The Mae Shi and Swords of Fatima @ Safari Sam’s 12-02-07

Live Show Reviews, Music

It was a long weekend and I was really just kind of tired, but I was helpless to resist what my gut told me would be a good night of music. Safari Sam’s it was.

The first band was The Swords of Fatima, whom I had heard of but didn’t really know much about. They’re a two-some not terribly unlike the White Stripes in some respects. In one such respect they are different: the drumming is much better. There seemed to be some sort of latin funk influence, though I’m treading into unfamiliar waters, so maybe not? They didn’t sound like a garage rock band the same way the White Stripes do is what I mean to say.

I liked them. I saw most of their set and it was all instrumental. They were definitely rocking out towards the end of the set. The guitar work was pretty solid. For their last song, a black-clad man in a gladiator mask and some sort of swami took the stage and performed a choreographed sword fight. We here at Classical Geek Theatre approve of stage spectacle! In a multimedia world driven predominantly by visual mediums, it is not enough to take the stage and play some music. At first glance, Swords of Fatima didn’t leave a lasting impression… but I have a sneaking feeling in a year or two they’ll be an act people are talking about.

The Mae Shi were next. They are the only band I’ve ever seen that has any legitimate claim to call themselves a “punk band”. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: The Mae Shi, bar none, are the best fucking band in town. Across the board and without qualification. Every time I see them, they impress.

Last night they played the standard “singles” (if you can call them that…) plus a lot of stuff I wasn’t very familiar with, but am pretty sure was from Terrorbird. And let me tell you, Jonathan Gray owned those Ezra-era songs. He was fucking unreal, the best show I’ve seen him give. He convulsed, screeched, sang, freaked-out, danced, and performed. When the band went about replacing Ezra Buchla, they more or less solicited auditions. The first few times I saw Gray it sort of felt like the experiment that it was. By now though, at least from an audience perspective, the “new” lineup has really come into its own and become comfortable in its skin. The state of the band right now is frighteningly glorious.

Of all the post-Ezra Mae Shi shows I have seen, this one most closely resembled my very first exposure to the band. The subversive pop sounds were still buried in there and “Run to Your Grave” is as catchy as ever… but the bulk of the set was experimental, though still calculated, noise-punk that inspired spiritual cleansing and soul-liberation for those faithful attendees who “got it”. The animal barking that has been in abstentia for most of the shows I’ve seen lately was back in full force. I just really loved the set list they played last night.

For the last 15 minutes of the set, the band announced “We’re growing…” and invited some more “band members” on stage to play. I’m not sure if these people were former members of The Mae Shi or musical brethren from other bands. I don’t know if they were real additions to the band, or just special guest players. There were at least two, maybe three, extra guys on stage though and it was really, really cool. For those wondering if The Mae Shi’s sonic experiments work when amplified with additional instrumentalists, the answer is a resounding “YES”. I wonder what these guys could do with a symphony orchestra or a children’s choir.

I was too tired to stay for Damo Suzuki, which is a shame because I am pretty sure it would have blown my mind. I also missed Anavan, though I caught an online live feed of about half their set and I kicked myself for leaving early.