If you haven't seen it, Michael Douglas once starred in a film, Falling Down, in which his character, Bill Foster, completely disenfranchised by life in America, inadvertently rampages through the streets on his way home through L.A., all over his refusal to accept the flaws, inconveniences and societal barriers of American existence. Perhaps the film doesn't immediately bring to mind the same retreat from convention present in the genre of math-rock, but there was a certain visual and auditory poetry in watching the film play out behind the performers at last nights show from California trio Tera Melos.
Opening was a local band, All Of Them Witches, formed from members of Patrons of Sweet, Red Tag Rummage Sale and A Hotel Nourishing, that totally blew me away. Layering two rapidly finger picked guitars over incredible drumming, the band managed to take the erratic time signatures and start/stop characteristic of math-rock and fit it into an intriguingly accessible and vigorous groove. The counterpoint of the two guitarists was done impeccably, topped off by the staccato drumming of Cam Rogers, whose lightning-fast playing still floors me when I see him play live.
After a fantastic set from the openers, Tera Melos began setting up. As I had mentioned, Falling Down, had been playing out silently all night behind the stage, and hit a visual and auditory climax as the band broke into their first song. As the massive chunks of guitar, drums, bass and noise finally started flying off the stage, on-screen, Foster accidentally fires a grenade launcher that totals a backhoe. The combination of explosions was enough to tie the two together in my mind for a while, especially considering the memorable performance onstage. The band played an unbelievable set that tied together elements of noise, math-rock, and hardcore that exceeded any expectations I had brought to the show.
Guitarist Nick Reinhart made deft use of his equipment, wresting noisy synth squalls and feedback as well as ample guitar loops and samples from a pile of electronics and pedals, backed by equally innovative drumming from John Clardy. Refusing to rest too long on a single idea, the trio would blow through several minutes of heavy riffing and accent it with interludes of ambient noise and guitar looping before exploding out again into more finger acrobatics. And to top it off, rarely was the music in a single key signature, keeping with the characteristic math-rock shifts of dynamics and pacing that resulted in a truly spectacular performance.
Overall, the set seemed to mirror the plotline of the film playing behind them almost to a "T". Nearly schizophrenic in pace, the film punctuates savage violence with a strangely beautiful father-daughter dynamic and a lot of nervous anticipation, similar to the lurching, slow/fast dynamic of both bands onstage last night. Equal parts savage and virtuosic, the music and film rejoice in moments of beauty and order that jut out awkwardly from seeming chaos. As the film ended with a video screen close up of Douglas and the band left the stage to avid applause, I couldn't help but smile at the convergence.