Rattle in Seattle: The Earthquake that Rock and Roll Built
There was an earthquake in Seattle this morning at around 5:20 a.m. Right now there are geologists all over the news telling us it has something to do with plate tectonics and the fault line running through our fair city.
I know better. You see, I was at the Master Musicians of Bukkake show at Neumo’s last night where I witnessed, with my own eyes and ears, the psycho-spiritual onslaught that almost certainly caused the tremor.
In less enlightened times, we Westerners may have described this phenomenon as the mouth of hell opening; perhaps in some demonic response to the irrepressible occultism of the world’s most misleadingly named band. Today, however, we may dismiss with supernatural explanations altogether and apply Occam’s Razor: this morning’s 4.6 magnitude quake was the obvious result of changes to the earth’s electromagnetic field occasioned by the universe-warping psychedelia of the Master Musicians. If I’m wrong, I’ll eat one of their adorably Jodorowsky-esque hats:
This was my first experience with one of MMoB’s legendary live shows, although I’ve been looking forward to one for awhile. In many ways, Master Musicians is the consummate Seattle band. Identified by The Stranger’s Dave Segal as the “successors to the Sun City Girls‘ pantheistic, panglobal, sonic headfuckery,” MMoB employs an uncanny degree of instrumental virtuosity to songs that are equal parts ritual chant and blistering hardcore. Notable for their far East influence as much as their outsider insanity, Master Musicians describe themselves in terms of an idiosyncratic Northwest apocalypticism. From their decidedly unedited MySpace page:
Hidden in the broken amplified logs and delayed deep green moss. Damp evergreen floors with Hidden secrets to tell. Musicians of Bukkake is born of this primordial Northwest passage of rights , electric old growth rituals formed when the earliest saplings and fungus brokeforth through the ground reaching their life filled limbs to the sun ever seeing ever growing. […]
As we move into the age of modern mans descent into ruin and the trees regain their dominance over the pitiful buildings and machines of humans…Now, In this final age when the sun scorches the southern states and burns our grand citys mile by mile in a hope to burn off the impurities of the earth back to the prima materia, you can hear a far away sound a scream a ritual and a gathering ….Master Musicians of Bukkake.
The seven-man lineup includes two drummers facing one another. On stage, Master Musicians of Bukkake array themselves as though they are reflected across a vertical axis — a tactic that reinforces the effect of apocalyptic psychedelia.
As a visual artist, aspiring musician and weirdo enthusiast, I find Master Musicians of Bukkake to be a highly refined example of what I think is some of the most exciting creative work coming out of Seattle in any medium. Although I’ve lived here for over five years, it wasn’t until relatively recently that I stepped out of my self-absorbed bubble of grad school and personal drama and stumbled onto the thriving underground network of eccentric and unbelievably talented musicians and performers that in many ways represent the real heart of this city’s creative life. In February 2008, Paste magazine ran an article suggesting that the conditions that once made Seattle a mecca for musical talent have all but disappeared, leaving the city’s scene a desolate shadow of its former self. Maybe so. After all, at the peak of last night’s happening, Neumo’s was barely half-full. But so is the optimist’s glass.
My guess is if you asked any of the rock and roll shamans who caused this morning’s earthquake if Seattle’s scene is dead, they would laugh and say yes. After all, as Northwest mystics, Master Musicians of Bukkake surely know that life and death are cyclically intertwined.