Sunday, November 22, 2009

You Missed Out: Fuck Buttons at Empty Bottle


I've been trying to think of an explanation for what I experienced tonight at the Empty Bottle, but the only thing that seems to work is hyperbole.

We say that things "blow our minds" all the time. If we're in the right mood, a basket of greasy french fries might even "blow our minds". But Fuck Buttons did something tonight that I haven't experienced in music before. It's the closest I've come to literally having my mind blown. They started with my ears, and after blowing through my ear canal with some of the loudest noise rock I've ever endured, their vibrations started cracking through my skull and began prodding at the surface of my brain. I experienced their music beyond my eardrums. I was feeling music in a new part of my body. It was incredible.

This duo made an art out of abusing my ears. Their distortion almost made me bleed from the sides of my head, but they made very sure to never take it that far. No, Fuck Buttons wanted my ears fully functional for their experimental knob show. They didn't want to hurt their audience's ears, but they did want to challenge them.

Mine were taken to the brink of auditory climax tonight. For about three quarters of their hour long set I kept my ears naked, but eventually became so nervous during one of their prolonged techno beat, droning buildups that I had to pull my hood up to get at least some single-layer cotton protection (for future music reviews). I couldn't even tell if I was actually hearing anything for a while. All audience and bar noise disappeared, and a world of sound enveloped me.

At one moment, I even lunged back. Fuck Buttons challenged me so fearlessly. It was easily the best show I've seen all year. I didn't have a single drink from the bar, but by the end of the show I felt woozy. Like I had just stepped out of one of those rocket cars that speed through the desert at 1000 miles per hour. The experience was almost transcendental.

And this is all very surprising, because I've seen Fuck Buttons before. They played at the Pitchfork Fest a few years ago, but I was mostly unimpressed then. I think this is proof of how important a venue is. Outdoor stages are great for bands like The Flaming Lips, The National and Animal Collective, but experimental noise rock bands need an Empty Bottle. It also helps that the Bottle has miraculously good sound. I'm not sure how that dank pit is capable of such amazing acoustics, but it's hard to find a rock venue in Chicago that sounds better.

It also might have helped that I saw this show by myself, and completely sober. Sure I was surrounded by hundreds of people (the show did sell out), but all my friends who were going to join me ditched at the last second. I didn't care though, I wasn't going to miss it. And I'm so glad I didn't. The last time this happened to me was over five years ago when I saw Sufjan Stevens by myself at Schubas (before Illinois came out), and that might have been my reigning "best show" ...until tonight.

I doubt if my ears will ever be treated to such a sonic delight ever again. For one thing, I think Fuck Buttons murdered my ears. But in the process, I might have evolved a deeper sense of listening. A patience and a subtlety for noise that I hadn't previously known. My ears have been born again, and glory hallelujah they shall sin no more. Praise be to Fuck Buttons! (Holy shit they were good...)

1 comment:

napoleon says said...

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