Music Reviews

Performance Review: Cold Cave & Boyd Rice In Washington, D.C.


Summer in D. C. in the early evening. A strong sense of urgency is communicated by the narrow margin between a coltish Mercedes and my bumper. Message received. No time to slow down, not here. One more inch. Faster. Faster! I keep pushing–the pedal, the brake. Fury behind me. The pedal, the brake. Fury! Christ, what the hell am I doing here?

Haste in the muck of lunacy, I don’t want it. I’m only here (fingers crossed) for one night.

I park, get out. Lock the car. Look around, trying to shake it off. Museums, the Capitol building, the White House as well as various other appearances of strength and endurance come into light. Within the walls behind these artificial landscapes, older men armed with immaculately clean clothes and platitudes do their bidding. But that’s not why I’m here.

I’m here to hear the sounds of other men in other clothes preserving other histories; they sound like a different future. Dirty, and a bit dangerous. Black leather, black boots and dark shades in a black bar–the only light, a few dim candles throwing little shadows here and there against the wall. Yes, here I am skirting the perimeter of the candlelit bar of The Rock & Roll hotel, hawking the small stage and wondering what time it is. Boyd Rice is scheduled to perform on that stage anytime now.

Just two nights ago, both Cold Cave and Boyd Rice were stopped from performing in Philadelphia by way of some fast-flying judgement via misunderstanding and ignorance; prevented from performing in Philly for being “satanic nazis,” specifically, as was posted by Wesley Eisold on Cold Cave’s Facebook.

Oh well . . . . The wheels keep turning and the chassis rolls into D. C., tonight.

Or does it?

Doors opened at 7:00, and the show “officially” started at 8:00; but when the clock struck 9:00, Rice was nowhere near the stage. Has the Nazi been booted out of the nation’s capital, too? —NO! I see a Non-patched blue jean jacket on the move.

Here comes Eisold too, following Rice, assisting with aural preparations for his set; and it’s here that I get a close look at the man behind Cold Cave. A slim, emaciated form, with bone-sharp jowls, skinny wrists, immaculately styled hair, black shirt, black leather pants, and tall black boots.

What appears to be an Eisold radically different from the days of fronting frenetically paced powerhouse explosions such as American Nightmare and Some Girls, is in fact just veneer. His clothes are new, but that same intrinsic verve that characterized the sound of the formerly mentioned groups finds expression in the inspired effusions of Eisold’s emotionally energized performance. More on that to come . . . .

Enter Rice. And so enters . . . noise. N-O-I-S-E. Noise! Dissonance! Ferocity! Rice’s equipment is dark, charged, and operating, sonically, at optimal level. He stands coolly over his board, checking whatever he’s checking, depressing keys and kids, waiting. After several minutes of raw noise, he exudes a guttural, yet controlled, growl, that is caught and chewed through his machinery, which records and spits the macabre noise back through the speakers in a yowling loop that is cacophony; it’s really irking the young man in front of me. I know this by watching him motion to the tangled vine of cords he jokingly poses to pull in front of his youthful female companion. He garners attention and is satisfied not to pull anything but a sham for show.

Boyd RiceRice doesn’t watch him; doesn’t scan the handful of frowning mugs, the young eyebrows knitted in concentration, screwing up their eyes as if the sound were physically pushing their private rebukes through their pupils. He doesn’t move his head much, save to look down, dip his nose to a knuckle, or push up his sunglasses. From time to time a few of his fingers grip a beer bottle by the neck, tip it back, slowly, while he wades with the rest of us through the maelstrom of cataclysmic sound just roaring out of his slavish machines. By no means is it easy to take. Harder still to look away—something captivating in this rhythmic death drone: it’s wave after wave until Rice thunderously yowls: “Do you want total war? Yes you want total war!”

Now the chasm in our ears has context. Meaning is illuminated by the fiery glow of a man on a different plane spouting words with frightening implications. Question raised, question answered: Total war? Yes. Here it comes. For forty minutes.

For the last song, “Fire Shall Come,” Rice’s set burns out against a backdrop of synthetically produced images of flames, providing an exacting visual to glut the eyes while the thunderous sound maims what’s left of everyone’s ears. The blazing fury of Rice’s vociferations arrow into the frozen faces of the indifferent: “Fire will come and judge and consume all things! Fire! Everlasting fire!” He tips his bottle back slowly once more, his back to all of us, watching his film of flames that lick the angel-white backdrop.

The cord-pulling pipe dreamer in front of me still has electricity on the brain, still wants to pull it, to unplug Rice’s beastly electrical mainframe. Or at least to look as if he does. Another young man, secure and fluid in his chemical intoxication, seizes Rice’s machines with two sure-fire hands—the same hands whose fingers just moments ago lightly drew out fishtails into the air in front of his face. Destruction doesn’t mark his gesture, but chemically induced inspiration and a surge of newly released endorphins seeking a match in feeling. He holds on firmly to Rice’s buzzing console until tonight’s executive lurch casts him over his shoulder and lugs him off stage to a new, quiet and cold reality.

Forty-five minutes or so later, Eisold returns for Cold Cave’s performance, accompanied by Amy Lee (newest Cold Cave member), not too mention Rice! Eisold and Lee share a console on the right side of the stage, while Rice man’s his on the left, leaving a lean, lone microphone in the center.

Cold Cave’s set included songs from the Love Comes Close (2009) and Cherish the Light Years (2011) LP’s. Also included were some of the independently released tracks from Eisold’s publishing company, Heartworm Press (“A Little Death To Laugh,” “Meaningful Life,” and “Oceans With No End”), which have begun a new chapter in the Cold Cave story, with Eisold as the sole force behind the writing and recording of the music.

Utilizing the limited space of the stage, Cold Cave’s set was quite intimate, as there was no band to cramp quarters. Eisold performed vocals over his music in outbursts of passion and emotion, snake-biting the microphone periodically with a whipping hiss, crooning a bit, careening and listing all the while without taking too many steps away from center stage. Between song changes, he accepted the gratitude of rote hand-claps, thanking the audience, even awkwardly dedicating a song to an enamored, but demure, young woman.

Yes, the night seemed ripe for sentiment now that it was safe to escape the everlasting inferno that Rice attempted to ignite behind the vernal brows of the audience just minutes ago; the kids had moved on. Not total war, but beauty, youth, action, black leather and the romance of their unity, these were aglow in the glittering eyes of youth.

Throughout Cold Cave’s set, Rice’s demeanor did not change; he stood, solemnly, fixed face of stone hard as Diogenes; fingers for the nose, for the sunglasses, the machine; hand for the towel, the bottle, while Eisold whipped around the other half of the stage making his mark on the audience in a completely different fashion, bellowing and scanning eyes under the soft stage lights.

A bemused codger, biding his time by mentally checking his watch during Cold Cave’s performance, stood front and center with his head cocked, piercing some of Eisold’s fist-pumping gestures with reproving eyes: Who the fuck is this kid? said each one of his grimaces. The man wore a white beard and a Velvet Underground tee. Yes, it was black.

Utterly alone and surrounded by kids, the old man stood in the center of where he no longer wanted to be. Which provided chum for the malice of not a few envious young men and women behind him, hungry for the closest proximity to tonight’s primetime host of emulation: Eisold. The old man didn’t budge.

With two incredibly influential, diverse and interesting artists/performers under one roof, the sound of the evening was just as stark and probing as one might expect from these mavens of the underground. After saying goodnight (the first time), all three returned to stage once more for a two-song encore collaboration. I left the city after the last note.


Boyd Rice/Non