck Buttons Plays Le Poisson Rouge

Fuck Buttons is an electronic duo from Bristol, formed in 2004, known for their experimental ambient "rock". I use quotations here because its a very loose approximation of rock. The structures and rhythm are there but the sound oscillates between white noise, metallic destruction, distorted vocals, and booming bass kicks.

To explain this show properly, I really need to go back to how I acquired the tickets. The show was sold out, and I was considering just showing up, but a friend of mine decided to sell me her ticket. She was reassuring me from Ohio, because I could meet her friend Kaj at the door and pick up the ticket.

There was one more instruction that should have tipped me off to the nature of the show. She said that her friend Kaj was partially deaf, and that I shouldn't call him, only text. I didn't think much of it, but it turned out to have been the first warning sign. This show was massively loud.

I got to LPR just in time to get a PBR from the bar before Fuck Buttons came on, confused when the girl in front of me ordered a Manhattan. The crowd was much more PBR than Manhattans, a whole lot of flannel and probably 80 to 20 dudes to girls. For the most part this fit with who I was expecting to see at this show. LPR is a fun venue, and it is perfect if you are seeing Dan Deacon (which happens to be the last concert I saw there) because the space is relatively small, and you can get right up to the stage. However its a very low stage, and if you aren't right next to it, it can be difficult to see the performers. This was particularly true at Fuck Buttons given the amount of skinny men over six foot tall in the crowd. I wasn't perturbed, and ended up snagging a nice spot on the side of the stage, but I imagine that the visibility for much of the crowd was not much more than the backs of some dude's head.

John Power and Andrew Hung came out right on time, moving onto the stage demure but confident in t-shirts and jeans. They didn't waste time either, breaking into the set with “Brainfreeze” the opener from Slow Focus. They moved through a series of influences during the opening minutes of the set, touching on 90's german techno, bringing in the pounding back beat of Eastern European house, and even pulling in some grimey double bass pedals that would be right at home in London's finest drum and bass. It was a sort of a pan-European showcase, and it made me wonder whether it was the same show, or slightly adapted for American audiences.

The range of musical touchstones was interesting to me, because generally speaking I think of Fuck Buttons as primarily an experimental group, tending more towards ambient soundscapes and extended analog improvisations, than amalgams of obscure inspirations. I suppose in the end that is what experimental musicians often do though, mad scientists of musicology, mixing together far-flung (both geographically and temporally) influences into one digital soundscape.

It was around this time that I went to the bathroom, and realized just how loud it was in the room. The sudden vacuum that filled my ears in place of body shaking bass made me laugh involuntarily. Looking back into it I was gratified to find interviews that corroborated my assertion that it was an uncommonly loud show. “We have a sound engineer who specializes in squeezing the last bit of energy out of P.A. systems,” Hung wrote in an e-mail. “We do like it to be loud, for sure—it’s more fun, innit?”

And fun it was, the crowd went nuts when whispers of Street Horrrsing came through, and the pounding bass was agreeable for whatever sort of dancing one can imagine. What began with low lights, and ambient lasers, became a full blown audio visual assault, with arrays of lasers, banks of strobe lights, and waves of sound liable to make your ears bleed. There was a moment or two when the wild analog rhythm's seemed to spiral out of control, falling off the beat, but this is what you pay for in a way, and it was nice to see that they were pushing the limits.

I was excited to catch sight of a familiar face in the crowd, especially after a false alarm with a tall bearded hipster, who I mistook for my friend (another tall bearded hipster). While I recognized the face of Mario Guttierrez, drummer of Brooklyn based experimental electronic group Time Being, upon reaching him, I found that the entire band had come along for the show, and I joined their field trip for the encore.

Altogether a great show, and a particularly nice ending, with Power walking off first, and Hung holding it down for minute with a positively deafening outro. He let it play as he sauntered off the stage.

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