It was a beautiful night. A beauty that defied the calendar - the wet and inescapable chill of a Taipei winter - and the physical limitations of a smokey, old basement. The beauty was in numbers, in a bending, never-ending line, in offbeats and distortion, in youth and anticipation. It was a feeling that transformed my grumpy, slumbering mood, as my heart cried out: "Damn!"
As in, "Oh yeah!"
As in, "Beautiful!"
The beauty was this: an ever-lengthening queue of kids owning ShiDa Road, curving into the heart of the night market. The last time I witnessed a line this long for an Underworld show, it was the summer of 2005 to see 1976 play what was billed as the bar's "last show ever." Police harassment had forced Underworld to cease live shows. The feelings were bittersweet, if not bleak and tense.
6 years later, the feelings that arose in me were hope and joy. Yes, Underworld was not only still here and still rocking (the ban lasted exactly one year), but the punk, goth, and androgynous mix of young boys and girls before me served notice to any and all that the end was not even remotely nigh. No future for you? Fuck that. A rock and roll future for you! For us!!!
As I crammed and crushed myself into place along the back walls, 強迫女孩 ripped into their debut. Ex-Space Cake singer 黃雨晴 Huang Yu Ching led her new project with an impassioned voice, wailing over an ocean of endless heads. There would be no watching the show tonight, only feeling and listening. This qualifies as a good problem - better a packed house than an empty room.
And what did I feel? Energy, energy, energy! And what did I hear? Aggressive guitars and drums, video game keyboards, and catchy melodies that the girls next to me still recited after each song had finished. If you're inspiring sing-a-longs at your first show, you're off to a pretty good start.
As 強迫女孩 played, I felt the crowd was anxious to move with the music. But how? Where? We'd just have to soak it all in. And the band played on.... more squirmy pseudo-dancing, more "lalalala's" from the girls before me.
Amid this restless energy, Macbeth bassist 蘇聖揚 Mai Su put in solid double duty as 強迫女孩 's low end. Yu Ching's a fun, expressive performer so I was hoping to see her do her thing. It turns out her thing that night was a homemade cosplay sailor uniform. She's a creative young woman who has assembled a talented, promising band. I'm definitely looking forward to more from them this year.
Soon after squeezing into the bar I found myself in back, pinned against the guys in Macbeth . Mentioning to singer/guitarist Howie Yu that there were still more people demanding entry, he smiled dreamily, “好爽！”
The show marked the release of their first studio recording, a 3-song EP, and in achieving an overflow of fans in direct competition with the Deerhunter performance across town, it had to feel extra special. 好爽, indeed.
Macbeth will inarguably and inevitably be compared with Joy Division. That could be a heavy weight to bear for some. I expect it's a conscious decision to emulate their sound, and they wouldn't be the first. But what makes Macbeth much more than a rip-off or a mere wanna-be is their musicianship and creativity. They are a good band, period.
The cold, dark tones and deep, stoic vocals of Manchester's heroes remain, but with odd, offbeat rhythms and swollen keyboards demanding equal attention. It's the interplay of instruments which leave me most impressed - they're a tight band, and in total control. Though a four piece (guitar, bass, keyboards, drums) Macbeth compose powerful, multilayered songs through intelligent arrangements and thoughtful execution. Guitars drop out, keyboards jump in, vocals double up, then retreat to drums syncopating with bass, and without warning, everybody strikes at once... Macbeth creates an exciting dynamic that betrays their years, exploits the limits of a 4 piece ensemble, and - bottomline - just rocks.
As the songs marched over us and the audience cheered louder and louder for more and more, pockets of dancing finally broke out despite the cramped conditions. Implored to two encores, Macbeth finally ending the teasing and played crowd favorite "Church." Ahhhhhh....
Posing for a photo with band mates as they packed up after the show, Howie repeated to me the phrase du jour, "好爽!"