A Place to Bury Strangers plays during Oct. storm

by Jonathan Dermid – jbdermid@unca.edu – Staff Writer

As a snowstorm posed blustery conditions to everyone in the Asheville area on Oct. 29, a noise rock band from New York City called A Place To Bury Strangers brought their own form of cold, washed out music to those brave enough to come to the Emerald Lounge on such a night.

The show opened to a very small crowd, as the brave 15 or so people spread out about the floor with a wavering indifference towards the opening band. The band was Bleeding Rainbow from Philadelphia, Pa., and within minutes, they had dispelled the indifference of the crowd by playing their first song. Their style was nothing new to fans of the headliner’s music. In fact, it was almost like a toned down version of A Place To Bury Strangers, but their youthful energy and their female vocalist set them apart.

As they wrapped up their 30 minute set, more people began to file in and were treated with the ringing of fire alarms as the roadies began to fill the room with fog to set ambiance for the main act. This would be a continuing incident throughout the night, which actually enhanced the show, as the emergency strobes blended well with the chaotic light show.

As soon as they took the stage to a now wildly enthusiastic and cold crowd of about 40 people, the spirit of a music scene long past came alive inside the Emerald Lounge. The low lights, the driving bass lines and the overdriven guitars harkened back to a time when Joy Division and The Cure were reinventing the punk scene of England with their own form of atmospheric stylings.

The band was kinetic from the beginning, moving wildly in the shadows and the fog, making the incredibly small stage seem as though it was much more expansive than it was. This show seemed to flourish more on such a small stage, as their show on a larger stage at The Orange Peel last year did not command the same type of energy.

As the band powered through a 50 minute long set, they focused primarily on their newest album Worship, which was released this year to reviews that championed its streamlined approach to their chaotic reflection of the ‘80s post-punk scene.

Interspersed throughout the set were older cuts as well, both from their 2007 self-titled album and from 2009’s Exploding Head, which all garnered an incredibly enthusiastic response from the crowd, one of whom even grabbed Dino Lunadon’s microphone to sing along.

All of this energy came to a head with their final song I Lived My Life To Stand In The Shadow Of Your Heart, which is arguably their signature song. It serves as such a signature song because the climax turned into a complete noise freakout akin to something that My Bloody Valentine would have done in 1991. Since their debut, critics consider A Place To Bury Strangers one of the loudest bands of all time, and this single song served as evidence for that fact. As the bass pulsated on, Oliver Ackermann began thrashing his guitar around, lit only by a flashing strobe through the now incredibly dense fog, leaving everyone in the crowd completely disoriented. The wall of sound now emanating from the massive amplifiers only heightened this disorientation, which seemed to grab everyone and hold them in a daze.

After almost 10 minutes, they left the stage, leaving only the alarms and the house music playing, sending everyone back out into the snow, seeing spots and hearing far less than they did a couple of hours previous. And yet, in speaking with them after the show, their mystery dropped, and they revealed themselves to be just three guys from New York, fueled by a love for an old scene and a desire to blend volume and melody in a way that mesmerizes while it disorients.

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