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ammo in pittsburgh
posted on 26-Nov-2000 by anton
"seven" crew has attended ammo show in pittsburgh; below is not your ordinary concert review, but more of a free-flowing recollection of the evening.
this would be a strange show review; I wasn't even sure if I would write one. the reason being, is that there is not that much to write about; ammo played a great set, but there was no audience (people were present, but no audience to speak of) and there was not much of a "show/performance" attitude present as well. …but I am getting ahead of myself.

I am still a little confused on how in the hell ammo got to play in Pittsburgh, and how in the hell the organizers got the venue they had (I felt ashamed and even somewhat guilty to meet the band in that venue). I simply have to mention the fact, that when we arrived to Pittsburgh after a three-hour drive, we circled around the venue a few times a little uncertain; after all, I tend to get confused when I am looking for an "eclectic drum&bass" show and all the directions point to an old redneck bar with glowing neon "live rock" signs, a weekly power metal roster (I think we missed a motorhead tribute night by a few days) and a few beat-up 70s cars parked outside. a little hesitant, we enter the bar, greeted by a crowd of friendly-looking bikers that confirm the fact that ammo indeed is playing tonight, pointing us to a flyer, that by itself was a masterpiece of promotion. at the top it said "ammo - drum&bass from Belgium", then a little lower there were two local bands that were described as "live moody rock" and "experimental rock" (I am not quoting, but this is pretty close). this combination sent me to a short-term stupor, after which I could not help but chuckle every time I glanced at the flyer.

Now, don't get me wrong. I applause and admire the fact that organizers of the event put the energy, the funds and the time into bringing ammo in and allowing us to see the show. I have nothing but respect for the audience that stayed and listened to the bands play, for the bands themselves that played out and then listened and obviously enjoyed ammo's set, and finally for ammo themselves that found the energy, the time (after 48 sleepless hours that followed their previous Canadian date) and the heart to play for such a small audience confined in such a place.

At the same time, I simply was stunned by the sheer absurdity of the whole setup. After attending noisex, ant-zen and other shows in the States I was prepared for smaller audiences (that however are incredibly dedicated and passionate about the music) and random strange venues. This however was the best setup in terms of contrast between the music and nature of the artists and the venue/location combination.

I do understand that this possibly was a chance for some dedicated fan (whom I still have to meet, because throughout all 2+ hours we have been chatting with ammo crew before they went onstage, no one else expressed even slightest interest in the band) to see the band that happened to play in the States. I would probably do exactly the same thing, if I had an opportunity - basically give myself a chance to see the band, not even trying too hard to bring in anyone else to share the experience.

While two opening bands performed their sets (that actually turned out to be a combination of early junk industrial and some sparse noisy soundscapes with a few visuals - it never attracted my attention for too long to become too interested in their performance) we chatted with john sellekaers, herve thomas and c-drik. this alone was completely worth a three-hour drive and peculiar surroundings.

Finally ammo went on sometime after midnight. At this time a small crowd of regulars (dressed in standard "gothpop" fashion) did not pay much attention to the show chatting with each other on the background. Just three of us watched first few tracks performed by ammo.

The stage setup consisted of c-drik with a laptop and a mixer(?) and john armed with a sampler(?). Both were constantly tweaking and turning knobs, assisted by a local light guy (featuring an impressive mullet) that ran up onstage a few times, tweaking a single dimmer controlling a single stage light.

The music itself was simply killer - both managed to play six tracks that seamlessly flowed into each other. Best part of the whole performance were incredible textures that filled pauses between the tracks and served as a background for rhythmic pieces, thus making a whole show one solid improvised composition. Similar to the heavy textures that open album version of "ghost phalanx," layers of noises, intricate random sounds, drones, intense pulsing basslines and small frequencies formed a menacing and amazingly dense atmosphere that would gradually evolve into pummeling drum&bass rhythms that would advance, break and start all over. three new tracks seemed to explore the uneven, broken structures, adding more atmospheric pauses filled with menacing building intensity. if this is the direction the band will take (granted that ammo will evolve and at some point release a full-length album), then it will incorporate all those elements that I have always admired in xingu hill, torsion, dead hollywood stars, etc. a combination of intricacy, fascination with details, emotional touch; all of those used to explore certain genre, that in case of ammo happens to be drum&bass.

even after the first track I could say that all we experienced prior to getting to the show, did not matter much, as long as we got to see ammo play. and on a certain level, I am glad that the crowd was so apathetic, that we got such a long span of band's attention, uninterrupted by anyone. I doubt that would have been possible at any other shows.

overall, ammo delivers a great live music set, that could benefit a lot from an energetic crowd as well as some intelligent lightning or anything else that could have improved the atmosphere. I remember converter live early this year - the crowd and the environment contributed so much to his set that otherwise would have been a lot less energetic. and now I will do my best to see ammo/xingu hill play on a big stage for a big dedicated crowd.

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photographs © 2000 by alan mcclelland

related links
ammo "age of terminal irony" review
metarc website

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