Matmos makes for one of the most oddly engaging shows of the year

At the Media Club on Thursday, February 21

In addition to being impeccably mannered (he actually apologized for smoking outside the Media Club before taking the stage), M.C. Schmidt would also seem to have the patience of Job.

How else does one explain the less hirsute half of Matmos not completely losing his shit on Thursday night? To say the audience in Vancouver was less than attentive is kind of understating things. The healthy crowd that showed up for the Baltimore-based duo’s excellent Media Club performance wasn’t just inattentive, it was downright fucking rude. If you’re going stand there blathering on about your trip to the Bahamas, your favourite Adam Sandler movie, and that red wagon you had when you were six years old, why the fuck do you need to do it on the dance floor?

Dressed in a crisp white shirt and tie that made him look like a cross between a NASA control-room technician and a Staples floor manager, Schmidt tried early on—with little success—to shut the yappers up. Kicking off what will be remembered as one of the most oddly engaging shows of the year, he grabbed the microphone and hissed “Sssshhhhhh!” to no avail.

Rather than coming across as a hissy-pitching experimental-electronica version of Axl Rose, he had a good reason for wanting the audience to pay attention. Even though Schmidt and his Matmos partner Drew Daniel were hunched over a jumble of computers, synthesizers, and samplers, they weren’t just pressing Play and letting technology do the rest.

Instead, they took the intimate and interactive route, starting the proceedings by plunking guitarist Owen Gardner of opening act Horse Lords at centre stage, a pair of headphones clamped on his ears, whited-out glasses on his face. As Gardner sat there disconnected, sharing his Ganzfeld experiment–indebted thoughts on green triangles, Matmos sampled and manipulated his musings, dropping them into a symphony of pneumatic hisses and percussive water drops. Schmidt rang tiny Tibetan bells for added effect as (you guessed it) green triangles floated across a video backdrop that was part Pink Floyd album cover, part San Francisco travel reel. It was transportingly cool.

Unless, that is, you were loudly discussing what you had for lunch that time you were sent to Christian summer camp in Grade 8. 

The weirdness didn’t stop there.

The bearded and bespectacled Daniel, dressed in a street-crusty studded vest and basic black everything else, spent the first half of the Buzzcocks' new-wave pop confection “ESP” howling like a death-metal disciple with raging throat cancer.

“Lipostudio… And So On”, a squelchy ode to liposuction, had Schmidt leaning over a bowl of water, sucking and blowing on a variety of God-knows-what implements, with the resulting cacophony accompanied by free-form sax and videos of a camera snaking its way through various orifices of the human body. Speaking volumes about what Matmos was up against, the snappily dressed programmer started out the song with “For those of you who can’t see, I’m blowing into a… Ahh, never mind.”

From there we got Schmidt building a bomb-blast jam out of two Wendy Whoppers–size balloons for “Stupid Fambaloo”, followed by retro footage of Egyptian princesses flitting across the screen during the Tangerine Dream–dipped psych-rock freak-out “Aesthetic Vehicle”.

After being called back for a completely deserved encore, Matmos decided to go the Dan Deacon get-everyone-involved route, requesting that those in attendance make Hawaiian bird songs for “Treasure”, which they billed as a “song about Montana”.

“This one is about audience participation,” Schmidt annnounced. “So, if you can convince your 250 friends behind you to stop talking…”

The reward for his efforts? A bunch of people standing around drunkenly blathering about that time they went to IKEA and discovered that the kitchen was all out of Lingonberry pop and pickled herring.

That the unfailingly polite member of Matmos didn’t fucking snap was testimony to one man’s incredible inner strength.

Comments (12) Add New Comment
Fatty McGee
I dunno, sounds exactly like a regular Vancouver crowd.
26
21
Rating: +5
John
I hate shows where you are not allowed to speak or have fun. Hold it in an auditorium if you want the audiences undivided attention.

I cannot stand these hipster shows where everyone stands still in the crowd looking miserable while watching some overrated act that they heard about on Pitchfork.
22
66
Rating: -44
EPhoto
Well put! My boyfriend is a musician and has come across the same thing time and again. He is famous by no means, but the concert etiquette of Vancouverites is down right appalling. He has been doing his thing so long, he's gotten used to the talking and loud mouths. He writes it off now as an expectation and calls it the "typical Vancouver music scene" prefering to do shows accross the border in Bellingham and Seattle. Alternately, we've gone to music shows all over the city and have found that no band is safe. Be it at the previous Shins concert or even at Paul McCartney!! People go to shows just to say they've gone, not to listen and appreciate. So. lame. here.
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24
Rating: +7
T Lemon
This review made my afternoon, Mike. If I ever meet you I want a hi-five.

I'm not a fan of the stone faced stare, but why people feel the need to talk during a performance blows my mind. You don't do it in a movie theater, why would you ruin someone's experience at a live show with your vapid blathering?

Is it really just Vancouverites that do this?
21
24
Rating: -3
SL
Two guys and a girl who were standing maybe five feet away from the stage blathered incessantly, and even hit rock bottom of inanity when they loudly discussed....THE WEATHER!!! Have some awareness of the situation and go to the bar at the back of the room to talk. Or, better yet, go outside if you're so interested in the damn weather.
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Rating: +9
taseko
Dear John

Then don't go to those shows if you hate them anyway (btw, if they're crap, why are you even there?). I bet you're also one of those people that doesn't get why people get upset when you barge onto the skytrain before anyone else can disembark.

If you don't understand that people who have paid for a ticket might actually be interested in hearing the performer then hopefully some of these comments will make that clear for you. If you need to yak, hang out quietly at the back or better yet, choose a more appropriate venue, like Kids Only, to have your fun.
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Rating: +8
Chrees
Just saw Kishi Bashi at the Biltmore - and the crowd there was really into it - even during the quieter tunes. I think it depends on the crowd and the talking-during-a-show problem can't be painted broadly with the "It's just those rude Vancouverites" brush. Another case in point: Grizzly Bear at the Electric Owl last fall. The show was intimate, the crowd was into them, and the talkers stayed away. Sorry Matmos - I hope you make it back again and see what a true music loving Vancouver crowd is all about.
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Rating: -14
Brad
Dear John,

I hate shows where fucktards pay whatever entrance price just to annoy everyone around them by not actually paying attention to the show. STAY THE FUCK HOME!

No one is saying that you have to pretend you're in a dome of silence, but gauge the show.... if it's quiet music, have a little decency and police yourself. If your inner three-year-old just can't be quelled, at least have the good form to move to the back of the venue. And for fuck's sake, if you have no interest in what's going on on-stage, I repeat: STAY THE FUCK HOME!
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Rating: -4
Chrees
*Ahem*
I meant Grizzly Bear at the Commodore. The one at the Electric Owl was Sea Wolf....
I hate Monday morning fuzz brain.
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24
Rating: -9
Meathead
Soundd like your typical CITR crowd.
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17
Rating: -3
Mike Usinger
Meathead spell gud.
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31
Rating: -18
Dear Mike
I like how all the swearing really drives the point home. Keep up the good work.
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21
Rating: -8
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