I think it goes without saying that when it comes to the indie music universe, there was no more celebrated reunion in recent memory than that of seminal Canadian post-rock ennead Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The announcement that they were going to be curating the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties Christmas event in Minehead, England created such a wave of excitement that when Godspeed You! Black Emperor expanded their comeback to include a series of tours in Europe and North America tickets sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. On February 22nd, 2011 their reunion tour made its way to Pomona, California, the first of two stops in Southern California (the other being at the Music Box in Hollywood a day later).
Joining Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the night was the stoner-drone band Om. Om took the stage right before nine o’clock. Consisting of bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros (the name should be familiar to anyone who has listened to the pioneering sludge band Sleep), Emil Amos on drums (who also plays in Grails), and multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Om’s spiritual bass grooves entranced the crowd at the Fox Theater for a solid forty minutes. Playing a set consisting mainly of tracks from their God Is Good album, Cisneros’ rolling bass grooves and zen like vocals had the audience hypnotized, but this was the calm before the storm, as when it became time towards the latter half of their set, things became more ferocious, with the band reaching back in their catalog and kicking up the gain, creating a high energy, sludgy drone.
As soon as Om finished their last note, a low pitched and constant hum began to emanate from the house speakers. It continued to build, getting louder and louder until it reached its final strength. Just as the noise became inescapably loud, the venue lights dropped, and the word “hope” began to flash on two large screens placed right behind the stage. One by one, the members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor began to take their places on the stage, with each one adding to the overall cacophony. After several minutes the drone subsided and a bowed bass began to play the beginning on “Moya”. When everyone on stage except for the song’s namesake, guitarist Mike Moya, dropped out for the main guitar riff after the song’s initial build, three minutes into the performance, the crowd erupted with applause; the scene in front of them finally sinking in: after eight long years, Godspeed You! Black Emperor were back.
The majority of the band’s two and a half hour set came from 2000’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Given the length of the songs in question, Godspeed You! Black Emperor did not play these songs in their entirety, instead performing the essential movements from three of the album’s four tracks, including “Monheim” from “Sleep”, “Chart #3” and “World Police and Friendly Fire” from “Static”, and, in what was the most triumphant moment of a night full of near heart stopping beauty, “Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” and “Gathering Storm” from the album’s opening track “Storm”. For most of the night, after the crowd’s initial fanfare during “Moya”, not a word could be heard from either the crowd or the stage, except for one lone concert goer’s cries of, “Thank you!” every so often. Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s performance was a balancing act between sullen and somber melodies and the soaring fanfare of “Storm”, tugging on their audience’s heartstrings with every aching note. Even so, those in attendance wouldn’t have it any other way. By the time that they began to play “BBF3” from 1999’s Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, there was not a single soul in the theater that could hold back their excitement. The crowd roared as the song’s famed audio sample kicked in. The song continued to build and build until finally it broke in a resplendent crescendo of tremolo picked glory. It was the perfect close to a perfect evening.
9-15-00 Part 2
World Police and Friendly Fire
Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven