the loud bassoon concert scene

Souled American @ Empty Bottle, Chicago, USA
16 June 1999

I hadn't ever heard of Souled American (no doubt due to my chronic "No Depression"-caused depression) before going to see one of their assumedly rare Chicago appearances. It was one of those things where you go because the people you're hangin' with are going, which can sometimes be great, because you never know what to expect.

I surely didn't know what to expect, but similarly, I don't know quite how to describe what it was like. The concert was one of the most baffling things I've seen in awhile … just two guys, seated, with electric guitars and a ton of reverb, playing super-slow, beautifully ugly country ballads while writhing like heavy metal sidemen.

It was insane. They played two sets, so I was there til like 2:30 in the morning, and it just got more and more bizarre as the night wore on and the band got drunker. One of the guys I was with said that they didn't sound anything like that on record.

It was fascinating and really cool. A bit grueling as the second set kept stretching on, but not in a bad way. The sound was really weird … it was like Cocteau Twins playing old Kentucky mountain ballads, and the guys were playing very purposefully sloppy, throwing in all these ugly dissonances that somehow lent the music a lot more weight than your typical roots-rock outfit.

Truly, one of the strangest shows I've ever seen. I actually would love to have a CD of their music, but apparently their CDs aren't like how they played on Saturday. Still, if they ever come 'round again, I will probably go see 'em – if for no other reason than to see the looks on people's faces while they are watching these guys who look like they belong in Slayer playing this freaky (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) music.

Many members of the audience seemed to "get it" – I didn't, but I liked it anyway. The opening band played some good Kentucky mountain bluegrass, very traditional, just guitar, fiddle, banjo, and singin'. A couple of the members of that band joined Souled American during that second set (very damn late at night), at which point it really seemed as though I were watching a rehearsal. Very strange.

The crowd thinned out a lot as it got later, but I stuck it out. It was kind of like having way, way, way too much of a pretty good thing, like when I was in grade school and tried to break the world record for number of consecutive Ding-Dongs a person can eat without drinking anything or shitting their pants.

Unfortunately I lost on the second count, but most underwear is easily cleaned with even the most common household laundry detergent and/or one's little brother's tongue.

Review by Bryna Heavy-Flow