Thursday, October 18, 2012

Live: Godspeed You! Black Empeor/David Dondero @ The Mohawk 10/10/12

I should not have seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Rather, I don't think I deserved to be at their show. I say this because, while I am very, very aware of the legendary mythology of GY!BE, until this show I had yet exposed myself to their (alleged) glory. So standing around before they come on, surrounded by people with more than a few decades on me, and others saying "I can't believe I get to see Godspeed before I die", more than once the thought "What am I even doing here?" entered my mind. Then Godspeed You! Black Emperor started playing and words immediately started to fail me. But before they went on...

David Dondero

...David Dondero opened up the show. I think several people were wondering why this unknown folk singer was choose to open for Godspeed You! Black Emperor's. No one more so than Dondero himself, who was visibly nervous on stage and had to back track on more than one song due to messing up a part. Later in his set he confessed that he usually only plays to about 30 people at his show, rather than the hundreds that had gathered at The Mohawk. However, Dondero persisted through his relatively short set, churning out politically lyrical songs that came across as Conor Oberst meets Daniel Johnston, with various lines getting shouts of approval from the crowd. By the end of Dondero's set, it somehow made much more sense why GY!BE had chosen him to come along with them on tour; the anguish and hope he channeled through his songs, while utterly different than the way GY!BE does it, are still the same emotions GY!BE express in their songs as well.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Do you want to know why people freak out and use almost pure hyperbole when describing Godspeed You! Black Emperor, especially live? Because truly, seeing them live is pretty much like nothing you've ever seen. It's quiet and dark as members slip on stage. They begin playing their instruments, and you can't tell if they are just tuning or actually starting. Then the violinist's notes start to build ever so slightly until you realize it is the beginning of the song, as quiet guitars are layered on, and sonic manipulation comes into play. Blurry images begin to project behind/on the band from the four actual film projectors the band has stationed above, which intensify the atmosphere even more. And the band builds more and more, ever so gradually, before you realize the band is unfolding a song right before your eyes.

Keep in mind this was just for the opening song of the set, one of the quietest of night as well. The band picked up immensely from there, morphing from crafting discordant, atmospheric sound to using a hammer dulcimer to signal a switch to something much heavier. The drums started pounding, the guitar work layering to higher degrees of intensity, the film projects becoming much more disconcerting and paranoid. The band's sounds just engulfed the entire venue, a barrage of suits of quite lulls to skull splitting intensity amplified by the powerful images projected in front of you. And the band was able to hold this degree of intensity, power, and strange beauty through their hour and half long set. The only break was a near silent 10 minute piece near the end that nearly crushed what the band had been building the entire night, but the band came back, launching into another beautifully painful song/movement. By the time the band finished, I doubt their was a single person who saw them who was unsatisfied, but that did not stop some from attempting to pull an encore from the band, as lead by a insanely/wonderfully passionate fan screaming "Don't you want more?! Well then come on!" from the balcony. Then, in the first traditional act from the band, which wound up being completely unconventional because of everything just seen, the band came back and performed one last song. And it, much like everything else that night, was absolutely mind blowing.


  1. Hey Dondero might not be as unknown as one thinks. In the early days of Bright Eyes Oberst named a band called Sunbrain as a major influence...and it just so happens that Dondero fronted that band. Fun fact :)

  2. Huh, I have never heard of Sunbrain but I will check them out now. Good to know I got the Oberst comparison right though.

  3. sometimes us old guys know a thing or two.