Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mogwai - Live Review (sort of) on Pitchfork

Well Pitchfork just put up a story about Mogwai playing live, although the story itself is more about growing up and on:

Live: Mogwai
Cat's Cradle, Carrboro NC: 8 March 2006
Story by Brian Howe

As I entered the Cat's Cradle to the strains of Growing's scraping racket, I fingered the small plastic packets in my shoulder bag with a little anxiety. It was to be a night of firsts. I'm an "I'll try anything a hundred times" sort of person, but somehow, in all my 26 years, there were at least two things I hadn't tried even once. One was seeing Mogwai perform live. The other was wearing earplugs at a show. Stupid, I know, but inseparable from my personal imperative to favor the primacy of the moment over the abstraction of the future.

As Growing finished and Mogwai's laptops, keyboards, and guitars began to be assembled onstage, it was obvious that the first item would soon be checked off of my lifelong to-do list. The jury was still out on the latter. Having heard many accounts of Mogwai's deafening live volume, and in the interest of making a small concession to adulthood's sustainable lifestyle, I dug deep into my desk and found them-- two keychains, PR swag from a random record label; cylinders containing one set of pink foam earplugs apiece, one for me and one for my date. It wasn't exactly buying a station wagon or starting a 401K, but I couldn't help feeling as if wearing those foam plugs was another incremental step away from the idealism of youth toward a humbler, more realistic relationship with entropy and mortality.

Mogwai's been around for long enough (and has wielded enough influence over post-rock's development) to be unquestioningly venerated by their fans, represented at the show by a legion of quiet, politely scruffy-looking boys-- a motley company of indie-hippies-- only a few of whom felt repeatedly compelled to shout earnest yet idiotic stuff about Scotland. I spent the course of the first several songs bracing myself for a long build toward cacophony that wouldn't arrive until about halfway through the show, and even then, arrived mildly. Drawing heavily from the concise compositions of Mr. Beast, Mogwai's set was more stately than ferocious, more starry than fiery; the songs that did strive toward dissonant incandescence erupted in fountains of sparks instead of earsplitting explosions. Serene, simple guitar and piano phrases shuffled laconically amid lustrous textural swirls; gently abrasive grains threaded through placidly pretty ones; the audience dutifully applauded the less-than-vertiginous peaks and reverently rode the hypnotic sloughs. My enjoyment of the set's beauty was tinged with a minor ennui. It occurred to me that I should have gotten stoned.

Stuart Braithwaite announced that it was a band member's 30th birthday, and that Mogwai were "thinking about his birthday with every note we play." And I wondered: What exactly were they thinking about? Were these thoughts celebratory in tenor, or elegiac? Both? Was there any confluence between someone in one of the loudest bands in the world turning 30 and the mannered restraint of the set? Needless to say, my earplugs remain hermetically sealed in their plastic packets. While their day is fast approaching, I've managed to stave it off for a little while longer, and I'm grateful to Mogwai for growing up a little so that I didn't have to quite yet.


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