We were in a neighborhood in the Pasadena area on Tuesday night, August 11, walking down a mellow residential street, living room lights bleeding out onto the parked cars and the sounds of sit-coms adding a weird prelude to our night. We were about to see SUNN O))) for the first time, and the setting provided a weird prelude to the evening. As we walked, the quaint neighborhood gave way to the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts where SUNN O))) was to play. Once inside the venue we got beers (for an at-your-discretion-donation price, which I thought was pretty cool), and got in the LONG line to use the bathroom, then were delighted to hear the first rumbling riffs coming from the stage. As the first riffs spilled out I marveled at how the venue was reminiscent of a Spanish style church, with high ceilings and huge, round chandeliers hanging down from the middle of the room. We were in a converted church to watch the slowest, heaviest, most intense band in the world play music.
And what we saw on stage was quite interesting. The figures, bathed in red light, clad in robes, reminded me of Dionysian frieze or some weird sacrificial moment in a Dario Argento film; but this is what I expected. As the monolithic rumblings slowly dripped out of the stacks, which lasted for what seemed like 5 hours, hipsters and metal-heads alike began putting their foam earplugs in. I thought to myself, well why are they doing this? The music’s not that loud. The music was loud, but it felt good as I put my head back and stared at the ceiling, which turned out not to be as cathartic as I had thought. The music’s resonant vibrations were causing particles from the ceiling to drift down, depositing them directly into my eyes, hair, clothing, everything.
Still without earplugs, I went outside to have a smoke, and I marveled at how loud the music was there, but also that it seemed to be growing even louder. Finishing the smoke, I went inside and discovered that I most definitely needed earplugs. The sounds emanating from the front of the stage gave me a bit of vertigo and caused me to lose my balance as I pushed through the crowd to get closer to the stage. When I looked up at the chandeliers I thought for sure that they would come down because they were vibrating, or was I vibrating, or was it just my brain that was vibrating? In any case, the music had a corporeal effect on me, and it was pretty cool.
When I try to explain SUNN O))) to the uninitiated I often get blank looks, raised eyebrows, and the like, and even after going to see the band live, I wonder why I enjoy their “music” myself. I think it’s because their wall-of-sound noise takes me away from this world entirely, puts me into a state of meditation, but also a state of limbo-esque turmoil, so as I leave the experience and reenter the real world I feel both cleansed and battered at the same time–yes, it’s hard to explain and reconcile such deferring results, I know. But if you go to a SUNN O))) show and feel nothing, good or bad, you might be dead.
Here’s the art work associated with their upcoming European tour: