Boredoms | 07.07.07 | Brooklyn

By Team JamBase Aug 2, 2007 12:00 am PDT

Words by: Eamon Foley :: Images by: Christina Schumacher

Boredoms :: 07.07.07 :: Brooklyn Bridge Park :: Brooklyn, NY

Boredoms :: 07.07.07 :: New York
If Beethoven were a drummer, this is probably what his symphonies would sound like. On July 7, Japanese band the Boredoms led a majestic orchestra of 77 drummers for a highly symbolic show in Brooklyn. With the Boredoms at its center and the 74 accompanying drummers organized in a serpentine spiral, the result was an amazing demonstration of what you can do with percussion – an instrument so often confined to a supporting role.

The number “7” is symbolic on many levels for the Japanese. July 7 is a widely celebrated occasion, and the Boredoms chose it to celebrate 20 years performing together. The show was intended to last 77 minutes, but stretched a lot closer to the 100-minute mark. Those lucky enough to be there probably wish it had gone on longer.

Recently signed to Vice Records, who have re-issued some of their catalog, Boredoms have a well-earned reputation for working the extreme end of the experimental spectrum, especially in their off-the-leash shows. Despite the weight of expectations, they outdid themselves here. On top of the unique nature of the show, the setting was perfect. We were the sandwich filling between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, framed above by the setting sun and below by the flowing waters of New York’s East River. Surrounded by a mellow crowd, the drummers performed with primal energy that was in utter contrast to the glass and metal skyscrapers of the Manhattan backdrop.

Boredoms :: 07.07.07 :: New York
Each ‘verse’ was set in motion by the trio of Boredoms at the heart of the coil, after which each drummer followed on their five-piece kit, everyone a link the chain that flowed seamlessly from the center.

With each circuit, the beat grew in urgency – rising from a simple, appetizing cymbal shuffle that gradually built in volume as it swirled through the drummers coiled around the hub. Each member followed a prescribed menu but added their own style to the pot – some thrashing like their lives depended on it, others more chilled out, savoring the moment and craning their necks to take in the spectacular surroundings. Some couldn’t avoid breaking out in a smile, while others frowned in concentration. But, all played with evident joy, aware this chance might never come around again.

Bandleader Yamatsuka Eye conducted and accompanied with vocals, distortion effects and a couple bizarre instruments that consisted of four guitar necks stacked horizontally which he hit with a rod in a manner reminiscent of Zeus and his lightning bolts.

Boredoms :: 07.07.07 :: New York
Eye’s wailing vocals are far from conventional, and his shock of black dreadlocks lent him a druid-like air as he chanted, eyes closed, face and fist raised to heaven in salute.

Later, he led the penultimate movement, his keys and the myriad drums reverberating like the sea, utterly convincing as each sound wave rolled and crashed over us. While the beats cascaded towards us, a gentle breeze kicked up, adding a tangible spiritual feel to the proceedings, like a lover caressing our face. In fact, the weather cooperated throughout the show, including a few clouds that rolled in to block the sun while we waited in the oppressive heat, then later cleared as the sun set and bathed the spectacle in a warming glow as the shadows of Brooklyn Bridge rose around us.

I can’t imagine how beautiful it must have been to be a player in this performance, surrounded by 76 drumming compatriots, one of the select few in this genuine show spirit, collaboration and artistry. Just being lucky enough to witness it makes me grin foolishly.

Boredoms :: 07.07.07 :: New York
Like the tides, the pace rose and fell, while the volume leveled out and melted ear plugs faster than the sun. Each drummer took his cue from the one in front of him, as the beat chased from the Boredoms out to the crowd like falling dominoes. As each pulse finished its journey a new one started at the core to keep the never-ending spiral going.

Oh, if only it never ended. Eye mellowed the pace as the show reached a finale that saw each drummer stand in turn, followed by the crowd standing as one upon completion. Days later, I’m still struggling to get my head around this. It’s something I’ll never see again. Indeed, I almost wish not to since chances a repeat performance would likely disappoint by comparison with the original.

There has been a lot of moaning about how the event was managed. And while there was an awful lot of people who didn’t get in – an hour before the doors opened the line stretched for a ten-minute walk from entrance through the warehouses and artist workshops of shore-side Brooklyn – that is the nature of such an event. There’ll always be disappointed people, but those of us who had the honor to be a witness enjoyed a great atmosphere. There were no restrictions on bringing in food and drink and a minimal security presence, all of which contributed to the chilled out vibe that perfectly complimented the spirituality of the drumming.

Time will tell if they end up competing with Beethoven’s longevity, but for now the Boredoms will go down as having created one of the amazing shows of our generation. For those of us who were there July 7, 2007 was a very lucky day indeed.

JamBase | New York
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