EMP, 367-5483, Fri Feb 16, 8:30 pm.
Hovercraft, a Seattle band that hasn't played Seattle since early last year, is putting on a show at the EMP, which means the band gets giant screens. In a standard rock venue, the media-enhanced instrumental trio just throws a big sheet up there behind them to catch the barrage of visual imagery that accompanies its shows. But this time Hovercraft gets to flood Sky Church's gargantuan video wall; and if you haven't seen a Hovercraft show before, the fact of the screens is a big deal.
A drummer, a bassist, and a guitar player arrive on stage, stand before the screen, and whip up a single-threaded instrumental soundtrack that runs the course of an entire set. It's very dramatic. The piece is loosely improvised, but rehearsed, and synchronically tied to visual cues within the film so that when the imagery intensifies, the music swells, and conversely, if the film's tone cools, the music slows, to meditate and meander. In essence, the band is playing off an outline or diagram, but allowing the visceral experience of the performance (the audience reaction, the feel of the venue, etc.) to propel whatever sonic bends and embellishments the band deems available or possible within a given moment. The film consists of stock real-life footage, lending the band's recontextualization of the imagery a compelling deviance.
According to guitarist Ryan Shinn, formerly known as Campbell2000 (and currently known as just Campbell, for obvious reasons), the band will be introducing no new music, though some of the film footage has changed. But the visual experience is what has always made Hovercraft remarkable, and within that allure, venue is important. The Sky Church should be perfect. Expect a noisy, post-punk storm and stress, something like Sonic Youth meets Melvins, with no vocals. Expect three shadowy rock instrumentalists to stand before a barrage of confusing imagery, rendering a single, extended film score that is at once haunting and annihilative, as surreal clouds of projected moving images pass quickly over their backlit silhouettes.