100 Shows of 2010 - #56: A Place To Bury Strangers @ Rittenhouse Square, 8/25/10

I went to Philly’s Rittenhouse Square expecting nothing more than my second fantastic A Place To Bury Strangers gig. I left town a little shorter of hearing and pretty convinced that I’d just experienced the best gig of the year thus far (and that’s even taking into account the small group of juvenile delinquents intent on moshing). But those three boys of APTBS seemed hell-bent for leather on making this one seriously killer show, and succeed they did.

MINI RECAP: A Place To Bury Strangers = Deafeningly Diabolical! Overall score: A+.

Sure, driving to Philly the night before one has to be at work around 7:30 in the morning might, on the surface, seem like not such a good idea. But missing A Place To Bury Strangers for the second time this year was too unacceptable a notion for me, so up to Philadelphialand went I, with my bestie Laura, my most favorite of show companions. We strolled to the park and nabbed spots right near the stage in the middle of the greenery just in time, as the band was already setting up and testing the sonic barriers of the Square. Initially I wasn’t sure how the chaotic, intense sound of APTBS would translate to the open air, but when it was all said and done I felt silly for ever questioning.

I’m pretty sure this band could sound amazing just about anywhere you asked them to play. Taking the stage right as the sun had said farewell for the night, the trio pounced on their instruments and proceeded to tear their set apart for nearly an hour. It was a riotous set, nearly sixty minutes of blistering, beautiful aural ferocity. Think this band is fierce on record? You ain’t heard nothin’, my friends, til you’ve seen ‘em live. It was raw and powerful and violent and absolutely breathtaking. They chose four of my favorite songs from their gorgeous, must-own record Exploding Head (“I Lived My Life to Stand in The Shadow of Your Heart”, “In Your Heart”, “Deadbeat”, and my uberfave “Ego Death”), along with a bevy of first album tracks to boot. Each and every song was given the same careful attention to destruction, the band seemingly overtaken with a maniacal force driving them every onwards in their demolition. Every stake was raised, and they all delivered time and time again.

Singer and guitarist (and Virginia boy) Oliver Ackermann was particularly possessed, at times prone to a slightly deranged glint in his eyes just before he launched into a thrashing near-ruination of his guitar. Jerking around the stage almost as if in fits, he and his compatriots blew me away minute after minute. To quote a friend of mine, it was as if they had bellies full of hell. The guitar was searing, the vocals sneered menacingly, the bass inspired with its brutality, and the drums pounded without mercy. This was a band on the edge, and it was magnificent.

It all ended with a nearly incomprehensible wall of noise, as the boys turned things up to 11 and made with the never-ending waves of distortion that barraged the crowd for quite a while. I made the mistake of de-ear plugging a little too soon, and a few days later my hearing is still not quite right. The one real fly in the ointment? The smoke, which had been so effective when I had seen the band many moons ago at DC9, didn’t quite work as well in the great urban outdoors. But when a lackluster smoke machine is the biggest issue, you know it’s been a goddam good set. I felt the earth literally move more than once, and that can’t all be chalked up to my spot right near one of the speakers.

I’ve never been so happy to be experiencing some hearing loss. Ok, so there’s a few more months left in 2010, and plenty more shows where this one came from. But as of right now, this is it, folks. Show of the year thus far. No doubt about it.

mp3: Ego Death (A Place To Bury Strangers from Exploding Head)


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