Not a picture, nor video, below. Didn't take them. Took the memory.
This is a recollection of seeking the experience of HIDE live.
There I was, just sitting, sitting around, listening. Gray day. Love them like that, they just slither in. Solemn presence, no ceremony. Becoming and becoming and becoming and . . . nightfall, the quiet, cruel beauty of dissipation.
Though, the night hadn’t arrived, not yet. I walked into the kitchen, looked out the window. I see the mountains, I’m looking up and into them, and the towering half-light above, it has to fall down to reach us, and I can feel that alongside O’Shea’s magical “No Journey’s End” blossoming out of the other room. The sound is charting my budding course.
Yes, the afternoon had come, and there I was just sitting around when something else struck me: there’s a different kind of night on the way if I want it. But it’s not coming by sitting around reading Journey . . ., sinking into Schnitzler’s Rot, drooling over Radigue’s Feedback Works and floating over the world with O’Shea. There I was, rather astonished that this bright idea penetrated the murky depths of Rot and Feedback. Shit, I thought. Shit! Something’s really happening here. This is fantastic!
Oh, and let’s not forget Beyond The Black Crack. I even took that album on a round trip—gray day—. After Beyond The Black Crack, it can be very important to get out and get some fresh air, feeling or no feeling. Just get up.
So I did.
Months prior, I listened to Castration Anxiety, my introduction to HIDE. (Incidentally, if Dais Records releases something, listen to it). All else I’ve had the pleasure to hear from this artistic partnership (the Black Flame EP, in particular) has come afterwards. I listened to Castration Anxiety, going back to it, here and there, enjoying the roar for months on end, building, building.
One day I hopped into Instagram, learned that HIDE was bopping around the East Coast for a few weeks, and bought a ticket that day to what would be their first trip to mania-stricken D.C.
I don’t go to shows much anymore. However, without explanation, nor second thought, it was simply clear to me that the sounds I heard from Castration Anxiety roaring through the speakers I absolutely knew must be experienced live. Had to go. Journey on the bloom.
Then came the day, January 19th, 2019: ice, rain, the two reversed and clashing together, slush, snow, then more ice and some icy rain on top of all of it; then all rain, finally. All night, all the night through. Sky is but a wet black mass—what happened to the beautiful gray day? Comes on and slips away, Lou . . . .
Every bit of my sand grain logic, all the tenuous reason I could muster, all of it that would guide me at least, spoke to me from the afternoon kitchen window as the half-light journeyed home. Message clear:
/|/|/|DON’T GO OUT IN THIS WEATHER.|\|\|\
But as anybody anywhere (especially in D.C.?) can tell you, reason can be subdued with very little reason. I ‘knew’ something else was going on, and of course I went. Gone! Two and a half hours in the car later, there I am, drenched from walking around this chilly city trying to find the Rock And Roll Hotel in the rain, ducking underneath makeshift covers, checking coordinates—where in the hell is this place? This is D.C. All of its forward-thinking inhabitants have umbrellas tonight. I don’t have an umbrella tonight. I don’t even know how to really even get out of here at this point. I’m all in whether I find the fucking venue or not, and I’ve barely got a ticket, because the water, the water . . . .
Despite the mounting odds, I found it. There it is, the Rock And Roll Hotel. I make my way through the door and it hits me. There it is again, a feeling. It takes something to just enter into a room with people. It’s not easy, and it’s getting harder. There are some of us walking around as if in a bog, and it is as soft and easy as a taken-for-granted-breath to become so entangled in offshoots of pain spun like a web for the unwary, in the air as you please, webs of pain. Which is a convoluted way of saying, simply, that there’s shit in the air just as toxic as the chemical pollution generating your cough, and there are many on the verge of bursting with it. Anymore, I enter and take something unwanted. Everything is in the air, nothing foreign, nothing strange, on its way out to darkness.
Anyways, vibes. I was coming way down within the walls, soaked cold and wanting only to listen, less to untangle.
Seth Sher comes out, setting up, testing strobes, smoke machine. Finished, Sher’s gone. Didn’t take long.
I’m standing around. Others, they’re standing around. Giant mirror opposite a dark bar. Then out comes HIDE. And, very much like the joyous sound of breaking glass that kickstarts “Disintegration,” from silence to a full-on crash of sound, the show is on.
Heather Gabel strikes. It’s her presence, and not another word added is good enough. But never-mind that, because I’ve a few more. One gets the feeling of being on the hunted side of the hunt—an attack, singular, as if she knows you from your presence, and, what’s more, that you’ve somehow fucked up in some unconscionably unforgivable way. In my own mind, the exit barred. In my own mind, another song. “It’s already too late,” down the barrel of Hell Songs.
Their set began, and I was positioned close enough to the stage to hear Gabel’s screams behind the amplification, and even to take a lash out of the smoke-screen from the self-described ‘rat’s nest’ via a surprise (to me, at least) lunge. Sher’s quaking sound, and Gabel’s enlivening performance tied to such a physically rattling snapshot was so strong as to create such a feeling of being irrevocably moved, changed, stirred and somehow altered as a witness. From a simple stage, flowed the fiery venom of terror. To feel it surging through electricity, mind you, was exhilarating!
But one must be careful . . . . Just to tell what happened . . . . But how to really tell what happened? What did happen? The events being less, it’s the feeling sustained that has compelled me to revisit and relay what’s otherwise frozen in January time. This is about feeling.
What moves with Gabel, hold up the mirror of your eyes to it, came for, comes for, us. That is, listeners, or whoever it is in front of her at the time. What moves, what courses, what writhes and pummels, that dark energy channeling through her, it’s coming, it can be heard, witnessed, and you get the sense of her ample strength derived not from what it is that hurts, cages and truly poisons if kept within, but with the great release of it—and, what’s more, that as a witness, you’re somehow a part of this release, her titanic capacity to relinquish a collective pain of hearts and tears (nearly) lost in darkness. —All of this awash in a bludgeoning sound flooding oceanic depths of the mind feels quite the powerful surge with HIDE onstage. I was reeling.
There’s a great capacity for pain to pool within a body (doubtless you know it well if you’re alive and reading this), and such likewise deeply within the feeling mind; there’s also a miraculous rareness in one who takes the pain pooled inward from that which outwardly attacks and wrenches it out by a release that is artful, exacting and so overwhelmingly powerful. This is Gabel in motion with inspiration and a microphone, body as flame, creating and directing with Sher’s sound HIDE’s cathartic art; for the words screamed are arrows (“Violence begets violence”), the beats a rampage, and the rage itself, pointed. Fall. Down. It’s all coming undone. War keeps coming home to the heart, and this is it, the wreckage of which is shown before you, played before you, lived before you; it doesn’t end, truly, naturally. HIDE’s music is naturally with it, and all you have to do is listen. Your lucky night, truly.
To unleash this audial melee, Sher incorporates MIDI to translate his thunderous rhythms. Consequently, HIDE’s sound pummels with beats as steady and uncompromising as need. Sher’s compositions are rife with multi-faceted variations of strident noise and field recordings that trace macabre origins, limning a strong, stygian tone to each caustic track. Hear it on record, hear it in a club, hear it however you choose. These two together, are together in sound, and it’s simply moving to be in and of its wake. Made such an impression on me that I even felt compelled to mail them a letter of thanks about it, which I’m still not entirely comfortable with. But hey, when moved, when knocked on our asses, who in the hell is acting as they would otherwise any longer? This is change, this is strength, this is the two coiled in sound, and it’s life-affirming. [Be grateful if you feel grateful].
Of particular note, was the inspired performance of “Black Flame,” as well as “Wildfire.” If you’ve ever spent a day only to come to the thought that you and your fellow bipeds aping life might only be nature’s living deathwish after all, play “Wildfire.” Better yet, take it full-on at one of their shows.
Their set ended and I bought a shirt. It’s that simple and stupid, but that’s what happened, and it felt right. How do you express gratitude when you’ve been bludgeoned in all the wondrous ways of sound from a band this powerful? You buy a shirt and write a letter? Well . . . .
Driving home, my throat burning, fever rising, I put on “Resonance” from Carter’s The Space Between, and considering the evening, it was absolutely beautiful.
If HIDE is passing through, and you can get there, get there. Go out, feel it. Crows are in the wheatfield, but so is everything else. Disentangle whatever needs it, and pass through already; be a part of this. Come undone. Listen.