Show Review: HEALTH (w/ Gold Panda)
June 16th, 2010
The Strutt, Kalamazoo
Tickets weren’t necessary for this one, a twelve dollar cover got you in the door.
Jameson on the rocks (and pretty much any other call drink) was two dollars apiece;
despite this I somehow managed to not get hammered. Very low key venue with a great
crowd! I was impressed that HEALTH knew well enough it was an appropriate tour stop;
John (frontman) told me they’d been wanting to go there for some time and since they are
playing Lollapalooza soon they didn’t think it prudent to go to Chicago.
Indian Jewelry was billed as the opening band; for whatever reason Indian Jewelry
ended up playing in Chicago that night and a local generic noise band filled in. They were
extremely forgettable. Indian Jewelry is awesome and have a great new album out so it
was a huge bummer.
All that I’d heard from Gold Panda until lastnight was his remix on HEALTH’s
DISCO2. In case you aren’t familiar with HEALTH’s recent release pattern, the band
releases an album of original material (psychedelic electro-noise metal would I suppose
be the best description) followed by an album of mostly electronic dance remixes which
sound very different. So far this includes HEALTH(2007), DISCO(2008), GET COLOR(2009), and DISCO2(June 2010). After the opening band I asked John what Gold Panda was like; he simply widened his eyes, nodded and said “AWESOME.” Sweet Jesus, King of Jews was he right.
Gold Panda started off with a chilling ambient/noise experiment that eventually
leveled out to a ~90 bpm jam (I believe it was this track http://www.msu.edu/~hurleyj4/
you.mp3). After the first song he introduced himself as Gold Panda from the UK and
called out England as World Cup champions (wishful thinking). He followed through
with an incredible set of downtempo jams, save for the last song which was more or less a
UK style jungle track featuring liberal use of the amen break. Halfway through the set he
removed his grey hoodie (which made him resemble Ethan Kath of Crystal Castles) and
donned a panda hat. The crowd was very receptive; lots of dancing. Definitely one of the
best acts I’ve seen this year.
HEALTH took the stage and sound checked; Jake (singer) then simply and plainly
announced “hi we’re HEALTH from Los Angeles,” and the band then immediately
exploded. I can’t explain it any better. To me it was like an abstract performance piece
about a crowded day at the zoo where they suddenly lock all the doors and then let all the
animals loose. It was a great show and a lot of fun but not everyone’s cup of tea;
HEALTH comes up with incredible hardcore electro noises and they are all very talented
but in terms of pop structure, well there really is none. The only two songs which have
structure and therefore appeal to a broader audience is “Die Slow” from GET COLOR
and their newest song “USA Boys” which is the lead track (and only original HEALTH
recording) from DISCO2. Since these are more recent songs I would guess that HEALTH
is on the verge of finding a balance between raw power and song structure. I think a lot of
classic experimental noise bands made their best music when they found that juncture
(Sonic Youth, just to throw one out there that immediately comes to mind).
Halfway through the set they pushed the small venue to its limits and the drum kit
caught on fire. It wasn’t even funny; the band was genuinely concerned.