Live Review: The Mae Shi, Religious Girls, CJ Boyd and Hot White at Rhinoceropolis

Categories: Last Night
The aptly named Hot White lived up to its name. (photos by Tom Murphy).

The Mae Shi, Religious Girls, CJ Boyd and Hot White
Friday, July 4, 2008
Rhinoceropolis
Better Than:
The relatively tepid fireworks show at Coors Field.

Hot White is a relatively new band who has only pretty much played underground venues like the now defunct Kingdom of Doom and Rhinoceropolis. Having caught the act’s first appearance at Rhino, I expected the group to be good, and was not disappointed. Hot White is a two piece comprised of a drummer and a guy who creates sounds and manipulates his vocals and bass with a pedal. Combining elements of harsh noise, experimental rock and post-rock, Hot White is a furiously intense and heavy band. The heavy part of that equation is shot through with imaginative use of sound performed with the unbound energy of youth, recalling a bit of Thrones and Shellac.

Chicago's loop master and bass ace, CJ Boyd.

Chicago’s CJ Boyd sat down with just a loop pedal, an amp, a bass and a clutch of harmonicas to perform a set of music that established him, in my mind, as the greatest living practitioner of loops outside of Karl Blau and Brittany Gould. With smooth and fluid playing, Boyd evoked Daniel Lanios throughout the set, with textured, atmospheric guitar work, and he moved about the fretboard of his bass creating a pastoral, minimalist jazz sound akin to Philip Glass. Regardless of how layered the songs became, they never seemed busy. Boyd’s masterful ability to create multi-dimensional sounds out of utter simplicity owes a debt to his capacity to play as gently or forcefully as required by the tone of the song.

Religious Girls spoke in tongues.

Religious Girls came as a tremendously pleasant surprise. They didn’t sing any words in English but rather made sounds like primitives communicating through the imitation of animals and other primeval forms of vocalization to accompany their music. A tribal, tropical take on synth pop, the Girls’ sound merged brightly coruscating, shining tones with torrents of buoyant rhythms. The layers of ambient waves were not hypnotic so much as invigorating and refreshing, like being awoken by an early morning sun after a good sleep. At the end of their set, most of the band came out into the crowd playing drums and sang their hearts out in a language no one spoke but which everyone seemed to understand. If the sheer joy of being alive has a soundtrack, it’s the music of Religious Girls, who brought us into a beautiful new world where we all would have loved to stay but which came to an end when the music stopped.

You'd never have guessed that Mae Shi was down a member.

The Mae Shi, I was informed immediately before their set, was without its founding member. Evidently, though, no one mentioned this to the players, as they performed like they didn’t have a care in the world. Intermingling with the audience throughout, at one point, the musicians inspired the crowd to hold up a sail (or a large tarp of some kind) over most of the room during one song. One of the guys in Religious Girls even crowd surfed for a moment.

The Mae Shi is one of the very few -- if not the only -- shambolic, soul-synth-punk groups out there. Reinventing punk for a new generation, the outfit injects its music with the sheer fun and energy punk used to have. Dispensing with dwelling on angst, its members have embraced the idea that celebratory outbursts are as subversive as taking shots at the man.

-- Tom Murphy

Personal Bias: I much prefer shows where it’s definitely about the music and not about the drinking.
Random Detail: Religious Girls made their CD covers on the floor of Rhinoceropolis right before the show.
By the Way: Gas is becoming prohibitively expense for purposes of touring, so catch these true underground shows while you still can and buy the bands’ merch, so they can keep coming to places like Denver.

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