There’s something magical about The Mohawk – my favorite venue in Austin, TX. Sure, there’s lots of other great venues in town – Stubb’s is a wonderful outdoor space and the newer Sidewinder has been booking a wonderful mix of metal and queer shows (and creating some of the best crowds, whether intentionally or not). The Mohawk, though, has something special – good sound, good atmosphere and it’s that magical space that never feels overly crowded, even when it’s sold out. Seeing HEALTH in this venue is perfect – it’s casual, the lights blow out the background and the whole thing can feel frenetic in a perfectly enjoyable way; just like the band itself.
Pictureplane and HEALTH, strangely, did not sell out, but the attendees were the rabid, completely absorbed fans that you want to be surrounded by. HEALTH has reached, perhaps, a kind of cult following – not because they’re necessarily a complete underground act (they sound tracked the Max Payne album, you know?) but because the sort of fan base they attract is the kind of cult we’d want to join: an eclectic mix of metal heads, drone kids and a HEALTH-y dose of strong queer support, too. This article could have been about the outfits I saw – the crowd brought their A-game.
Pictureplane was the opener for this tour and Travis Egedy managed to captivate the crowd despite his minimalist set up. Egedy seems to have managed to remain true to his act since we last saw him a few years back – just him, a mixing board and some synths – but his performance this year saw him holding the crowd rapt with a bit more finesse. Live, Pictureplane sounds a bit like Joe Strummer making witchhouse, frankly, but the mix of DJ set and outre pop star posturing made for an interesting set. He hit all the highs from his new LP, Technomancer with tracks like “Sick Machine” and “Esoterroist” and his vocals, even highly reverbed, sounded perfectly fitting for the music. Was it the absolute most engaging live act we’ve ever seen? Maybe not, but it was a perfect warm-up for HEALTH’s brand of drone-y dance-y maybe a little un-label-y metal.
HEALTH was great. As usual. HEALTH is just an objectively wonderful live act, no matter what you think of their music on record. They started out and hit a fair number of highs from their new LP Death Magic; “Men Today” and “Courtship II” brought a really wonderful beginning – pounding, shimmering, in your face and with as much hair whipping from John Famiglietti as your heart could possibly desire.
That’s the other thing about HEALTH – Famiglietti’s hair is a magical, wonderful force of nature and he uses it to the utmost at every show. This man is a national treasure.
Other highlights included a wonderful rendition of “Dark Enough” – even on the album, the track is a high for HEALTH. At once dark and tongue-in-cheek sweet (Jake Duzsik’s voice is a wonderful counterpoint to the crunchy noise the band makes), live the song is even most lilting and bouncing. They didn’t shun the older material – they served up a great collection of songs from GET COLOR such as “Die Slow,” one of their more accessible tracks and a great late night dance song, and “We Are Water” was a massacre of noise and feedback, with those amazing quiet parts to highlight the frantic pace of the attacks.
The encore was a 2 minute sessions of the members making the biggest racket possible and then leaving without saying anything. It was perfect.
Photos By Amelia Zind