Titwrench 2011 travelogue: Sin Desires Marie, Christina the Hun, Coathangers and much more

Categories: Concert Reviews

Tom Murphy
Bast at Titwrench 2011 doing some belly dancing
Friday, July 29 - Glob

Every year it seems as though someone involved with Titwrench (likely Piper Rose) comes up with some kind of ritual to start off the festivities. This year, a woman calling herself Bast (you know, from Egyptian mythology, which is fitting) set things in motion with a hybrid of belly dancing and -- as hinted at by Piper later -- Tantric practice. Her gymnastic moves and graceful gestures, coupled with her full Dervish-esque costume and swirl of electro-Middle Eastern music, definitely seemed to create a sacred space.

Tom Murphy
Kirtan Choir

Kirtan Choir is made up of two members of CJ Boyd's Sexxxtet, including Boyd himself on both upright and electric bass and the other member playing cello. With volume pedals, some delay and masterful looping technique, the duo created layers of string sound that flowed in a steady stream of lower register tones while the cello ascended over the top before cycling back down into that stream.

At one point, Boyd used his bow on a glockenspiel to create rivulets of drone. Later on in the set, the quiet intensity of the music was reminiscent of the For Carnation. The whole set was improvised, never to be played again, but that just made it all the more obvious that this configuration of the project was the perfect union of superb technique, experimentation and imagination in taking a minimal set-up and building out of it expansive compositions.

Tom Murphy
Dangerous Nonsense

The members of the next band looked like they had stepped off the set of a horror movie playing post-apocalyptic zombie witches with fake blood and tattered clothing. The mixture of dub-bass and tribal percussion, with a singer who gestured wildly and sang with a degree of theatricality to match, made Dangerous Nonsense seem like they had stepped out of some kind of time warp where the Slits and Gang of Four were more influential bands on modern punk than the Ramones.

The seething emotions behind the performance, along with the rhythm-driven music, recalled Penis Envy-era Crass or Bush Tetras -- partly because the vocals were both melodic and naturally distorted. Dangerous Nonsense is often referred to as a "feminist" punk band. Punk? Yes, in the fervor of the performance and the disregard for convention, but otherwise it was whatever comes next that is not post-punk. Lyrically, however, this was borne out, but clearly these three women write with a concern for issues that go beyond their immediate experience, which is a rarity.

Tom Murphy

Tine's membership stretches across at least two states, and it seemed like the band wasn't well-rehearsed, per se, but that each of the four had somehow brought together something unique because of that. At first, it seemed like we were in for some kind of awkward bluesy, punk funk with scrappy guitar work. But the sound quickly evolved into the sort of music that wouldn't be out of place on the Disco Not Disco compilations of No Wave dance music.

Toward the end of the set, the band put its stamp on a cover of "Kick in the Eye" by Bauhaus, and it was at that point that things completely jelled and Tine became impressive for weaving together that adventurous post-punk of the early '80s with something more modern and noisy.

It had to happen eventually and "reunion summer" came to an end with the final Sin Desires Marie show. The set was short, with the band opening with the always-electrifying "One Too Many Reasons," but it's better to have seen these seven songs one more time than not at all.

Apparently Yoon Park's son, Oscar, wished her a good show for this night, a blessing he did not give for the UMS performance -- though that show didn't lack for a visceral immediacy, either. Rousseau and Park faced each other here and there during the set and occasionally, in the tried-and-true tradition of musicians, smiled with bemusement when one or the other made some kind of mistake -- or was on the verge of doing so, which the audience would never know, because mistakes in performance are inherently funny to the people playing and often imperceptible to the people watching. Mistakes are endearing and part of the human experience.

Tom Murphy
Sin Desires Marie

Whereas some musicians throw tantrums on stage, those with a little more grace and a sense of proportion and respect for the audience -- from having been in the audience and not forgetting it -- don't bother with such histrionics. Instead, Sin Desires Marie reminded us one last time why its headlong rhythms, a sense of emotional conviction and passionate delivery of the music always mattered. The band finished with the harrowing "Slowly," and probably more than a few people wished they'd been able to play it all again right then. As usual, Sin Desires Marie set the bar very high.

The swelling swirls of distorted harmonic sound shot through with tastefully bombastic percussion filled the beginning of Bury My Bones' set. A looped melodic line overlaid with a cutting, distorted lead was guitarist Diana Sperstad's method throughout, but with each song being so sonically different, it never seemed gimmicky.

Tom Murphy
Bury My Bones

She had two amps, so that the loop could be sent through one while the live part went through the other -- or so it seemed -- so that neither would have to fight for head room. Sperstad's fiery, explosive leads on the fourth song with her expert use of controlled feedback made what sounded like a South Youth-esque lead seem even heavier.

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Bree Davies
Bree Davies

Tom, thank you for taking the time to review this four-day event. You always take great care in covering the "overlooked." 

I look forward to this fest all year. In a sea of beer-bloated corporate fests with blog-band saturated line-ups, Titwrench's lovingly curated weekend ALWAYS introduces me to bands/artists/performers I would never see/hear otherwise. Plus, it is truly an all-are-welcome experience: No VIP bullshit, no wristbands, no age restrictions, no undercurrents of sexism, no separation between artist and audience. Now, if only the world could get over the word "TIT" (though it has been used rampantly with a negative connotation for as long as I can remember without anyone noticing or complaining.) 


Awesome review Tom. But uh... how did you miss Night of Joy's drummer trashing his drum kit? That shit was insane.

Katherine P.
Katherine P.

Thanks for such a thorough summary of this amazing festival!!


Tit wrench is in a lyric from an Ethyl Meatplow song called Queenie written in 1990: Back breaking tit-wrench nauseating blood stench. Carla Bozulich (me) borrowed the term from the name of an LA band playing around at the time). It's refreshing every year that I see it revived. Tit. Tit. Tit. Tit.


Katherine: Thanks!Mansizerooster: Oh, I can't comment on that. Don't get me wrong, I love Night of Joy and wrote in my personal notes about Fez knocking over his drums and stuff. But trolls will be trolls and I'll leave it at that. And by "troll" I'm definitely not talking about you, obviously.


pardon my bad use of punctuation...


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