Tobacco at Wonder Ballroom 10/8/2016

| Monday, October 17, 2016

I bought tickets for this in May back when I was still buying tickets in pairs. I didn't know back then I'd break up with everybody. It's always a risk you take, and I knew it was a risk back then too, but I did it anyway. I didn't manage to sell or give away my extra ticket, but that's okay. It's only the second show that that's happened with.

I rushed to the show from a bachelorette party I didn't get to stay the whole time for. I made it for roller skating, which I was surprised I wasn't terrible at, and had to leave after an hour ish. I'd also locked my roommate out of the apartment, so I was rushing to get to the show by 9 but also being rushed by my possibly slightly drunk roommate via 5 phone calls during the 15 minute drive from the roller rink to the concert venue at which he waited after Lyfting there to get my house key.

But I made it. The opening act started shortly after I got there. Odonis Odonis is an industrial 3-piece band from Toronto. I didn't look up the openers to this show before I got there so I was in blind. I dug the darkwavey synth leads and the big sound they had, but not as much the vocals, which came in fuzzy distorted but maybe not distorted enough yelps and shouts. And it was LOUD. I didn't want to blow my ears out on the first band, so I went downstairs for a PBR and sandwich order and put my earplugs in, went back up, stood near front and center, and listened. I kept making eye contact with the frontman but that's probably because of where I was standing and also he probably couldn't see a thing. There were so few people at the show so far, like 10% capacity, I got a bit worried. I knew the show wasn't sold out (which is why I couldn't sell mine) but was it that bad? Tobacco on a Saturday night? Sometimes I forget that Tobacco isn't as popular as I think he should be. I had some other thoughts, about music in general, gazing into the lights. I remember thinking how profound they were and how I should write about it. I wished I could record my super real thoughts without having to write it in language. I forgot what the profound thoughts were. I stuck around for four songs and then I went down to check on my sandwich.

My sandwich wasn't ready. I didn't feel like putting my earplugs back in and going back upstairs to bop awkwardly in a politely dancing audience, so I sat at a table that a couple was sitting at, and drank my piss beer. My grilled cheese finally arrived, and the couple left. I didn't say a word to them, even when the boyfriend was off getting drinks and she was sitting alone avoiding eye contact with everyone. If I had come with a date, that would be me. There were beautiful people all around us. There was a tall person with a natural blond mohawk wearing a long purple velvet sleeveless jacket with gold sparkle tights and a mona lisa makeup job. I wanted to tell them they were fantastic and beautiful. I did not, because I am shy. I texted my coworker who was celebrating his birthday at the concert today to see where to meet up.

Then a woman asked where I got my sandwich. I took this opportunity to offer half of my sandwich to her. There was a nice symmetry in this, as last time I was at this venue (for AlunaGeorge!) my date and I sat down and a girl eating her sandwich gave us the other half. We felt bad we didn't talk to her, as it seemed like she was alone. She did go up and dance drunkenly on stage with Kari Faux though, so we think she was having a good time anyway. (Kari Faux was a fabulously fun opening act! she had delightfully positive energy that rivaled the headliner). But yeah here I was this time, and I paid it forward to someone who was also solo (or so it seemed). She sat with me and we chatted. It turned out we were both recently broken up from 4-year relationships, and we both had the same color hair (teal). She was so friendly and offered to let me hang out with her and her concert buddies for the evening!

We went upstairs and caught some of High Tides's bit, the sub-headliner. It was some sort of mix set. Again I didn't research them at all. I dug it, and I dug the soft retro/trippy visuals. My immediate reaction was that it sounded like Black Moth Super Rainbow, so it was a good choice to pair them with Tobacco, I guess? Then they played an actual BMSR track mixed into their set, which was confusing. I walked around and found my coworker buddies and yelled into their ears for conversation. I was in a chipper mood because meeting people is fun. They were standing in the back for some reason so I went up to the front and stood with sandwich buddy & co. I basically chatted the whole time High Tides was up. I'm not used to doing that at shows. I'm not usually that guy. I'm sure I'll check them out because they sounded good; maybe I'll smack myself later when I realize I love them and would have loved to actually pay attention to their performance.

I chatted some more with people, but I made sure to go up as far front as I could get to wait for Tobacco to come on. I was alone, and that's ok, since I can move around the crowd easier. There was some interesting wait music--Diplo's Express yourself, Missy Elliott's WTF, and to my bewildered delight Aphex Twin's Windowlicker.

Windowlicker playing right before Tobacco came on, it was unreal and perfect.

A video posted by Nagisa Day (@nagisaday) on

They did a little sound check during that, and hearing some of those Tobaccy fuzzy sounds got me super hyped, and any anxiety I had about being alone that night melted off. Then Windowlicker faded out and Tobacco came on.

It started with Human Om, which felt very natural. I'd noted before that there was a gong onstage, which was whatever, but they projected on it like it was a small circular screen! It was pretty great. Some of the songs do have gong sounds, so that part was live, and we got to watch black-masked BMSR drummer guy hit the projected dude in the face for those crash sounds. Lick the Witch. So good, so yes. Fantasy Trash Wave was after that, another favorite from their newest album, and it made me feel unexpectedly tear-in-my-eye emotional, but I was having a great time. Video Warning Attempts. A weirdly dumbed down version of Streaker. I noticed during BMSR's live show that I went to a couple years back, that some of the hard-hitting popular songs sounded kind of light and washed over. So I guess that's a Tobacco thing? Stretch Your Face, as featured on Silicon Valley, so it got some of the non-dancers moving. Constellation Dirtbike Head. Dipsmack, an underrated track I'm glad he played. Some tracks I didn't recognize because maybe they're new or they're from Allegheny White Fish Tapes. I've listened to all their other albums.

Encore, got invited to stand closer to front, which was a first. This chick just turned around and motioned to me and a guy next to me, to get in front of her to the space there. Maybe she wanted some buffer between her and the sickbros that had just pushed through to that space as well. The sickbros did their enthusiastic sickbro dancing, their gross sweaty bodies bumping into me constantly. Normally I might be irate, but I had already accepted that this would happen simply because it was a Tobacco show, and was in fact disappointed that there hadn't been more of this. During this I was trying to identify where this energy came from--the energy these bros were running on and emitting, the energy I absorbed and reflected myself. I thought about whether Tobacco was "sexual"... if so it's sexual in a really base, gross way, it's not sexual like R&B. R&B is romantic, Tobacco is not. It's more like your own fucked up undefinable sexuality, or ideas of it like objectification and sexualization. Like I heard they've shown weird dinosaur cosplay porn projected at their show before. I can't even explain it. This music and aesthetic is sexual in a totally different sense. These thoughts drained away as I was thinking way too hard about it and continued bouncing in the crowd. Maybe, in general, I'm drawn to this shit because it's so weird that it makes me feel normal. That's a common story. People find their freak home somewhere. My home is this ephemeral feeling I get in the midst of all of that orgasmic ear-beating. This is my particular flavor of weird.

There were lots of people standing up front not dancing. Maybe it's because Tobacco's general audience is 1) shy introverts that don't dance and 2) sickbros, and I'm kinda in the middle where I'm an awkward introvert that absolutely wants to get pushed around and soak in the energy in this gross thing. I was a bit let down that I wasn't around people as excited as I was until the encore. But that was home.

Encore songs: The encore started with an unfortunately dumbed down version of Gods In Heat. A bro was like "I told you!" to his bro when it first started up. But then it was a little disappointing. Father Sister Berzerker came on after that, which took me a minute to realize they weren't playing this a second time--I'd confused this with another popular track they played before, I think Side 8 Big Gums? which would mean that they did indeed play a track from Fucked Up Friends?! Good. I felt kinda dumb that I didn't identify it correctly the first time for as much as I love Tobacco. But I was relieved that Tobacco wasn't just playing Father Sister Berzerker twice to troll us being like "yeah we know this is your favorite song because Silicon Valley, you basics". Since that's what was crossing my mind as I half not-danced as it started. Then I think there was another song. And the encore was over. I really wanted more. I was not ready for it to be over. It felt like a really short set.

Regardless, I was feeling exhilarated. I found sandwich group standing several feet back as the crowd dispersed, and we excitedly discussed what we'd just experienced. One of the guys said, gazing at the remaining crowd, "It's always a bad sign when people dance more to the exit music than to the actual show". I looked and there were definitely some drunk people dancing to the tired 80's pop that had come on. I voiced my disbelief in the non-dancers, and he nodded and said, "Welcome to Portland." I grew up around here though! Is it the townies? is it the transplants? is it the I-only-came-because-its-Saturday-night weekend crowd? is it just Tobacco's fanbase like I'd considered earlier? This guy I was talking to is black and gay and I can't help but recall my last blog post about the Le1f show whose tiny crowd let me down.

I hovered around the merch table. Seven Fields of Aphelion was running the table for Tobacco! I'd identified her and other BMSR people helping out on stage. I waited til a lot of the buyers had bought so I felt less rushed, and I gave her my "I love your work and it makes me love ambient music" statement and asked if she was releasing more. She said it should be out February! And I said I tried to buy her CD once, and couldn't because it was sold out on her site, and she pointed out that she was selling a few on that very table. Both such lovely surprises! I bought her Periphery CD, and I bought Tobacco's Ultima II Massage CD. Both are in my car now. I sat in my car to revel in how awesome everything is. I played Periphery on the ride back. I love everything.