So this will be an ongoing monthly series focusing on musical performances I’ve documented in St. Louis and the stories floating around them.
This installment is about a Britches performance from this past spring. April 15th was the date actually. Final filing for taxes and the Boston bombing were the topics of the day. By nighttime, the waxing moon phase was 27.49% full, leveling the lunacy slightly while I tried figuring out how to document another enactment of Mister Ben’s NOiSE series - something he had been doing for the past two years in the St. Louis area with an emphasis on harsh/weird/experimental/psych, noise music. This all happened on Cherokee street at the now defunct art space warehouse, Mushmaus.
From previous discussions with Ben I knew the rules for documenting the performances were simply that there were no rules. Music could be played however, wherever, and at really any length. I approached it with the idea that no performance would be captured the same way this evening. After band instruments, speakers, PA, audio and video recording equipment had all been carried awkwardly up two flights of stairs and spread out everywhere, the show started to take a natural form. Random corners were picked to play in and Britches began setting up for their set, which included building a sheet wall around them.
Discussing it with Mister Ben, he stated, “I booked them to play a set as Britches, or perhaps as Birches, who knew; I had zero idea as to WHAT they might play. The band was completely enclosed. On all sides. Noises were made in abundant, big rumbling waves, but anyone wanting to come close found only a white sheet.”
I had previously documented Britches this way before, however this time led to a last minute decision to dig through my arsenal of video tools and concoct a projection on them using a dual trace oscilloscope and mixer. The electronic beams moving along the graticule display were manipulated manually to the sounds Britches were making.
Mister Ben described the bands sounds as “Noises built up and up and up and dissipated like it never happened, blank as a sheet in real life and in our dumb perplexed brains. And that was the beauty of it. Even when you can't see them, or see where the hell they're going with things, you're hooked. How can you react? What emotion will you be loyal to? Oh, and you'd better figure it out before the set ends, lest you stand slack-jawed and dumb.”
There was no discussion with the band about what they would do or even if they wanted anything done with their set. Ironically or magically my projector stopped working about five seconds before their set ended. It was a thing of pure improvisation and mystery that I was fortunate to be connected to.