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.