On Thursday night, I cruised down to the Red Palace to catch an offbeat show. When I first heard about a self-described “guitar freak-out” psychedelic rock collective from Japan, named Acid Mothers Temple, I knew they’d be up my alley. I love noisy bands that can bring a ton of energy to a venue. I love going to shows that push the boundaries of music, that are truly an experience unlike any other.
A handful of people got that experience at the show, but I felt like I was missing something. It was weird and offbeat, but it wasn’t the transcendent event I hoped it would be. In my head, I imagined a bunch of guys nodding in rhythm, hanging on every note the guitarists would bless us with. The band gave us a few moments like this, but for the most part I just didn’t find them that intriguing.
I enjoyed openers Shilpa Ray a bit more – they were an unusual four-piece, with Shilpa playing harmonium jams while alternating between singing, yelling and growling. Their songs worked well, and I could feel the intensity when the band hit their groove.
Acid Mother’s set started off well; there was a burst of guitar noise, with frantic strumming and notes all over the fretboard. The drummer played something dysrhythmic, such that I could barely tell where the beat was. It was actually challenging to get into – what was going on? How do you rock out to this? But that minute or so of chaos, the band fell into a nice psychedelic groove.
I was pretty pumped for the show at this point – the groove felt good, and I was expecting some more chaos. But the chaos never came – I mean, there was some crazy stuff going on, but nothing ever as jarring as that opening. And the psych groove I was enjoying got stale kind of quickly. After a minute or two of the same plodding riff, I wanted a change.* The lead guitarist played some pretty good ‘noise’ over said riff, but it was just another voice in the mix, rather than jumping out and grabbing your attention. The noise was almost pleasant, as it mixed with the rest of the band without being too abrasive. For a “guitar freak-out” band, I wanted said out-freaking to happen right in front of me, to assault my ears, rather than fade into the background.
I am not sure I understand what Acid Mothers Temple are about, overall. I spent a lot of the show trying to figure out what they ‘meant’ to other people, so that I could try to understand for myself. I mean, there are some people who really get into this band. They have diehard fans who love every minute of the set, who can’t stop dancing. Believe me, I have been this guy at many, many shows. But this time, I didn’t get into the show. There are a ton of elements of music that I find interesting, like dynamic shifts, bursts of energy, and unpredictability in general, that just weren’t there. I was kind of bored with the repetitive riffs throughout most of the show. It didn’t help that the set wasn’t really broken into songs – it was more like one long jam session. I do enjoy shows where I can get lost in my own thoughts, where the repetition pulls me into this hypnotic state where I’m frozen in time. But the band’s combination of guitar noise and psych melodies didn’t get me to that state.
There were some cool moments, sure – especially when they would speed up, or the drummer would play something intense. I still loved the part where the lead guitarist started rubbing his guitar strings against the venue’s air duct. Or when the bassist made guitar melodies...with his mouth! I just wanted more moments like that, where the band really grabbed my attention.
* They revisited this same riff near the end of the set. I thought, whoa, I remember this! Recurring themes, cool! But then I remembered how quickly I got sick this riff, and it wasn’t any better the second time.