Concert Review: Bohren und der Club of Gore (with Void ov Voices) – San Francisco, 4/1/09

I ventured back to the Great American Music Hall to see Bohren und der Club of Gore. This is a regrettably silly name for a band that I rather love. Their name seems to imply something between the Flintstones and GWAR by way of Sprockets, but in reality, it’s one of those bands that’s best heard at 3am. Fortunately, however, the show started at 9pm.

The evening actually started off late, due to equipment malfunctions. Let me tell you, there are few things weirder than seeing Attila Csihar, occasional vocalist for the rather infamous Norwegian Black Metal band Mayhem (for a rather entertaining history of the rather aptly named Mayhem, read Lords of Chaos by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind) stepping out of a shiny new maroon PT Cruiser type rental car, and then unloading equipment from an equally shiny new rental mini-van. Still, he took a moment to smile at all of us waiting outside while he hustled in replacement equipment.

Why was Atilla there? He was opening, under the name Void ov Voices. This was pretty much Attila in a black robe, in near total darkness, doing amazingly disturbing vocal stuff, running it through effects boxes, looping it, and layering it with more and more vocal disturbery, and creating some wonderfully intense soundscapes.

All of which was made weirder by him completing his set with a big grin, and giving a number of “Namaste” type bows. I think I want to have a chat with him sometime.

After Atilla’s set, Bohren took stage, with only slightly more light on them than Atilla used. I have a candle that burns brighter than the stage lighting for this show. But that’s okay, because this show was all about the sound. Bohren und der Club of Gore (if you don’t check out the link above) sound like the house band for the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. If you were to take Angelo Badalamenti’s music for the show, and strip it down, and make it even darker, you’d get Bohren. They played a number of songs from their new album, Dolores, as well as a track or two from Geisterfaust and some older stuff.

Adding to the atmosphere of the event, was that the Great American Music Hall was set up sort of “Cabaret style”, with tables and chairs on the main floor in front of the stage, giving the whole evening a sort of Berlin-in-Hell type feel to it. It was simply delicious. There was occasional banter between tunes, at times perhaps unintentionally amusing in the way that only German-trying-to-translate-into-English can be at times (my favorite – “this song is for the lonely man at the bar, who is wondering if he will have the courage to once again paint the black walls of his apartment white”).

Despite this, the music was beautiful and haunting, made all the more so by the intimacy of the evening.

A number of the people from the Nurse With Wound show the week prior were there (and I suspect I’ll run into a bunch of them again if I succeed in my efforts to make it to the Throbbing Gristle show in a couple of weeks). This show, though, had a much smaller crowd, and I think that worked to the evening’s advantage. A good show, and I’m glad I found out about it in time to get tickets and attend. Really, the only disappointment was the total absence of any form of merch.

I think I have this fantasy about a night club in the afterlife, where Portishead starts performing at midnight, and wraps up at 3. Then Bohren comes on, and brings us through until dawn.