I thought I’d preface this recap by letting you know that I’ve recently been inundated by a certain musical-consumption plateau known as expectation.
Burglar Fucker met my expectations. When I saw a drum set forgoing the stage for the crowd-floor, a bass cab directly facing the audience, and an electronic rig that features, at its helm, a miniscule Theremin, I thought sloppy. I thought loud. I thought attempts at experimenting that would probably be somewhat interesting but not really cause for contemplation. And that’s what I got.
Anthony Petrovic, self-proclaimed “baritone guitar attempt and vomit,” plugged up his Danelectro into that bass cab and proceeded to wail some simple drop-tuned chords—the kind where he only had to put his index down to get the jettisoned-via-distortion sound-fill he desired.
His real talent was finding a way to create stage presence while not on stage. Disappearing from the crowd for a good minute in an alcove, pulling his guitar around the semi-circle that had been formed around him, and screaming some reverbed-to-oblivion lyrical ideas that may or may not have been comprised of logical dialogue, he pushed to the audience the weird and blown-out punk-meets-stoner-metal they were expecting.
I couldn’t gauge if the audience really cared or not, nor could I decide if the electronics guy was really adding anything concrete to the music, or just fucking with it cause he could. He deep throated that Theremin, so I’m assuming the latter.
After a fairly-standard break, Whatever Brains started off their set with a half-sung scream that wavered in and out of tune. Actually, it may have not had a tune at all. It was setting me up for an expectedly similar experience to Burglar Fucker, where everything would fit into a homely little alcove of booming punk and garage. And the set did start out as a sort of homage to aggressive, bar rock, affirming my personal sentiment all-the-more.
But by the second-or-third song, the lead singer had popped the cable out of his hissy P-90-fitted Strat (interestingly, an entry-level Squier) and into some sort of synth-box from the Technological Hell of Unmarked Knobs and Switches. What came out was a gritty and uncomfortable sense of spastic movement that was amazing well-developed and seemed sincere.
And not what I was expecting.
A short-while later, the band played a slew of songs fitted with instrumentation that could have fit right in with the best of Shellac or Don Caballero.
My expectations were gone.
Directly after the mathy rhythm-based songs, the band went into a psychedelic lunge for what seemed like a solid 10 minutes.
My expectations had pulled in on themselves, forming some sort of geometric pattern that was both laughable and depressing. Kind of like this.
In a nutshell, Whatever Brains was aggressive and noisy, but also tight and focused—interested in trying new things, but also desiring to revel with some of their obviously-revered influences.
I would like to think the audience felt as confused and appreciative as I was. In what may be one of the weirdest displays of affection ever, the crowd started throwing empty cans of beer on to the stage, hitting the band’s front man who had just walked out announcing an encore.
(I don’t want to weigh out the possibly this display could have been fueled by drunkenness or participation in some inside joke unbeknownst to myself. I could be pulling the whole atypical homage thing out of my ass to prove a point, just wanted throw that out there.)
With what was quite the risk, the set ended with an impressively-cohesive piece that incorporated the various styles they had taken on throughout their time on stage, ending in a slide-equipped riff that was elongated and weird, yet surprisingly conclusive.
Whenever you get to see Whatever Brains in the future, check your expectations at the door. Even if it seems like nothing can really be unexpected.