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.  

Master Musicians of Bukkake

Master Musicians of Bukkake at Neumo's, 1/29/09. Photo by David Golightly.

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.

William Blake. The Last Judgement. Watercolor, 1808

William Blake. The Last Judgement. Watercolor, 1808

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.

~ by emilypothast on January 30, 2009.

5 Responses to “Rattle in Seattle: The Earthquake that Rock and Roll Built”

  1. Oh man, hands down the best local show I’ve ever seen in Seattle. These guys are a powerhouse. Also, it’s astonishing how little coverage there is for this new mystical music – outside of Dave Segal’s writeup, it’s almost as if Seattle’s music critics just don’t see it. Weird.

  2. many of Seattle’s music critics cannot deal with the whole concept of *really* LOSING one’s “cool” (ala Bukkake) as they are too busy trying to “WIN” such things as friends and credibility, oftentimes within the high-school-fantasy continuum that is “indie rock”. what they must gain, so as to understand, is the ability to LOSE. and i ain’t talkin’ about the “LOSER” meme found within the “Seattle scene”. i refer instead to LOSING all of the USELESS SHIT that they’ve accumulated along the path to their music critic position… without an iota of concern for what their “peers” might think. probably too much to ask, of course. 😉 whatever the case, tis funny how certain “outsiders” end up on journalism’s “it” list every year… as if the “if you wanna be cool” committee convenes from time to time to determine what freaks it is “ok” to like. that said, i have been recently amused by the alt-user-friendly “hippies are neat” marketing concept… the most substance-deprived crock of pseudo-weird CRAP to come down the independent music world’s hollow plastic PR trench in a long time. thanks for letting me know it is “cool” to respect the Grateful Dead’s music “again”, ya fucking ignorant douchebags… and that goes out to all the so-called “musicians” as well… esp. those who consult the “in” list before listing their “influences” on facespace.com… 😉

  3. HA! Great insight, Squeegee. Indeed, living in Capitol Hill I certainly encounter that mentality all the time (i.e. Oh, great, now it’s cool to like the Grateful Dead “again”…time to get my hippie clothes out of hiding!)

    I think what you say about ‘losing one’s shit’ is applicable on all sides here, whether we are making art or enjoying the art others have made. I just wrote an essay for the upcoming issue Matthew Offenbacher’s zine “La Especial Norte” that I won’t spoil here, but part of it is about how scientists working in the field of neuroaesthetics have found that expert jazz improvisation is linked to deactivation of certain self-censoring areas of the frontal cortex. That is to say, there is a high correlation between being able to effectively channel artistic material from the ‘subconscious’ and being able to turn off your ego. Um, DUH! (The same goes for liking what you like without second guessing yourself.)

    See you on Facespace, Space Face!

  4. hey now, sweet reply… is your essay online anywhere? sounds interesting! whatever the case, i must now “subscribe” to this post as i failed to previously do! (so as to engage in “conversation” 2.0!) :: anyhoo, HAPPY TRAILS from the TwitBook.com underground 8)

  5. Yes it is, actually. I posted it here shortly after the issue was published:


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