This Liverpool Music Week article was written by Jack Roe, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
There is a chapter in Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ wherein the protagonist, on the bad side of a gargantuan drug binge, completely loses the run of himself. Whereas the rest of the book is similarly fueled in this specific section, the writer, overwhelmed by the memory of his experience, is unable to rely on his recollections and settles for simply transcribing his recordings from a faulty dictaphone. I did not spend last night at the mercy of hallucinogens in Death Valley, I did however spend it at a Godspeed You! Black Emperor gig, and I imagine the experience is similar.
Camp and Furnace, has a well earned reputation as an incredible venue for live music, the home among many other events, the International Festival of Psychedelia which means that the venue staff from the techs to the door to the bar are well drilled which is always a bonus and especially when the bands rely so precisely on the tone and movement of their music.
Support for the main act was manfully provided by Dead Rat Orchestra, a wonderful little oddity of a band who began their set by announcing that “this song is about stock speculation from the 1600’s”, and proceeded to perform a commendably intense take on centuries old folk tunes with a more than slight edge of pyschedelia. Imagine listening to sea shanties, played by men with beards that could hold an entire sandwich let alone a few crumbs, on LSD and you’re probably somewhere in the vicinity of the performance.
And what of the main event? Well in the plainest terms I can use it was a gig that would take six attempts to fully appreciate. The first thing that becomes musically apparent with Godspeed is that they are not a band in a hurry, with this in mind it was no surprise to be treated to an empty stage emitting bass heavy soundscapes for five minutes at the beginning of their set. Another thing that becomes quickly obvious as the band-members, all 8 of them, took to the stage one by one is that here, truly, the journey is more important than the destination. There are no traditional hooks here, or song structure, no lyrics and no audience interaction-no member of the band said a single word in two hours. Some music is a snapshot, this is a time lapse. As a member of the audience, it is simply a case of being swept along by frequencies, tones and hauntingly repetitive imagery towards moments of repeated crescendo, the cues for which are indefinable, almost telepathic. In a medium that is so obsessed with time, this is a band that operates somehow in space, creating music that distills that moment where tension is transformed into release, where stillness becomes movement.
It is very nearly beyond words to describe a show like this, where shortcuts like genre and context don’t really apply to the conversation. Moments like this instead create their own framework, become their own yardstick. Moments like this render superlatives useless and ratings perfunctory but I will say that I am entirely sure that my experience in a darkened warehouse in Liverpool stretched my mind just as far as Hunter’s attempts to find the American dream all those years ago.