I’ve had the pleasure of seeing quite a few shows this year and in these tough economic times, that’s something not to be taken for granted. Something else not to be taken for granted is the gift that you receive when you experience something out of the box that takes you somewhere that you never expected to go….and you approve of the destination. And what could there possibly be to disapprove of here when you have a chap from Northern England (Nick Turner) and an Oklahoman (Ryan Hendrix) putting their opposing musical heads together (one liked U2 and Metallica while the other leaned towards more urbane Brit rock fare) to become one?
It’s possible that Oklahoma (with a touch of across-the-pond Britishness) may become known as a birthplace of auditory innovation and musical mindf*cks for the mere fact that they have spawned the likes of, well, The Flaming Lips, The Gap Band (I’m not really counting Color Me Badd, here), and this four-piece, color scheming, sonically ambitious crew with an affinity for textural sounds, melodious hooks and a fierce live show. With college degrees from Oklahoma State University in hand for all, [sarcasm]which are obviously being well utilized[/sarcasm], Colourmusic brings some rock that truly rolls left of center.
And white suits. Where there used to be colorful costumes and loony theatrical stage antics (prom themes, the Roy G. Biv period), now they’re all pristinely clad in white, epitomizing the proverbial blank canvas on which one can project anything and everything under the sun that the mind can conjure and what reflects will be of your own making. So being in the basic surroundings of Spaceland watching Colourmusic press “play’ on their collective music science project left me wide open to experiencing the performance of a band whose MP3’s left me scratching my brain in confusion. I had heard some of their tunes beforehand and my innate and automatic reaction was “What the fuck?”
Colourmusic’s gig is creating music based on Sir Isaac Newton’s theory on color and sound (maybe those college degrees were useful, after all). Now if you, too, are saying, “What the fuck?” according to front man Ryan Hendrix, “That’s the perfect response.” Ahhh, Ryan. A man after my own heart.
Tonight’s show was brought to me by the color orange. “F, Monday, Orange, February, Venus, Lunatic, 1 or 13” is the incomprehensible title of their first full length album and smacks of someone indulging in a little too much peyote but the fruit it bears is fantastic. Think heavily rhythm driven psycho-sing-a-long pop with crushing guitars drowning in lovely distortion. A mere 25 seconds into their monster “Put In A Little Gas” and I’m stomping my feet and paying them a high compliment, as I can hear that dense fuzz and groove that makes me love Black Rebel Motorcycle Club so….only to be completely nonplussed by the mash-up of fake British accents (or real if that’s Nick Turner I’m listening to) and Americana dialect.
I really cannot do this band’s live performance justice via the written word due to the complex yet playful nature of their music which, as whimsical and vibrantly electric as it sounds on record, is a whole other animal when fleshed out in the live; a little salty, dirty, gritty. Front and center is Ryan Hendrix whose vocal man/boy inflection and physical performance art are catalytic energy while his co-conspirator in this ambient madness, Turner gives up a level of wail and crunch with his guitar which assists in taking this weird alt-pop atmosphere from “gimmicky” to serious ear business. Toss in the percussive factor of Colin Fleishacker (bass that kicks every ass in “Yes!”) and Nick Ley (drums) as forceful rhythmic drivers, and the cool weirdness of their palette is complete. Add a little hand clap, charmed harmonies, cowbell and lyrics like “diddley diddley dee”, “hey la la” (not kidding), and the end results in art, color and music scientifically and successfully integrated.
It’s free-spirited, daring, yet intelligent bands like Colourmusic that redeem the overused music genres we call “indie” and “alternative.” And you can hear all the pretty colours without having to take a hit of Ecstasy. Much better for your health that way.
Set List: Rock ‘n’ Roll Polar Bear, You Can Call Me By My Name, Jack and Jill (A Duet), The Gospel Song, Circles, Spring Song, Put In A Little Gas, Dolphins & Unicorns, You For Leaving Me, Yes!
Oh, and when you go to their show (as I know you will), take a moment and say “hi” to Nick the Brit and see if you can slip the “C” word into the conversation. You know, that special for the female anatomy that Americans (especially American women) find so, so rude but the English toss around as easily as “cheers”? He likes that.