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Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Sound of Melting Plastics: Russian Tsarlag

I had no idea who Russian Tsarlag was before attending this show and I had never been to Romeo House before.  I thought I knew where it was, but ended up getting lost and having to ask some guys with a truck full of liquid nitrogen where to go.  I finally got there, but had missed Super Mohawk, a combination of Last Supper (Michael Sibenac) and John Kasunic from Pay the Rent, both of whom were supposed to play separately.


Trogpite started playing soon after I got there.  He seemed very at home in the darkened living room and sang into a microphone housed in a stick and, as always, looked really cool.  Lots of sounds: the chanting of satanic cults, endlessly broken synthesizer loops, cool computer sounds, buzzings of a fly, squeaks from broken doors, watery voices, etc.  Trogpite had some killer backing tracks at this and added his standard moans over top, sometimes echoing into near feedback.  It was awesome.


Jeff Zagers played afterwards, music that sounded like it could come from St. Basil's Cathedral.  He started off with a spooky Trogpite groove, but added metallic synth sounds on top.  His voice was like a controlled krautrock singer's.  There were horns and very gothic songs and more krautrock.  Most of his stuff had a classical European music flavor with hints of middle eastern drones at the sides.  At the end he played a very Kraftwerk-sounding song followed by a doo wop cover(?).  Jeff Zagers keeps it together even when being all over the place.


When Russian Tsarlag was about to play I felt very ill at ease.  It seemed as if anything could and would happen.  We started off watching trailers of horror movies and then the TV changed to present a monologue about Russian Tsarlag presented by himself.  He entered the room in high heels, covered in what appeared to be melted plastic, and wearing a plastic bag for a helmet.  After doing a seemingly choreographed performance with golf clubs to spooky music that started off very dark, but transformed into an Ariel Pink-type of pop song with radio static in the background, Russian Tsarlag removed his "helmet" and spoke.  "You may wanna come in here, have a seat, get comfortable, uh, there's no need to be afraid.  As daunting as things my look this is actually a very flaccid performance you're about to see."  I was still not relieved, but whatever; he must have had a kind of ESP.


The mysterious visitor then told us of how he would present the Americana of Pittsburgh to us for his set and played another demented pop song, "Plastic Shock", a darker song with semi-buried vocals.  He played a frightening a capella version of "Poor Little Fool" by Ricky Nelson with some sort of octave effect and reverb afterward, sounding like a space alien.  Then we watched more TV, perhaps the method that he had studied our culture from his flying saucer (he claims to be from Florida, but who knows).  It wasn't real TV of course, but a tape to which Russian Tsarlag provided humorous comedy.  Bill Stevens, a friend of his with a face like a smashed, flesh-colored, deer skull, appeared and had a weird conversation with him.  The final song of Russian Tsarlag's set was another dark-pop masterpiece, "Down That Road".  Afterwards Russian Tsarlag disappeared into the night and flew away on the wings of a silent craft.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Slices Prom: Let's Get Married!

Slices Prom was May 18th and was the first big show at Caliente.  A lot of people attended due to the City Paper highlighting it as Slices big album release for Still Cruising, an album that had been reviewed in Spin and other national music magazines.  Most people dressed up since it was prom, but it was a little different than any dance at high school.


Fogged Out was playing when I got there.  His set was comprised of the same songs that I've seen him play before.  The fog was so thick that I couldn't get any pictures of really anything.  I could only here the spooky baritone of Mike Kasunic's voice, coated in reverb, over dark beats.  Some of the vocals seemed especially harsh, effects creating an almost death metal growl.  I didn't hear any pseudo rap stuff that he's done before (maybe this never happened, but pretty sure that it did) so it was pretty cool.


Pay the Rent, who I had never seen/heard before was next; the fog continued into their set.  Both members, John and Mike Kasunic, are Slices members and also brothers.  Mike Kasunic was also in Tusk Lord and had just played as Fogged Out.  Pay the Rent was like Fogged Out with guitar and was less poppy and very, very dark.  A lot of it sounded like the Halloween theme with reverb'd Bauhaus guitar over top spooky, chanted vocals.  Some of Pay the Rent's backing tracks were almost like slow dance tracks.  Pretty killer stuff.


Finally Slices was going to play (it wasn't like we hadn't just seen half the band turn into Goths).  The whole room was full and the crowd went crazy moshing and stuff; lots of drinks got spilled, some possibly expensive.  The weird Oscar/theater decorations that decorated the place got smashed up also.  Slices played hard and tight and very together, even more so than usual, though it took them a few minutes to get figured out.  I don't know any of their song titles, but they played lots of stuff they usually play and some new stuff, probably from the new album.  Slices played Highway to Hell to close their set, kind of surprising and atypical.  There was no encore, "We have no more songs.  Thank you."  It ruled.
Buy the LP from Iron Lung
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