San Francisco Bath House
Friday, October 11
My first time seeing Mountaineater in some time – essentially a new band from when I saw them. This time to promote their brand new album. So they start, with the opening brace from that record. Cavernous, somehow Tristan Dinegmans issues a sound that is heavy – really, really fucking heavy at times – but it’s never too busy, never full-up, there’s so much space. And one of the chief complaints I have with so much heavy music is how busy it gets, almost – at times – by accident. A panic-mode: we’re playing as fast as we can/as loud as we can.
Mountaineater does not do panic-mode. What it does is angry, spitting, snarling punk – but all of this comes from the guitar, that thing would bite if you got close. But Mountaineater is not a punk band.
What it does is very heavy metal. The best. But Mountaineater is not a metal band.
What it does is post-rock, extra melodies dribbling out at times, seeping; other times they’re issued with the speed and force of a dart, Dingemans’ fingers dance down the frets and the sound comes from all around him. But Mountaineater is not a post-rock band.
And Mountaineater is not a goth-rock band either – but the way Dingemans now attacks his vocals does bring to mind the early Cure records; that way Robert Smith just belted it out, no self-conscious concerns. Not for him the avuncular approach of having been in HDU (having been HDU) and now simmering, if not simpering. This is a whole new attack. Replete with those drippy, dippy Ka-iwi vowel sounds.
This is a soul band, I tell ya. For what I heard – and saw and felt – was music that poured from Dingemans’ soul. It was honest, naked, brave – and in Chris Livingstone (drums) and Anaru Ngata (bass) Mountaineater has its perfect fit; its fix, its sound comes from these three souls. They give of themselves to create this music. Now this should be the norm, this shouldn’t be extraordinary, this shouldn’t seem remarkable, this should be how it always is and shouldn’t need to be mentioned but anyone who has attended any live music event knows that so often it’s phoned in.
Mountaineater bucked at the gate and from then it was rodeo time, a ride, wild at times, calm at others, but always a ride, an event, a journey.
The set’s monumental closer was a borderline-spiritual moment, for band and several audience members. Face-melting peels of guitar and that huge slab of bass with drums cascading all around. It was ominous. And inside that dry, huge husk of sound there was so much beauty.
Mountaineater, most importantly, shaped an event. The set playing out with an arc, a story being told as the songs swung from one another, hinged, rubbing shoulders, relying on each separate vestige for the whole to be completed. Again, you don’t actually see that all that often. Not as often as you should
It was wonderful, it was beautiful, it was special – quite glorious. And it’ll be one of those gigs; one of the ones that becomes so often referenced (at least until the next time they come to town). That there was only a small/ish number in attendance is of course a shame, a shame for the venue, the band and for open-minded music listeners. But it makes it all that more special for those of us who made the call despite that ugly-shit weather.
Opening the show was The Nudge. They made a decent fist of pulling the crowd forward and out of nonchalance. They’ve also changed since I last saw them, not so much a different band but less of a funk-rock/blues-rock thing. Hey, they always did that well – great players, no question. But here, now, the songs head in slightly stranger directions; moving – almost – toward proggy waters. And that’s a good thing. Slightly stoner-ish wanderings but still with a tightness, a tautness and less haughtiness – they performed dutifully in that opening role; they definitely did the (correct) job in the right way. They created am ambience, served an audience and kept people enthused, awaiting more.
After Mountaineater’s set Riki Gooch stepped up in his Nil Nil persona; perfect post-gig musical coitus. In fact it was a bit like Aphex Twin and Gaslamp Killer furiously fucking while Flying Lotus lit the candles. It was dark but never stormy, weird and warped and wonderful. And ever so slightly danceable. He knows how to cook up so many different kinds of beats. And his short, pulverising set of after-midnight moodiness was a great coda.