Warped Tour? Yawn. Ozzfest? Predictable (’cept Andrew WK, of course). “Rock Never Stops”? Mullet Nation unite! Area 2? Very nice with a chilled $9 Chardonnay.
Promoters don’t put together package tours to catch your ears off guard. Usually. And they certainly don’t put them together to make you feel like there’s a giddy ferret using a Marshall stack and a band saw to climb out of your brain through your eardrums. Until now.
“Oops! The Tour” descends upon Detroit this weekend. Joey Karam, keyboardist in headlining band the Locust, describes it thus: “Pure sonic terror.”
He has a smile in his voice. Maybe it sounds more like a grin.
But Oops! isn’t just about volume. It is also a celebration of experimentation. A binge of envelope-pushing all hidden, to the outside world, in the guise of a garden-variety rock show at a bar.
“I hate to use this word, but all these bands have an extreme quality — volume, speed — it’s an experimental alternative to any kind of packaged tour,” says Karam.
Organized by Brian Peterson of Skin Graft records, Oops! marshals under the experimental banner sounds by outfits from around the country representing diverse sonic agendas. The Locust, with bursts of 45-second synthesized-punk-metal (like an ADD-addled Devo meets a road-raging Slayer with PMS), is one of three bands that will perform on every stop of the tour. The other two, Lightning Bolt (synapses stretched tight over stream-of-consciousness guitar feedback and nervous beats) and Arab on Radar (No Wave trying to strangle New Wave), complete the trinity of raw nerves.
For its part, the Locust has made the tension and agitation that come with the extreme side of rock an integral part of its live performances. Often, says Karam, it feeds the music in unexpected ways.
“The reactions to the band varies from town to town. Sometimes the kids become absolutely haywire trying to sing along — though it seems like a daunting task — having an energetic time,” he says. “And other times it’s like people are just standing there, like they’re watching TV or something. I kinda like that reaction. It can be tense or uncomfortable in a way, but I feed off of that tension too. It can be like a ghost town and that’s kind of neat.”
“We played at this house in Lawrence, Kan.,” Karam continues. “And we played on the front porch ’cause there was absolutely no room in the living room. Kids were spilling out onto the street and everything. It lasted roughly six or seven minutes before the cops showed up, but it’s a memorable show for us and I know that the kids who were there will remember it!”
And though the Locust’s music might have the volume, speed, and apparent lack of attention span usually associated with hardcore and speed metal, Karam is quick to point out that that’s only one stop on this sonic shopping trip.
“I think that each one of us has grown up in one way or another with hardcore music, but individually our tastes are so eclectic that the Locust music draws from a lot of sources,” he says.
“It’s nice to be able to embrace a broader spectrum. I think it’s interesting that we’ve been somewhat successful and have kids from all walks of life come out. You can pick out people from certain scenes, based on their dress or whatever, but they’re all there. There’s some sort of common thread.”
Could that common thread be a simple as enjoying a pure, cathartic blowout? “I think we’re all after some sort of outlet for terror and destruction,” says Karam. “And maybe we could provide the sound track to that. I think people have an innate need for these things. Not to be all aggro or aggressive about it, though.”
The Locust toys with the age-old rock notion that an integral part of fandom is that fans can project their desires, hopes, wishes, aggravation and frustration on the band and the band can let it out for them. In fact, in its own postmodern way, the Locust is all about creating that white noise tabula rasa.
“We basically create the idea and then the audience makes whatever they reasonably can with it,” says Karam. “They project ideas onto it. And we’re a band that embraces the idea there’s no need to spell it out for them. We like to think our audience is pretty smart.”
And don’t expect those musical bombs bundled into haywire packages clocking in at less than a minute to get any longer anytime soon, either. The brevity is part of the Locust’s carefully crafted approach.
“Sometimes it seems like we’re writing six- or seven-minute songs,” says Karam. “We’ve kind of joked around about actually writing a six-minute song before, but I think Gabe, the drummer, would just die from physical exertion. Already he’s throwing up between songs — it’s gotten pretty nasty.” Who said rock ’n’ roll was pretty?
Oops! The Tour will tear down the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit) Sunday, July 14. Call 313-833-9700 for details.Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org