What is Music? Onathon @ Forum, 5/3/05

It’s a funny thing, that you can usually tell what kind of music you’re about to listen to by the way people are dressed. Not to generalise, but there are some things that will never escape a culture. Hip-hop kids have their low slouched jeans and hoodies. Metal kids generally wear anything black and tight, and if you go to a blues-roots concert, your bound to get whip lashed by a dread or two. Tonight’s What is Music? Onathon was no exception. An older, trendier, artier crowd amassed (or should I say trickled) into the always beautiful Forum, for a night of obscure beats, dazzling visuals and intrepidly bizarre costumes.

When I say trickled, I say that as an understatement. The Forum was virtually empty. Promoters could have easily run the event at a more suitably intimate venue such as the Corner Hotel and Hi-Fi Bar (where the other shows were on) or at the very least combined both Friday and Saturday nights, as a lack of punters meant that most of the music was swallowed up in the acoustics of such a large venue. Other factors could have contributed, but in hindsight, it meant that punters who were there, could get up close and personal with the musicians.

With that said, I arrived quite late, in time to catch the last few songs of Chicks on Speed. Looking like the Supremes on acid,  and dancing around like a bunch of trashy space monkeys on a meth binge, they had a small but dedicated group on fans dancing and getting involved with some of the antics on stage. Cos injected a lot of confidence, colour and fun into their set, something that is sorely needed in a lot of today’s acts. The set ranged from quirky electro pop to screechy high pitched, but never failed to please using a lot of props from sticky taped to mesh, to mops and brooms. But I think, had the venue been smaller their set would have been more enjoyable.

The Residents, however, had no problems utilizing the entire stage. Covering it with movable glowing, cylinder-lamp shaped structures, of which they projected lights and videos. The Residents remain a riddle of Sphinx-like proportions, and this night was no exception. The band came on stage with the standard eyeball head piece and draped in what looked to be a very long Hawaiian hoola skirt made up of mop curls. The two singers wore masks that looked like Gonzo the Muppet had been dipped in sulphuric acid. Of course, all this was reflected in their music which oscillated between the ludicrously absurd, to moments of pure gorgeous ambience. The more I watched, the more it reminded me of a Shakespearean play or Greek tragedy, than a standard set of unrelated songs. It was a surreal yet directly delivered work, lovingly human as it was comic with profound experience simply expressed, and I think most people would agree with that.

The last band to come on were Sun O))), which I think was a fitting end to a very interesting selection of music. Coming on stage clothed head to toe in tunics, the stage was decked out with, at least, seven double stacked amplifiers. Two guitarists played feedback, while another two twiddled knobs which created trance like soundscapes intending to massage the listener into defecation. After standing there for at least twenty minutes, I felt the force of the low vibrations, which cleared my head and tingled my senses, but I assure you, did not achieve the ultimate goal of defecation. But nonetheless, was a fitting end to a musical experience I was glad to be a part of.