Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Here's a review I wrote for a great show that I saw 11 years ago.
I'd only heard a few of Acid Mothers Temple's recordings before I saw them last April  in Philadelphia. One of them was a seven-inch which sounded much to me like the output of any number of Japanoise bands, such as The Boredoms or The Machine Gun TV. Another was a live recording from 2004 which had them sounding like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd jamming with Blue Cheer with members of Pere Ubu sitting in. This turned out to be merely a fraction of a fraction of the output of this extremely prolific Japanese psychedelic-rock band One day while I was in Philadelphia visiting friends, I heard on the radio that Acid Mothers Temple's 2009 North American tour would bring them to a club in Philadelphia called Johnny Brenda's. So I decided to make the trip and check them out.
Johnny Brenda's has two levels. The first is a typical bar/restaurant, pool table next to the bar, tables in the back. The second level, the performance space, well, it's actually two levels. You go up a narrow staircase and arrive in what looks like a 1960's recreation room. That's where AMT and the opening act, Sonic Suicide Squad were selling their vinyls and CDs. Go a bit further, past the end of the bar and you're on an intimate (read:small) dance floor in front of the stage, itself an elegantly-appointed number with a backdrop of lights and reflective beads. Across from the stage is a staircase which takes you upstairs to yet another bar, and the balcony. This is the vantage point from which I watched and photographed the show (photos here).
The only clues we got that the main event was on was the wail of a lone, rising, then falling synthesizer note. Next came the microphone-check-like vocalizations of the band's bass player in front of the first tune of the evening, Are We Experimental? A sing-songish “Philly...Philly...Phillllllyyyyyyy!” is how he saluted the city which hosted them that evening. Immediately, the band broke into free-form freak-out mode, slipping into Sabbath-ish stoner-dirge-rock mode, then cranking up to speed-freak tempo before ending the piece.
In the middle of the whole thing, between numbers, the bass player asked the audience jokingly if former baseball manager and Phillies team member Pete Rose was still playing. That got a few laughs before the band launched into still another high-wattage jam. I must say, these guys sure learned a lot from their apprenticeship with Gong (whom they shared a stage with in 2003). At times I could almost picture Daevid, Gilli and the rest of the Gong crew on the stage with them. AMT have described their music as “extreme trip music”. Loud and fast rave-ups were punctuated by slow, languid stoner-blues with a Japanese-language speed-freak rap/poem in the middle of it all, followed by a distant, dream-like trip-to-the-center-of-the-power-spot drone, powered by the wail of an e-bowed guitar. The show was unusually long, clocking in at just under two hours.
There were many flavors in this mix. Permit me to drop some names - Hendrix from his Band of Gypsies period, Paranoid-era Sabbath, Jefferson Airplane circa ...Baxter's or Crown of Creation, (dare I say it?) The Grateful Dead in full Dark Star mode or Can's Soon Over Babaluma. But flavors are just what they are. AMT is no way a cover band or a nostalgia act. Youthful headbanger, aging acid-head and all in between are welcome in the presence of Acid Mothers Temple.
Wanna hear some live Acid Mothers Temple for yourself? For free?