Live Review for Metal Maniacs
New York City’s Knitting Factory isa great place to see live music, especially given the fact that at any time, there can be as many as three very different and wholly separate shows going on behind that unassuming brick façade. The real fun comes between sets, when the sweaty masses make a break for the smoking section outside and one is free to observe what happens when a bunch of hip hop fans, metalheads, hipsters and more are corralled behind a rope and forced to share the same six-foot stretch of concrete.
In more practical terms, its low lighting and hushed atmosphere lend themselves surprisingly well to performances by heavier bands. Tonight’s show was no exception. Experimental doom duo Nadja took the stage shortly after ten, and proceeded to woo the audience into a collective trance with their blissed-out drone-pop. Between poking fun at themselves (“Hey, we’re called Nadja and we’re from Canada…eh?) and fiddling with the pile of effects pedals that rested atop a small table onstage (effectively serving as the band’s third member), Nadja concerned themselves with spinning a sonic web of texture and hypnosis, ensnaring all who stood still to witness it. Layer after layer of fuzzed-out drone crashed over us like so many ocean waves, building in intensity over and over again only to break and drift back into ambient calm. They continued in this vein for the entirety of their set, which felt like it lasted a century even though the clock only counted out thirty minutes.
To be honest, this sort of music is always hit or miss in a live setting – sometimes it’s transcendent, sometimes it’s alright, and sometimes, well, it’s about as exciting as watching grass grow. As far as fans of the style are concerned, Nadja definitely falls into the former category, but by the end of their third and final song, I could see some members of the audience beginning to get a bit antsy. I’d been under the impression that Nadja were headlining, so imagine my surprise when Grails took the stage and kicked up the energy by about a half dozen notches with their Pitchfork-approved brand of eclectic instrumental jams. I wouldn’t call it metal by a long shot, and honestly, I still don’t see what all the buzz is about, but the kids seemed to be eating it up. More “world music meets post-doom” than anything else, Grails mix semi-exotic instrumentation (sitar, harpsichord) and plenty of Eastern influence with soft keys, violin, and harmonica, then inject it into psychedelic drone-rock. Adventurous to be sure, but I still think Nadja should have headlined.