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The Kids Are All Right

The weather of late indicates that Spring is finally making a gesture of commitment to Philadelphia, and with it, my annual resolve is reborn to get the hell out of the house and find things to be excited about. I’ve been both busy and lazy these last couple of months (a paradoxical combination at which I excel), which, along with the temperature, has caused me to miss the first half of this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, countless rock shows, and other local cultural miscellany. I have, as usual, carefully pored over newspapers and web sites and meticulously catalogued dozens of local events of interest in iCal, most of which would ultimately be ignored. But on Saturday night, my momentum lurched forward violently with the help of whatever it is that’s in the water they drink over in Japan.

Melt-Banana, not coincidentally, is a band from Japan, where they have honed a very distinctive noise rock aesthetic that is as informed by the abrasive racket of their countrymen (Ruins, Boredoms) as it is by the blinding speed of thrash punk bands like D.R.I. I had seen Melt-Banana before, and have since remembered the show very fondly, but I was still unprepared for how incredible it was going to be the second time, probably because I forgot that a great show isn’t always just about the band.

Don’t misunderstand me; the performance was mind-bending. Yasuko’s marvelously shrill vocals challenged the strength of the building’s windows. Agata bounced around in a minefield of effects pedals, forcing a barrage of turbulent, unnatural sounds from his guitar. The rhythm section was an amphetamine-laced metronome. And it was all executed at a dangerous volume with unassuming enthusiasm, energy, and effortless precision.

The band’s spectacle would have been enough all by itself, but, as luck would have it, there was more. The venue, for example, was a warehouse space adjunct to the Vox Populi Gallery in Chinatown, offering all the intimacy and DIY charm of a basement punk show while accommodating five times the audience. And the audience, already riled up from the preceding An Albatross, went absolutely apeshit for Melt-Banana. I was among them. In a subculture that so highly prizes irony, seeing kids and would-be adults dancing or otherwise flailing about to live music with genuine fervor is a beautiful thing.

Welcome back, Spring. We’ve got some catching up to do.