Over the weekend: Butthole Surfers at the Ogden

Categories: Last Night


Butthole Surfers, Psychic Ills, Circle Number Dot
Friday, October 9, 2009
Ogden Theater, Denver
Better Than:
The flash freezing going on outside.

Circle Number Dot, who opened this show, didn't sound like they got much more than a mere line check before hitting the stage. It was initially hard to tell if it was the act's sludgy guitar sound in the first two or three songs muddying things up or if it was the mix itself. Once the sound crew dialed in the mix better, it became remotely possible to discern the vocals. Turns out the threesome had an interesting take on mixing heavy rock with psychedelia that bordered on Sleep-esque stoner rock and the noise rock pioneered by Scratch Acid. Circle played with good spirits and even through the technical issues you could tell they'd be worth checking out elsewhere.



The weirdest and most mysterious part of the show came from New York band Psychic Ills, With a projection that began as a spiral-pattern ball and expanded into a tunnel that widened to engulf the screen like the image of a wormhole into another dimension before feeding back in on itself and unraveling into various other shapes, Psychic filled the room with a shimmering vibrato drone and tribal drums. Like being placed in a sensory deprivation tank from Altered States, the music and shifting patterns were reality shorn of an external context, with the only pure thought manifesting itself as sound and lights. By the end, forty minutes of music felt like ten, and all of it was mesmerizing.

Having not seen the Butthole Surfers before other than seeing some footage over the years that seemed otherworldly and incredibly inspirational, the actual experience was a bit less than expected. After torturing some members of the audience with the theme from The Price is Right on a seemingly perpetual loop, the Surfers took stage. The vocals were a little indistinct in the mix, even given the Gibbytronix treatment, and Paul Leary's hearty screams. Leary put a lot of spirit into the performance but Gibby Haynes seemed not to be into the show at all. Though he did sing well and got more into the show later on, the sounds all around seemed fairly low -- maybe that had to do with decibel restrictions but it hurt the show in some ways.



The videos with the carnivorous plants, insects fighting each other, vintage pornography, medical procedure footage mixed with scenes from Dario Argento's Suspiria, Unsane and Opera as well as Return of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Basketcase, Scanners, Saw, The Thing and any number of other gruesome horror movies were disturbing and thrilling at the same time. Over the course of the set, the band covered a broad section of more than two dozen songs from its career.



Had it been a band other than the Butthole Surfers, it probably would have been a great show. But those guys are known for putting on an unforgettable mindfuck of a performance, and the closest it came to that was at the end, when fog rolled onto stage and into the audience and the projectors cast images onto the fog itself while the band blasted on, making for a surreal closing. Leary also made sure to shake the hands or at least slap hands with everyone in the front row. Not the Technicolor apocalypse of a show as expected, but enjoyable on its own merits.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK


Personal Bias: Locust Abortion Technician is one of my favorite albums.
Random Detail: Free parking was very difficult to find.
By the Way: Circle Number Dot has out a new album that is worth checking out.


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