CVLT Nation captures The FLENSER Magical NYC Showcase
Photos and Text by Charles Nickles
Eight hours of The Flenser is a LOT of fucking Flenser especially when you consider doors are at 7pm but I’m all in with the gung-ho, bro! My belly’s rich with hummus, my blood is iced coffee and I’ve hidden an extra pack of smokes in my gear bag so I am READY!
COME AND GIMME THAT NOISE GLOOM!
This is Tim’s band.
Tim’s the other guy from Have a Nice Life beside Dan, Dan the Adwords Man (and Giles Corey, Black Wing, etc) and the driving force behind the elusive and frustratingly sporadic moldy 4 track black tunnel trip, Flowers of St. Francis.
He’s the one with the chops who always looks kinda pissed.
And maybe he is.
I’ve never met him but now that I’ve learned Consumer I think it’s probably likely.
Now I don’t know if he’s the kind of bearded white bro pissed at the oppression of perpetual being that typically foments the kind of primeval concrete doom blitz that populates much of Consumer’s sound or the condescending luddite pissed that weaponizes the arcane in a puzzling array of analog treatments and Linux coding which both evokes a sincere affection for the simple fractures of a bygone era while pissing all over the digital affections of a youth lost to progress and their frantic, desperate clawing for truth in the post-ironic morass.
Or maybe he’s both or maybe he’s neither or maybe he doesn’t even matter so much in this equation (though I very much doubt that) because there are three other living, breathing human beings in this band so – perhaps – they all sat down together and decided to align in a forceful display of the old funny/unfunny/I’ll-fuckin-crush-you bit thereby allowing themselves to play the high and low brow in equal devastating measure.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel
You guys. YOUGUYS!!!!
You know how you’re always going on about how there isn’t THAT BAND that mixes heavy as fuck with whispered ethereal in a way that doesn’t evoke some Nordic bloodlust or middle-income disillusionment?
Or, like, how you’re sick and tired of all these devastation lust motherfuckers who even if they don’t formally err on the side of CIS, white and male might as well because their whole raging deal always capitalizes on the vacant entity/invisible enemy that spurred the shame of manifest destiny and just want something that earnestly slays.
And though we shouldn’t even fuck with the punk problem, if we did, we might find comfort in the existence of a band like Elizabeth Colour Wheel who don’t really play anything strictly in debt to the three chord monte (though they do certainly threaten a mean breakdown) but rather embrace the great spirit of “FUCK IT!” splashing a Pollock of sonic possibilities across the long bleak landscape of now. Shoegaze. Doom. Noise. Indignant vibrato. Metal up your ass. Dreamy weeping luxuriants.
ECW does it all (often in the same song) and sure there are tons of bands that hop genres but when most folks do it, the bait and switch is obvious. Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s musical roulette is wholly organic and totally anarchic and to watch it spin out on stage (and in the pit) is the kind of stunning privilege that makes it worth getting up in the morning.
Wreck & Reference
I’ll be straight with you.
While catching a smoke before Wreck & Reference started their set one of my best friend’s told me he was gonna be a father and that’s tremendous news because this dude has one of the biggest hearts and warmest hugs of anyone I’ve ever known and his partner is totally weird and lovely and stable and they’re totally cute together with the sort of no-bullshit affection that usually comes with decades of familiarity but still holds to the tender immediacy of the 90-day romance.
And I am happy for him.
SUPER happy for him, actually, though I think my reaction might have been less “SQUEE, BABY! SQUEE!” and more “Cool” which I’ve been relentlessly overthinking as I am wont to do but fuck me.
He’s awesome and his lady is rad and the two of them are gonna make great fucking parents to what threatens to be a ruthlessly adorable and almost unfathomably cool child who I’m going to my damnedest to have listening to the Cows by the time she’s twelve.
Or, at least, the Cramps.
So Wreck & Reference was pretty much the EXACT last thing I was ready to listen to.
I mean, they did their two-man screaming erudite weirdo postmetal bowtie gloom as well – if not better – than any time I’ve seen them before and it was a total trip to see so many people packed in for their relentless agitations and stranger still to see so many people taking the time to make out so flagrantly during their set but you know what? Good for them.
You only get so many years you can be deliberately weird before it becomes a problem or (gulp) a vocation so you might as well make the most of it, kids.
Planning for Burial
Recently, I found my copy of Leaving and decided to give it a spin for the first time in a dog’s age and I was legitimately (if pleasantly) surprised at how distressing I still found the thing.
I mean, that record is raw and so painfully, tenderly grim as to be almost totally unlistenable which was just the sort of think I guess is what I was expecting from the (then) mysterious cabal known as Enemies List Home Recordings having fallen fucking HARD for Deathconsciousness.
But Leaving was different.
Leaving was lonely, lonely, lonely. A black hole suffering joy and though I knew it was special, I knew that if I gave it the chance it would take over me and so I squirreled it away among a stack of Merzbow CDRs Dave was once convinced would help me get into Finnegan’s Wake.
But Dave’s gone now and I’ll never unwind the recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs because I have better things to do than succumb to the greatest of all postmodern pranks.
Like seeing Planning for Burial now: fuller, kinder, free.
Artful, arcane and damaged still, but so much less consumed by The Nothing, you’d think the man below the house was just some decent dude making a grandiose racket to loose himself from the horrible shadows of being.
Which maybe he is.
And to consider that Thom Wasluck is not the perpetually ashen and reactionary beast I once imagined actually gives his work that much more power.
Yes, PfB is still very much rooted in the wonder of loss but it is no act of glorified submission. With each shuddering chord and wounded animal scream, Planning for Burial honors the power and purpose of grief with a singular, sonic defiance that threatens to crest into spiritual violence.
And, as he set progresses, many in the audience (myself included) can be found with their eyes closed, hands beating their hearts as they breath in the raw suffering and exhale a great hope.
Is this Tonglen?
Have a Nice Life
I shouldn’t have come here.
I knew it was a risk what with it being almost ten years since I saw the band make their post Deathconsciousness live debut at The Stone to a sold-out crowd of, like 100 people and just had my teeth fuckin’ scorched.
That was one of the only perfect gigs I’ve ever seen (alongside the Boredoms at CB’s, Young Fathers at Hotel Vegas and…Bruce Springsteen, probably): brief, brutal, intimate. It was almost otherfuckingworldly and was the high water mark for a year some obsession with Deathconsciousness and its mythology.
I knew that show was risky too.
How the hell were Dan and Tim going to translate the primeval purpose of DC, a record created in the shadows and wilds of New England’s long bedroom winters, into a performance that honored the record’s damaged wonder with a bombast that befitted both band and craven, shivering audience?
I don’t actually know how to answer that question with reason.
All I can tell you is that they did and goddamn if I don’t often find myself late, lonely Sunday drunk watching the performance on YouTube wishing we could all feel so young and stunned again.
But we can’t.
Or maybe we can.
I don’t know, man.
All I know is watching HANL tonight, with a full live band (the entirety of Consumer, it seems) and projections and so many, many trembling men crushed in and screaming their guts out, pushing the pit to suffocation and surfing over all the raised fists in a desperate attempt to make it close enough to Icarus to wax their split lips I feel lost.
Not abandoned so much as dated and estranged.
And, at some point (perhaps during the decidedly present and positively raucous “Trespasser W”) I have to step away for a cold one and a smoke to consider that Have a Nice Life are not the same band they were when I once had the fortune of stumbling onto them in some dark, unfamiliar corner and understood – at once – they were everything I needed in my life.
Because as much as I can bristle at how much HANL and their audience have changed, I have to consider that I’ve changed plenty as well.
Hell, I hope I have.
If a man can’t better himself in ten years then he’s a fucking pox, at best and if a band can’t do the same then they’re wasting some seriously valuable artistic real estate.
And maybe I have to concede that what HANL is doing now and may continue to do in the future is not exactly for me (the drummer is totally throwing me) but it is the perfect fucking thing for the, like, 900 people who made this show a sell-out months ago and that is totally okay.
I already have my moment, man.
Tonight belongs to them.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel (pt. 2)
So, remember how I was all “FAAAAWWWWKKK!!!” about ECW (now that chant is stuck in my head) when they were playing a stage? Well now they’re on the floor, like, two feet in front of me and it’s WAAAAAY later than I usually find myself out and about without one eye sealing shut and Catholic guilt casually fomenting a false narrative and this room is smaller than the imaginary snuff room in my fake stepdad’s Pocono “getway” (if either or any existed) and goddamn, dude.
If I thought Elizabeth Colour Wheel was the shit with three feet up on me they are total glorious shudder in this out-of-time basement banger.
And I don’t know them near well enough to know how different their sets played.
All I know is they wreck me.
Am I dead?
I think I might be.
And though I’m all but shit sure this isn’t heaven I’m pretty sure I’m not in hell but I can’t tell because I’ve never been so close to the Street Sects blinding bore so maybe the shrieks and stuttering strobes are the marks of purgatory.
Maybe the couple macking hard and pissed off beside me are just seraphim in Cadaver Dog hoodies.
Maybe God is dead too.
Maybe this whole black box carnival is just some brief and furious spectrum ruse and I’ll wake up in St. Elsewhere with Mr. North teaching me the secret electricity of a displaced man in a Tom Wolfe suit like I’m some ungrateful child of New England.
Would that even be so terrible?
Yes, it would.