Arts Desk

Photos: Mogwai and Fuck Buttons @ 9:30 Club

Mogwai 09

The pairing of venerable Scottish post-rockers Mogwai with Fuck Buttons, a knob-twiddling duo who weave subtle melodies through waves of tribal noise, is inspiring. Both groups make mostly instrumental soundscapes, but go about it in entirely different ways. Mogwai (pictured above) use traditional rock instruments; Fuck Buttons use Nintendo GameBoys, toy microphones, laptops, and whatever else seems to strike their fancy. Both of them were awesome last night at the 9:30 Club.

Fuck Buttons opened, and while two dudes fiddling with toys on a table onstage isn't the most visually interesting thing ever, their music was absolutely enveloping. I recognized a bunch of stuff off of their full-length, Street Horrrsing, but it was tough to make out individual pieces as every song ran into the next, creating an uninterrupted, gloriously noisy performance. The music was repetitive, but always with some element of sonic interest: the occasional yawping vocals, live drumming, gorgeous melody, or weird sound coming from an unidentifiable source served to ensure that the music never got boring.

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By the time Fuck Buttons finished their set, the club was packed, a marked difference from the lackluster audience that greeted Mogwai at their last show here back in 2006. Mogwai came on at precisely 9:30 p.m., opening with the first song from their first full-length, "Yes! I Am a Long Way From Home." From there, their set meandered through pieces old and new, but mostly stuck to the quieter, lower-key compositions for which the band have become known. Mogwai has certainly mellowed with age, and fans can (and do) debate whether or not that's a good thing, but it's beyond dispute that they now do the "quiet and pretty" thing very, very well.

But last night they also proved that they can still rock. The set closed with the staple "Like Herod"—the song singlehandedly responsible for getting a decade of critics to lazily refer to Mogwai as "that soft-loud-soft band" – which then merged seamlessly into "Batcat," the token loud rock song from Mogwai's forthcoming new album, The Hawk is Howling (which you can hear in full on their MySpace page). It was an explosive ending that left the crowd cheering for more. More, of course, is what we got, and it came in the form of an encore that consisted of two more deliriously satisfying loud numbers—"Christmas Steps" and, of course, the noisy closer "My Father My King." It's as if the band structured their setlist to lull casual fans to sleep before blowing their eardrums out.

It's worth noting that the sound mix was among the best I've ever heard at the 9:30 Club; each of Mogwai's five instrumentalists stood out perfectly, even when picking a quiet guitar line amidst a sea of howling feedback. A good mix is pretty essential to music like this, which thrives on subtleties buried underneath walls of sound.

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As usual, there are more photos here at Flickr.

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Comments

  1. #1

    The last song wasn't "My Father My King" but rather one of the noisy songs off of the last album, Mr. Beast. I can't remember the names of Mogwai songs. Anyway it was a good set though I would have liked it to be a little less mellow. Fuck Buttons were good too, I agree.

  2. #2

    oh, shit, you're right. that must have been "We're No Here" then - last song on the album. they closed with it last time they were in DC too, if I recall.

    thanks for the correction.

  3. #3

    they did close w/ we're no here. i wished they played more off 'the hawk is howling' but all-in-all an awesome show.

  4. #4

    Hi Brandon

    I run the Mogwai fansite Brightlight
    http://www.youngteam.co.uk/brightlight/eng/index.php

    Any chance I could use a couple of your photos (properly credited of course) on the page for last night's show?
    http://www.youngteam.co.uk/brightlight/eng/gig170908.php

    Rob

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