October 6, 2009

Live Review: Heart Shaped Hate // Lord of the Yum Yum // Aleks and the Drummer // Brilliant Pebbles

Subterranean // Chicago, IL // Sept. 26, 2009

Avant-garde lineups have a tendency to plummet so far into the depths of the absurd that they lose any sort of affect and blunder off into irrelevance. Thankfully, this show ventured into the avant-garde realm and came out the other side with a wide range of resonance, entertainment and overall awesomeness. It's not easy to round up four different acts that bend genre in such distinct manners for one evening. Mad props, booking department.

Heart Shaped Hate held nothing back, blasting off the night with a hard and fast electropunk. It is possible that no two women have made more noise – in a Hannah Montana minidress, main vocalist Natali pounded away on synth while yelping and growling with impressive range. Drummer Jenna managed to spit out vocals as well, while jackhammering at the kit.

Descending from the stage's spiral staircase in disguise, the Lord of the Yum Yum introduced himself as his own roadie, played a song on a cardboard "guitar," and then hid beneath a red curtain only to reemerge as "himself." I had seen the good Lord perform at a silent film showing at the University of Chicago, but here he allowed himself to expand his act, which straddles the line between music and performance art. Aided only by a sampler (foot-operated) and a few microphones, Yum Yum built layer upon layer of sound in bizarre and hilarious compositions, all the while jittering around the stage and the audience. He finished with an impressively complex rendition of "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen, interspersed with a reenactment of a childhood field trip to the aquarium, in which an encounter with the shark-feeding diver turned quickly macabre.

Aleks and the Drummer

Aleks and the Drummer – comprising, quite literally, only Aleks Andra Tomaszewska on keyboards and vocals and Deric Criss on drums – drew the evening deeply into the ethereal. Tomaszewska demonstrated some of the most adept vocalization I've ever witnessed on the scene. Her classically styled alto arced over fast beats and synth that approached the resonance of a cathedral organ. If heaven had dance clubs, these two would headline. You'd be hard-pressed to find an act more haunting, bizarre and startlingly gorgeous all at once.

Brilliant Pebbles

Armed with similarly Polish frontwoman Monika Bukowska – cousin to Tomaszewska, in fact – Brilliant Pebbles exploded onstage in an onslaught of glitter, sequins and absurdity. Bukowska sadly lost her strobe light ring in the midst of dancing about the stage, but the band never lost momentum. With glam-rock performance sensibilities, they performed genre-queer tracks off their just-released first record. In celebration of the release, they gifted their audience with Beanie Babies and ball-pit balls, tossed into the air like confetti. It seems in many ways Brilliant Pebbles has perfected absurdity. Not the alienating kind, but rather a colorful, danceable, euphoric absurdity – absurdity with blue eyeliner and mouse ears.

-Review and photos by Sasha Geffen

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