Friday, August 07, 2009

Oko Yono, Treetarantula, Arbitron, and AFCGT: The Joy of Bleeding Eardrums at the Comet Tavern

I heart Capitol Hill.

It's one of the few parts of Seattle that's largely resisted homogenization and maintained its off-kilter and funky vibe. A surging mass of hipsters, summer-vacationing college kids, and vagrants pepper its streets and alleyways this time of year: Neighborhood streets practically hop with all the energy, and the Comet Tavern couldn't be plopped into a more ideal area.

Graffiti-encrusted and beer-spattered, the Comet's the antithesis of the blandly-fancy-pants watering holes that inundate most Emerald City neighborhoods. It also merits Northwest institution status, having hosted dozens of bands at its current location for over twenty years. It's a great, sweaty, wonderfully distinctive place to see bands you've never heard of, playing their guts out. Which is what I did on Thursday, August 6.

Oko Yono, Treetarantula, Arbitron, and AFCGT played the Comet that night, none of whom I'd heard of prior to stumbling into the dilapidated tavern and all of whom made me really damned happy. All four bands were cut from the same general sonic cloth, pounding out some ungodly, largely instrumental guitar/bass/drum-anchored noise that referenced Northwest instrumental combos like Earth and Kinski, thickly layered with avant-garde noise along the lines of Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth in their less-accessible moments. It’s a defiantly uncommercial sound born from a serious love of Loud; Not the kind of assault I’d plug into every day of the year, but as immensely satisfying as a slug of homebrewed moonshine if you’re in the right mood.

Oko Yono served up early Sabbath as part of their sludge soup; Treetarantula worked a more psychedelic side of the street; Arbitron kicked up an industrial punk-tinged variation; and AFCGT ladled elements of prog-rock and thick funk in. But for every outfit maximum volume, caveman drum pounding, and guitars yowling like packs of grizzlies presided.
Seeing these guys do exactly what they wanted to do—despite its current un-hipness, to a small-but-totally stoked crowd on a proverbial school day—inspired this jaded old warhorse beyond measure. The joy of being there rubbed off on some of the other patronage, too: In one wonderfully surreal moment, a pool-playing customer threw down a rambling stream-of-consciousness rap during AFCGT's set, straight out of nowhere and much to the band's amusement.

My earplugs did bupkis to shield my ears from the din, and despite my best efforts a lot of the photos I shot looked, well, nuts; as though the heavy volume and thundering energy had my camera crying uncle, too. Somehow, it all fit. Thanks for making my Thursday, gents.

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