Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Sonic Mastery of Zen Guerrilla

I don't remember most of the specific details for the show where I saw Zen Guerrilla the first time. They were probably playing with Cash Money (later Cash Audio) and maybe the Quadrajets as well. Probably at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. Somewhere around the hazy aethers of 1998. Whatever night it was Zen Guerrilla made an immediate impression on my friends and I. It was common at that time for us to stop by the merch booth on the way out and plunk down money for a disc or 7" (still do when I go to shows, but unfortunately it's not as common these days). One of us must have done so (my money's on Mr. Brown) because soon after Positronic Raygun was in very heavy rotation amidst our little group. It is a fantastic record and while it didn't completely capture the sonic explosion of the group's live performance, engineers Scott Herzog and Matt Kelley helped the band come pretty close. It's blues-flavored RocknRoll Hendrix style - dipped in the sheer cosmic slop of cranked-up reverb and distant radio signals. Even the outro, an almost three-minute loop of a single bar of music dubbed "Frequency Out" has such a strange, otherworldly sound that I have been known to put it on repeat and listen to it for hours on end, often because I don't want the tone the band sets to end.

I was able to see the group one other time, sometime in 2000 I think at the Bottle opening for Nebula. Once again they were magnificent. Hadn't lost a step. And at both gigs their show-stopping set closer, a balls-out cover of Iron Maiden's The Trooper, was really just a smash in the teeth (almost literally for one of us, as the second time the singer Marcus dove off the stage at directly at my friend Hawk who had but a single instant to move before being crushed by the much-larger man. I felt bad that Marcus had ended up landing pretty much face-first on the beer-soaked floor, but I was glad I didn't have to drive my friend to the Hospital).

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