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all words: Luke Abel
all photos: Julian Vu

I can’t remember if it was tortoises or turtles that Chinese myth dicked on about. It was probably turtles, and they were probably made of jade.

Tortoise

The thing I always liked about post-rock (probably the vaguest of genre terms) is the catharsis – it’s never as big or thorough or satisfying anywhere else, except for the great greats. It seems like the term post-rock kind of implies a grand climactic resolution to the teenage hard-on of rock.

This show was a lesson in the power of genre and expectations.

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Imperial China, the opener, deserves the moniker. They played a riff-heavy, heavy-drummed (“When the Levee Breaks,” thanks to a speaker cone reverse-wired to be a bass drum mic) cathartic thing with a splash of reggae (?). It was reliable staple crop with some jerk spice inexplicably thrown in.

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Tortoise is not post-rock. Tortoise is jazz, played by a band that happens to not play jazz, and plays everything else instead. Spaghetti Western, porno, metal, poly-rhythmic jazz (okay, so they do play some jazz). All flawlessly medical, clearly professional musicians who play every instrument on the stage. It was fucking perfect, and not in the way that you’re finally getting over your years-long relationship with a person or a place, and in this moment you can see all that is consistent and true in the world. More just that it was a performance without mistakes.

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That lack of spontaneity, combined with bored band faces – I couldn’t shake the occasional feeling that the live show is a bit of a chore. You’re not sure whether the band is enjoying it. You’re not sure whether you should.

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But you do anyways. The lack of charisma points didnt’ break the show. The small audience of loyals faithfully clapped their way to an encore (I wasn’t even sure if the band was aware of us), even though it was a Sunday. And there’s something fundamentally satisfying about watching stoic badasses pound out something epic and unpredictable.

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