The experience of listening to Black Pus' music in the comfort of one's own automobile or domicile is distinctly different from standing two or three feet away from Brian Chippendale while he performs as Black Pus. Vivacities and extremes unseen make total sense in a live setting: knobbed electronics perched on amps, batteries of blinking effects pedals, massive cymbals, a lived-in drum kit. Floristree's post-Halloween ambience—the piñatas, pink streamers, strings of lights, plastic jack-o'-lanterns, bouquets of fake flowers—lent the scene a madcap air as Chippendale's set exploded beneath an unruly wad of stretched cotton intended to resemble a gigantic spider web.
After a costume change—from a zippered sweatshirt into a tie-dye tee, matching cloth mask, and an oversized headphone/mic combo—came a brief run through of gear, followed by a polite demand for a BOSS overdrive pedal. This demand, satisfied by an Oozing Wound guitarist, was delivered with the same hobbled vocal fidelity that accompanies Black Pus recordings and performances: a muffled, chipmunk chirp that seems beamed in from some remote Arctic outpost, strangely reminiscent of the audio from Lou Gehrig's retirement speech.
Then came the ruckus: a frenzied drum clinic cross-pollinated with a very weird, mind-numbing spew of effects that implied baselines and schizophrenia, hung with those very wild, high-strung vocals. Not songs, specifically, but quicksilver bursts of improvisation interspersed with waves of fed-back desolation that ignited his audience. Admirably, Chippendale never missed a beat or a step, even when the pit got out of control, when crowd-surfing ensued on a minor scale, when slam dancers were inadvertently propelled into his kit. And if you think about it, he had a lot to coordinate: the tripling and quadrupling of tempos, the just-so mashing of whichever pedal made sounds that suggested DJ scratches and wet wipes polishing a window, the tribal kick-drums solos, the sheets of corkscrew distortion. Playing on floor level. There were stretches of the show that had nothing to do with stick work—just chanting, chopped voice, strategically aimed feet instigating a haywire wah-wah. "Hectic" is too mild a word to use.
The Black Pus set ended with a cymbal-tapped bass bomb, as Chippendale baited the audience a bit, tempo-wise. He'd simmer the intensity until it—and the crowd—threatened to explode, then slyly would pull back, then jack up and complicate the many textures at his disposal, then pile up the effects, unleash that unholy, ululating non-rap chant, and batter and bash those skins.
Those turning up late for the headliner missed a trio of exceptional, distinctive opening sets.
The throttling hardcore metal band—or metal hardcore, perhaps—Chicago's Oozing Wound inspired a dedicated most pit from note one, unleashing protracted, bludgeoning wormholes of pique and literally rattling the floor, with vocals slung at such a guttural velocity they made my own lungs ache. This is music custom-made for convulsing and the flaunting of long, unwashed hair; this is hardly a criticism.
In the home-chemistry set of Baltimore duo Wume? Furiously iridescent electronics and organs versus spirited, versatile drum work—with each core element prodding and probing the other, steering the music in odd directions, including a loopy, almost tropical funk. There was an undeniable Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid dynamic at work here; Tortoise without the coolness. Both members sang at points, which seemed unnecessary. Electronics manipulator Albert Schatz wore a black T-shirt with the planets on the back; this seemed both instructive and appropriate.
The opener, Baltimore's Rot Work, demonstrated an abundance of technique and volume blasted in multiple directions, with detours into cartoon-y keyboard pop, stoner metal, hardcore, doom metal, and effects-stung blues, with paralyzing braces of distortion caulking the spaces between songs. It was difficult to say just what they were, but their passion was undeniable, occupying a very intense, private time zone where they could probably do anything.