A Monday night at the humble Hollow Earth Radio headquarters usually does not betoken an experience of monumental importance, but let the record show that on May 16, 2016, such an occurrence took place. The names of the performers will strike most readers as unfamiliar, but you should make a note to follow their activities. Opener Don Gero is a one-dude band from Portland. I couldn't see his setup, but he played drums with gutsy power and triggered some astounding guitar sounds in a way that recalled the ecstatic noise rock of Oneida. It was the best set I've ever caught by a musician with a manbun.
Nordra (aka Zen Mother guitarist/vocalist Monika Khot)—whose set at Debacle Fest had many declaring it the event's peak, but I sadly missed it—sat on the floor amid many FX pedals and a drum machine while alternately playing guitar and pocket trumpet, à la the god Don Cherry. Her set was purposefully portentous in a non-clichéd industrial manner. Some tracks plowed relentlessly with complex martial rhythms buttressed by engrossingly desolate guitar and trumpet drones. Others wafted like anomic threnodies for this damaged, damned age. This music is the future of pop, right fucking now; you just don't realize it yet.
Bad Luck—saxophonist/loop manipulator Neil Welch and drummer Chris Icasiano—had just blown minds at Debacle Fest on Saturday. Two nights later, they continued their brain-splattering mission with another set of cyclotronic fire music in the vein of John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. Bad Luck chop up time and space into jagged, unpredictable shapes, but sometimes they hit upon a quasi-funk groove that sounds like an asymmetrical avalanche. Most of the time, you have no idea where they're going, but they impel you to follow closely, no matter what. It was so great to see a crowd of young people going nuts to jazz in 2016.
Baltimore-based headliners Horse Lords proved once more that they're one of the greatest live units operating. Supporting their new album on Northern Spy, Interventions, they used minimalist means to maximalist ends. Think Terry Riley's Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band's All Night Flight getting hijacked by Glenn Branca in the Sahara Desert with Group Doueh. Their songs are utterly mantric without being monotonous—whirling-dervish jams that almost spiral out of control. They sound free yet tightly wound. It's a paradoxical creation that sets your synapses ablaze. During the last cowbell-intensive track of the set ("Toward the Omega Point"), one guy held aloft a lighter. We all should have been doing that, all night.