Grrragh!

I’ve been so busy I’ve not had the opportunity to mention that I got to see Cinerama the other night. Two bands opened for them: Ballboy and VHS or Beta. Ballboy were decent–a mix of Wedding Present-lite and Pulp. They seemed all the more charming because the lead singer had the cutest little emmmmm-bra lilt to his voice and he told a lot of apparently amusing (yet to me unintelligible) anecdotes between songs.

Before I get into the Pain Known as VHS or Beta, let me say that Cinerama was very good. David Gedge seemed a bit discouraged at the audience’s reception, which may have been a bit lukewarm, though the show was, I believe, sold out. Still, he played well, scanning the audience with those sad puppy dog eyes of his and gesturing dramatically as he sang. They did a couple Wedding Present songs–Corduroy, Brassneck–but nothing much older than that. I’d have loved to hear My Favorite Dress. *sniff* His demeanor, while a bit standoffish, was also funny and self-deprecating at the same time. He played a brand new song called “It’s Not You, It’s Me.” (“A bit of a cliche,” he acknowledged,”but also quite Gedgian, no?”) He rebuffed all requests, told us all he loved us all very much, and emphasized that they’d not be doing any encores. All in all, it was totally worth not getting to bed until 1:30.

But let’s get back to VHS or Beta. I’d never heard of them before. Apparently they’re some sort of live disco/electronica outfit from Louisville. They took forever to set up. First they had to drag out a 5000-lb computer keyboard thingy. Then they brought out 600 or so cords for their instruments. Then the drummer set up his drum kit as though he were wiring a bomb. Then they all walked offstage and apparently discussed at great length what they were going to wear. 15 minutes later, they returned. Black t-shirts! Eureka!

Then they began to play. The audience had a collective bemused expression. 200 or so eyebrows furrowed as VHS or Beta played the same 3 chords. For 20 minutes. And at first, it was funny. We all exchanged incredulous looks, rolled our eyes, laughed out loud in wide-eyed amazement. “Are we in a Mitsubishi commercial?” “I think this is a Kenny G cover.” “I think the band’s name is Godspeed You, Kenny G!”

The guitarist played a chord and pointed at a member of the audience. That’s for you, babe.

But you know, after 20 minutes, you start running out of jokes. And it’s not funny anymore, just downright agonizing.

But we’d be damned if we would give up the floorspace we’d staked out by retreating to the bar. So we stayed. And then the guitarist began singing into the microphone. With a vocoder. We were momentarily mirthful again. “I think their album is called VHS or Beta Comes Alive!”

A while later (continents drifted…empires were built and destroyed…the planets aligned and realigned) they stopped playing. And we breathed a sigh of relief. But then they announced:

“OK, we’ve got two more songs for you!”

In my confusion, I thought They couldn’t be serious. They must be in on their own joke.

But no. They *did* play 2 more songs. More vocoder, more wah-wah, more computerized handclaps, more deedle-deedle-dee guitar chords. And then they stopped. And people, somewhere, applauded, mostly to express their gratitude that it was over. We all looked around at each other, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Did we really just hear that?

Epilogue: If the audience seemed lukewarm to Cinerama, it might have been due in part to being totally stunned after the 45 minutes of musical abortion. Most of us just wanted to crawl into our subconscious bivouacs and cry for our mommies.

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