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Blackout bars
Darkbuster, Afrirampo, and Hrvatski

Three hours before the expected start time of "Clash of the Superheroes," a multimedia IDM/breakcore/video-game extravaganza at Bill’s Bar a week ago Tuesday, the power went out on Lansdowne Street. The culprit was probably excessive air conditioning on the block and not the bank of laptops, mixers, projectors, and PlayStations spread across the Bill’s stage like a 21st-century mock-up of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. A handwritten note on the front door said the show would start at 9, but at 9:15 the note was replaced with another saying 9:30. A crowd of about a dozen waited affably, listening to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Sweet Caroline" emanating from Fenway Park, until at 10 the lights went on and the doors opened. Not for lack of extension cords, the voltage pulsing through the room somehow failed to blow another set of ClearChannel fuses. But as DMNZ, Dev/Null, and Hrvatski took turns frightening arrhythmic screeches and beeps from their machines — and as two kids ran the table against all comers in the bizarre, anime-influenced fighter game Guilty Gear X2 — one couldn’t help wondering whether the few hapless blinking Red Sox fans who wandered in, and paid the cover, weren’t experiencing blackouts of their own.

The lack of air conditioning across town that same night at the MassArt gymnasium wasn’t the result of an electrical mishap: that’s just the way they do it over there. But even a rain forest of bodies and BO couldn’t keep Big Bear frontwoman Jordyn Bonds from getting vicious, screaming like a wild animal, beating a tambourine on her patented padded right leg, and suggesting a new kind of IDM — intelligent dance metal. It was the group’s first time sharing a stage (or in this case a floor) with Providence prog-noise deities Lightning Bolt, though they’ve known of each other: LB’s long-time engineer Dave Auchenbach recorded BB’s recent debut album. Lightning Bolt, as always tightly encircled by reverential fans, played their characteristically intense ultra-fast, ultra-tight freakouts, and on most nights that would’ve been the headline. But the surprise scene stealers were the Japanese girl-noise duo Afrirampo, who were also the only band to use the stage. They were, however, smart enough not to show up there right away. Facing the girls’ equipment at the front of the room, the crowd was assaulted by an ungodly shriek (something like Doh-doh-doh-doh ah-ow!) from the back of the gym. Heads whipped around to find the two young women, in red dresses and exaggerated red make-up, framed in two huge gym windows about 50 feet apart, screaming feral but coordinated battle cries. When they made it down to the stage and picked up the drumsticks and the guitar, the results were even more disconcerting: their frenzied leaps were as spastic and mesmerizing as their music.

The problem with a Darkbuster gig is that you may not remember it the next morning. But there are tell-tale signs: can’t see ’cause your glasses are covered in a film of dried beer; can’t talk ’cause you gang-shouted your vocal cords to ribbons; can’t walk thanks to a boxcar-sized hangover. Last Thursday was that kind of night: the band wedged themselves and their fans into the Abbey Lounge — where the tattoo-to-arms ratio was higher than in an NBA locker room — to help birthday boy Mike Byrne celebrate the opening of his rock-photography exhibit, in which Darkbuster and the other groups on the bill are prominent. Avoid One Thing’s Amy Griffin, who took over guitar duties from frontman Lenny Lashley following an on-the-job accident last month, got a crash course in beer dodging and aced it with a smile. The show was also a farewell to the husband-and-wife duo of Texas Bob and Stephanie (Dougherty, also of Dropkick Murphys), who met and were married in Las Vegas a few years ago and are moving back there next month. During their opening set on the Abbey’s tiny pub stage, they looked like a modern-day Johnny and June, and they sounded like them too, not least because of the Cash tunes that peppered their set.

Will Spitz | wspitz[a]phx.com

Mitch Krpata | mkrpata[a]phx.com

Issue Date: July 29 - August 4, 2005
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