Having our Sunday night plans to catch HAIM dashed by inclement weather and having spent most of Monday in “hold on to your butts” mode, The Spin was fully expecting to chide you, fellow Nashvillians, for not showing up for Acid Mothers Temple. You took your time, but through the wind and rain and dark of night, you came — close to a hundred of you, by a rough count! Whether you were a longtime fan (which is probably most of you) or a curious newcomer, you got an ear-opening dose of high-grade psychedelic improvisation. While plenty of you were dudes with big beards and ponytails — not to mention that one guy who wore a kilt — there were also a handful of women in the audience who seemed to be genuinely enjoying the show. We’re not big on stereotypes, so thanks for proving them wrong.
We were still shaking off the rain when Boston’s Perhaps hit the downbeat on an unbroken 45-minute block of warp-speed progressive racket. More geometric than strictly mathematical, their set was heavy on the chops, with lots of chord and tempo changes and odd time signatures, but maintained a poppy undertone and a raw and loose live edge. Perhaps’ recorded output consists mostly of composed segments strung together as one long piece, and the live show leans more towards their earlier Volume One and Volume Two albums than last winter’s Kamikaze, an atmospheric collab more closely approximating what Monday night’s headliners do on the reg.
There were flourishes of jazz and arena rock in equal amounts, calling to mind a merger of King Crimson and Battles. There was a little bit of emo-metal-post-rock that didn’t really stack up to the rest of the set. There was a harmonica riff and a concise Gene Krupa-meets-John Bonham drum solo. You might look a little goofy, but you could dance to it. Though not many in the crowd were in dance mode yet, that didn’t discourage vocalist David Khoshtinat from a bit of whirling. This may be less unusual music in the environs of Berklee College of Music, but somewhat comparable local groups like Gnarwhal and The Prophet Nathan are still working their way in from the periphery; hopefully we’ll see more of them soon.
A short beer break later, the current incarnation of Acid Mothers Temple did a quick line check. With a single syllable, they dropped right off the edge of the map and into a space-tinged electric blues jam. Founding guitarist Kawabata Makoto danced with a full Marshall stack and a Stratocaster that seemed to be always on the verge of coming alive. Appearing like Gandalf channeling Mr. Miyagi, longtime associate Higashi Hiroshi charmed the cries of a great space bird from a compact synthesizer. Tabata Mitsuru, who joined the collective in 2008, added rhythm guitar and guitar synth lines to the sonic texture, while bassist Tsuyama Atsushi, who first joined the group as a guitarist in 1998, filled in all the nooks and crannies around drummer Shimura Koji, who’s been with the group since 2005.
Scene contributor "Bawston" Sean Maloney’s observations — namely, that everyone would benefit from opening up the old brain a little, and that AMT is a great vehicle to start that exploration — were amply proven. There were recognizable structures in the music, but the way AMT puts them together adheres to entirely different rules from the pop music we hear every day. There was a notable jazz influence, in the form of structured “head arrangements” (sometimes based on as little as one chord, a nod to funk) that served as the starting point for wide-ranging exploration. The players listened to each other in different ways than an equally talented, more straightforward rock band might: They had to pay attention to what the entire band was doing at any given time, and sculpt a sound to complement or contrast it, and everyone had to choose how to respond, creating a unique and unrepeatable tapestry.
The 90-minute set was five songs, by our count, and was recorded; keep your eye on a legit tape-trading site like bt.etree.org to hear it for yourself. Longtime fans we spoke with felt like the group has mellowed a little after 20 years of touring, but the tradeoff, that amount of practice is required to do that kind of deep listening while performing, was worth it. Besides, the intensity of the sound still glued us to the floor. We were stone-cold sober, so we know we weren’t imagining that the bottoms of our shoes vibrated with the massive bass frequencies when we lifted them up. With the wax well and truly cleaned out of our third ear, we slipped back into the night from whence we came.