My Bloody Valentine at Kutshers Country Resort, Monticello, New York, September 19-21, 2008
The lights dimmed, the house music stopped abruptly, and we all were bathed in the hum of approximately 10,000 full stacks waiting to blast our heads off. We waited, and waited, and waited, in sheer agony — well, when you think about it, we’d all been waiting 17 years anyway, since My Bloody Valentine slowly transformed from a musical outfit into some mythical creature, like a unicorn. Had this band actually ever existed? Were they really going to play tonight? Was it going to be more noise than we could possibly handle?
The answer to these three questions last Sunday night were yes, yes, and yes. (And to answer question four: yes, I am deaf as I am writing this.) When MBV finally sauntered on stage (the closer for the three-day All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in the Catskills) and proceeded to plow through the bulk of their two albums (1989’s Isn’t Anything and 1991’s Loveless), it made the agony of waiting seem distant. There they were, in the flesh, viscerally pounding and real. Two MBV-related epiphanies: 1) so much of this band’s icy gloss on record must stem from the chilly relationship between guitarists/vocalists Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher, who set up on opposite sides of the stage and never once even so much as glanced at each other for the duration of the show; and 2) the real star of the show was the rhythm section, and especially drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig. A dead ringer for Jackie Earle Haley circa Breaking Away, Ó Cíosóig is shoegaze’s Dave Lombardo, a power hitter whose ferocity and relentlessness in driving the whole band are breathtaking.
The post-Madchester noise-dance insanity of Loveless closer “Soon” came to a halt, and it was then that we were treated to the final MBV gauntlet. If you thought that you could handle the band’s volume, and their jangly rattle and strum, then you had to brace yourself for “You Made Me Realise,” which at its midpoint was interrupted by a 20-minute excursion into pure psychotic, unfiltered, screaming, pulsating, bone-melting NOISE. First it hit you like a wave, and then it slowly overtook your body, pounding and vibrating every tendon and raising every hair. If this sounds boring, it was; if it sounds terrifying, it was; if it sounds fucking awesome, it was that, too.
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