Photos by Janie Briggs
Words by Gan Uyeda and Josh Phelps
I’m going to say something about the HEALTH show at Rock n Roll Hotel last Saturday that sounds negative, but trust me, it’s purely for expository purposes: Surviving HEALTH was like living through hell.
Modern Christianity, here in America at least, has cultivated an image of hell as a place of fire, pitchforks, brimstones and the like. HEALTH was sorta like that. It singed off hair. It stabbed through flesh. The outrageously aggressive percussion might be analogous to getting your chest bashed in with a sack of brimstone gravel. Sandpaper to the face? Not an uncalled for description. This music will call you ugly, light you on fire, and then whisper “I love you” as it walks away from your burning corpse.
Dante had another version of hell. I mean, yeah he included the fire and the screaming and the human deformity and blah, blah, blah. But his deepest circle was a jumbo sized Otterpop of Evil, a huge, subzero lake of ice. HEALTH was sorta like that too. The stabs of reverberating guitars, frigidly filtered screams, and icy vocals cut through clothes like an angry gust of January wind. In the Yukon.
The beginning of the show fell more into this icy category of hell, as the band played tracks from their self-titled debut, an album that does not give a shit about you. With their recorded material, this stuff is impenetrable, and not all too enjoyable. Their live set, however, with the band’s pinpoint synchronization and physical intensity, transformed the sound into an encompassing, flat out impressive barrage of noise.
With We Are Water the sound pivoted into the more melodic, danceable fare from Get Color, and the 4 piece rounded out the show with a flickering, incredible rendition of USA Boys. Throw in a 20 second encore for good measure, and voila, a hellish, transcendent show of noise rock that hurt so good.
Opening act notes from Josh Phelps:
This was my first time seeing DC’s own True Womanhood (although they’ve been covered by BYT for years) and their energetic set was a nice companion to the Health bill. Memorable melodies were decorated with an array of noisy effects but didn’t overwhelm Thomas Redmond’s alternately halcyon and excited vocals. From what I remember, the set featured several songs off of their latest J. Robbins mixed EP Basement Membranes (see all the adoring press here) and the band seemed locked in tight for their upcoming US tour. The crowd bobbed, weaved, and applauded in appreciation rather than politeness which is more than I can say, at least for myself, about Yip Yip. The Orlando duo clad in white jumpsuits and berets arrived armed with vocoders, cymbals, a saxophone and black boxes of synthesizers and electronics that took a rock and roll eternity to setup. For the few songs I stayed inside for, scattered claps followed a few awkward silences while people decided if the song was over or not. Despite the tepid response, the band did seem in good spirits and several times they dove into a nice groove that could have beat this out at the talent show.
And True Womanhood