Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Scooping the bottom of the barrel: Optimalinjia Fest

"Scraping the bottom of the barrel" is a questionable metaphor. "Scooping" is more apt; you don't have to reach too deep or look too long to find mediocre grind, metal or hardcore bands. They throw their lack of talent and ambition at you cheerfully, shamelessly. Most bands who form, record, and play shows probably shouldn't have bothered.

Speaking of "shouldn't have"... two Russians and a Malaysian get up on stage, blast through some jokey micro grind, and then leave. Some day rising fuel costs will save us all from this.

Shitnoise Bastards have shuffled their line-up: Their drummer is now playing guitar while their new drummer struggles to keep up with him. Their new singer isn't as obnoxious as their last one, being essentially personality-less onstage. They air a cover of "Scum" for a dozen or so mildly interested audience members. That song was mind-blowing when I first heard it almost 20 years ago; probably even more so when Napalm first played it almost 30 years ago. SNB's sloppy, half-hearted version? Not so much.

People are finally figuring out now what Entombed knew 20 years ago - the HM-2 is a great studio pedal but will let you down live. The signal is weak and easily lost under the other instruments. That's not enough to slow Compulsion To Kill's roll, but they've shown their willingness to carry on with whatever line-up manages to show up at the gig that day; so it's not like a guitar pedal's going to stop them.

I can't tell where the soundcheck ends and where Connection Error begins. Three different "noise engineers" kneel over their boxes of mysterious FX pedals, their faces bathed in blue and green light. Behind them a drummer cuts through the chaos, giving shape to it, finding form where there otherwise is none. Is anyone onstage paying attention to what the others are doing? What are their rehearsals like? There's a Portlandia sketch in here somewhere, but who is the joke on - those guys for doing this, or us for watching?

A huge rat runs in from the street and promptly makes its home in one of RA's disgusting couches. I want Ripley to run in with her flame thrower and destroy every last one of them. Not sitting in there again.

Psychotic Sufferance don't do themselves any favours by having one of the local grind scene's more obnoxious characters join them onstage. They're actually a decent grind band in their own right, but strangely the crowd doesn't seem to respond.

Finally, Pissdeads from Russia, the night's ostensible headliners, came out and did their version of bass/drums/vocals noise grind; the same ingredients as Sete Star Sept, with half the energy. It wasn't great, but it did finish relatively early, and for that I'm grateful. A testament to rigid schedules and low bars.