Psychic, powerless, another man’s sac: Butthole Surfers at the Wilma

Butthole Surfers at Manchester in July 2008

I’m so glad I didn’t bring a date to Butthole Surfers. It’s not that I didn’t have a weirdo fantastic time. I did. It’s that while I had this fantastic time, I also watched pretty much continuous video of people’s faces exploding. Butthole Surfers performed a loud, tight set of their weirder jams in front of a 20-foot projection screen last night, and they did everything on purpose. You could tell because the video was admirably synched—even when it was video of, say, a screaming Japanese woman getting her limbs pulled off and therefore gaining the ability to fly, or Scanners. It was gross and then it was interesting and then it was really gross in a way that became hypnotic. Once again, Butthole Surfers made me like them by doing stuff to me that I didn’t like.

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I got bored when I didn’t have a band: The Hold Steady in Bozeman, MT

The Hold Steady-CBGB

See how you're looking at the camera instead of at the band? That's why you don't have a boyfriend.

Liking The Hold Steady is not going to get you laid. All the indie vampires consider them passé or, worse, a novelty band, and girls in Kings of Leon hoodies have not heard of them. You can put on “The Swish” at a party, but someone will hit skip when it becomes evident that it doesn’t have a chorus, at which point two dudes in the corner will go “Aww!” They will be the oldest guys at the party. The Hold Steady is late-twenties music, about weird keggers and not going to certain clubs anymore and the uncertainty that starts to creep into a life spent listening to bands like The Hold Steady. It is for people who have already been through a Xanax thing. It is for guys who know where to get High Life in cans and will bring the High Life in cans to your party and drink it on the porch while wearing metal shirts, despite the fact that they are totally like 30. In other words, The Hold Steady is for people who have not yet given up on life. They’re for people who like rock, not because it’s cool—since it really isn’t anymore, given how old it is and how old we are—but because it rocks. Last night they brought their yelling, guitar soloing, whoa-ing show to The Filling Station in Bozeman, Montana, and 50 college kids came out to see them, plus 300 people who were suspiciously old to be drinking on a Tuesday night.

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And we do these things in unison: Los Campesinos! at 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

The camera phone was actually the only thing not moving,

The camera phone was actually the only thing not moving.

The Cure and I are crappy old people, so we arrived at the 9:30 Club in a cab, which dropped us at the curb next to a cluster of sad, hopeful-looking girls in pre-owned dresses. They watched the entry line in wan silence, crossing and re-crossing their arms and generally looking like recently fired librarians. A man with a clipboard came out to talk to them, apologized, and went back inside. A few minutes later they marched in, with an air of profound determination.

“Were those Los Campesinos! groupies?” I said.

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