We received this unsolicited show review from Jason Cohen, a longtime freelancer for various newspapers and magazines (Rolling Stone, Texas Monthly, Austin Chronicle), who's currently, if only temporarily, put his roots down in Missoula. Enjoy:
SXSWhat? While half the music world is down in Austin, the Brooklyn trio A Place to Bury Strangers are on tour with The Big Pink, and given two full days to drive 1700 miles from Portland, Ore., to Minneapolis, they grabbed an extra headline gig along the way here in Missoula—more like a house party, really, as the BSMT venue is an actual basement full of exposed pipe, spotty lighting and a washer-dryer near the merch table. It was almost as if the band got off of I-90, ran into some punk rock kids and asked if there was anywhere to play a show.
In truth, it was a booking by a University of Montana BFA student named Dane Hansen, who saw APTBS in Portland several years ago ("I was literally screaming in my hands the whole time") and vowed to bring them into town. "They've essentially done this show for nothing, comparatively speaking," he says. "They didn't have any guarantee or anything. They said, give us some food and give us some beer and we'll do it. I told them to take whatever they wanted from the door." (admission was $5, with around 100 people in attendance).
"I didn't necessarily know what kind of show it was going to be, but it's always good to take a gamble," A Place to Bury Strangers frontman Oliver Ackermann said. "And it turned out to be the kind of show I really like."
Given that the band's stage amps probably put out greater wattage than the venue's pair of hanging speakers, the trio couldn't quite live up to its reputation as "the loudest band in New York City," but there were still plenty of sonic fireworks. The pedal-hopping Ackermann builds and sells his own effects, and they were pretty much the evening's star, as he cranked out extended, feedback-laden jams in the best Velvet Underground/shoegazer/Jesus and Mary Chain tradition, while bathed in smoke and strobes and sometimes total darkness. By the end of the night, he was lying on the floor with his guitar, assaulting all the strings until they popped, the feedback and distortion keening on.
"There were times when I couldn't tell what was going on," Ackermann said. "But that's always the case."
- Jason Cohen