Battles is one of those glorious bands that can’t be compared to any other band or sound. I seem to latch onto groups that produce a wholly unique sound the defies logic and stagnation. In it’s original state, Battles was a four piece comprised of Tyondai Braxton, Ian Williams, Dave Konopka, and John Stanier. After their first record, the fantastic Mirrored, Braxton left the group. While there was a little fear that Battles would be changed for the worse, it turns out that they are resilient and were able to produce a phenomenal second album, Gloss Drop. Needless to say, I was excited to see them live. I was accompanied by my two cousins, Argiro and Alejandro, the former being a huge Battles fan. Quick note: The Ministry of Rum had a festival going on on the second floor of the Bottom Lounge and I was able to pass on a lovely treat (cherries) to a lovely treat (my friend who was working the fest). Also, all concert photos are by John Yingling and were retrieved from Brooklyn Vegan. Please check them out.
OPENER: An Aesthetic Anesthetic
I wasn’t familiar with An Aesthetic Anesthetic, a local Chicago instrumental band, but I’m glad I am now. They are an odd bunch to say the least. Their sound is a mix of genres that they have dubbed Ghost Rock. Some of the songs are slow at times before exploding into some Punk sensibilities with a little Metal thrown in for good measure. At one point there was even some Hardcore yelling going on. The songs were also long jam sessions that really got me rocking along in a way I had not expected them to. An Aesthetic Anesthetic isn’t for everyone, but with song titles like “I Don’t Want to Sound Like a Dickhole or Nothin’, but God Should Look Like Gandalf”, how can you not like them? My cousins arrived right as they were finishing their set, but they got a good dose of the band.
The set up of Battles on stage looks daunting and quiet frankly, scary. Ian Williams’ spot (stage right) had two keyboards facing away from each other, each angled at a forty five degree angle. On top of the keyboards were loopers and knobs and such that left me dizzy even before Williams began playing. He stood between the keyboards, guitar strung around his neck, a cow bell perched above him. Dave Konopka existed on the opposite end of the stage, switching between multiple guitars and a bass (I think it was one, could have been more). He would occasionally disappear from the stage, which I assumed was due to my position in the crowd and his crouching down to expertly fiddle more loopers and more knobs and God knows what else.
While these two setups are enough to surge awe in me, the middle of the stage garnered the most impressive reception. Two large rectangular screens stood vertically, displaying everything from mounds of ice cream, metallic structures, to prerecorded videos of Matias Aguayo, Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, and Gary Numan singing along to the music. In front of these Monolith like screens was John Stanier (who my cousin pointed out as looking like Jason Sudeikis as a part of our long standing look-a-like game) and his epic drum set. Epic not for it’s size, but for the intensity he brings to the show along with a Zildjian cymbal sitting three feet over his head as he played. When Stanier reached to clash with the piece, it looked effortless, adding to the monumental expertise being displayed.
It was difficult to judge what song is playing at what time, Battles jammed out so heavily on a few that they are nearly unrecognizable. “Ice Cream” has particularly identifiable opening notes (and ice cream visuals on the Monoliths), but songs like “Atlas” were crafted in such a way that it took me a second longer to catch it (even though the glass structure of the music video was on the screens). “Atlas” felt like such a different song due to the slow build up to the actual meat of the song, almost as if it was being constructed one sound at a time. All the focus was on craft of the music by the members instead of the actual members. This could be because the crowd was only addressed by he band twice: once by Konopka in an explanation of the lyric-less “Wall Streeet” (it’s about success) and the other by Williams in a declaration against Ted Nugent (he was a draft dodger).
Battles knows how to throw a good show together. Their futuristic sound is like no other and their presentation reflects it. I think the near indecipherable lyrics to “Atlas” describe them best: “People won’t be people when they hear this sound/That’s been glowing at the edge of town”. Check out more from Battles at their website and watch the video for “Ice Cream”, the epitome of summer sound, below.