Zia – with Flail, Big Catholic Guilt at The Rat – Review


with Flail, Big Catholic Guilt at The Rat
by Scott Hefflon
photos by Trevor Whitaker

Flail has undergone some changes, I see. They used to be more Cure-ish and electro pop danceable. Now it seems they’ve added a drummer to the line up. They are still a far cry from standard rock format, but I doubt that’s a bad thing. I think they have guitars, but you could barely see the stage, much less the performers, with the fog maker running full blast. Truly, I’ve never seen so much damn fog. (Hence no photos. They came out like big white blurs. Kinda cool, but unprintable.) The tunes were dreary Goth dirge and would have benefited from a strong Reznor whisper/scream or Buzzsaw Jourgensen howl. As it was, it trudged moodily along. I guess it was tranquilly depressing and rapturesque if you’re luddin’ and groovin’ with it, but I just wasn’t awed. I went to rage to B.C.G. and Flail just didn’t blow me away.

These guys rock! (That’s a joke, by the way.) It’s funny watching people’s reaction to Zia‘s interpretation of music. Even at an electro/industrial/Gothic/etc. show at the Rat, most of what’s going on goes over everyone’s head. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a wild audio/visual experience. For a more detailed analysis, read Mr. Bonni’s volumes of the cyber reality of Elaine Walker, Lisa Sirois, and whoever the hell else is in Zia at the moment.

Zia’s live shows have gotten more involved and intricate. With assistance from some of the most competent names in Boston’s electronic music scene, Elaine fronts one of richest musical bands around. The shows now incorporate all sorts of computer monitors and a slew of new samplings. Growls, groans, and clinkings weave about the warped melodies and techno-tribe thumping. How uncharacteristic of “rock and roll” it seems to see someone sitting on the stage floor with a Mac in their lap. No choreographed hair tosses, but detailed manipulation of sound, triggered, and layered. And what of Elaine prancing about the stage in the now legendary duct-tape and 1/2 mask, tapping and tinkering with some effects jungle gym circuit board rack monstrosity? What’s a scraggly long-haired rocker to make of it? With her excessively pierced, half-shaved and tattooed china doll Vogue-gone-cyber looks and oh-so provocative teaser taped goodies, she sings low, scratchy, and throaty then wisps into the breathy angelic falsetto. The melodies are eerie and nonhuman, the vocals quiver delicately then howl like a banshee caged in hyperspace. The ethos of cyberpunk are, unfortunately, too involved for a mere live review. But who knows what the future may hold.

Imagine this: Standing directly in front of the stage at the Rat. The lights plunge into oblivion and for a few seconds, the crowd is left in screaming, cat-calling limbo in mouth-watering anticipation of what is to come. Dry ice starts pouring from behind the stage. The band walks onto the stage and the screams and cat-calls become insanely desperate. The crowd knows of this audio attack squad and fully expect to leave with damaged ear drums. Finally, finally, the singer enters the picture. He nods a hello, says a few words, cues the band, and all hell breaks loose. Jay Tullio, formerly of Boa, and Dan Bongiorno, formerly of Riot Act added their expertise to the show. As Sam Jordan (“The Voice”) told me, these guys “are very well-suited” for the kind of music Big Catholic Guilt is known for. Both Jay and Dan are “more seasoned, forward, and aggressive” players than members in the past. I was standing directly in front of Dan at the show, and from my vantage point, “aggressive” is definitely an adjective I’d choose for him. Remaining members of the band are Tim Osbourne the”Master of Technology,” M. Crazz on bass, Perry James on drums, and, of course, Mr. Stage Presence himself, Sam Jordan on vocals.

For the entire show, BCG’s techno-Goth-metal sound was tighter than ever. The music and sounds coming from the stage were not only entirely mesmerizing, but not to be believed. It was like Skinny Puppy meets every Al Jourgensen project multiplied by 100.

As the evening marched on, the excitement and participation from the crowd never diminished, nor did that of the band. The Rat was too hot, too crowded, smelled like shit, and was alive with the pulsating energy of BCG. One highlight of the evening was when Sam wrapped his melon with duct tape, was plucked from the stage by some over-zealous fans, and went “blind crowd surfing.” That was cool and everything, but just as Mom always warned us of running with scissors (“somebody’s gonna’ get hurt! Don’t come crying to me when”… blah, blah, blah), Sam was basically ejected from the crowd and landed half on the stage, with his legs still crowd-bound. Lying on stage, spitting blood, he recovered only to crucify the crowd with a three song encore. A now wiser Sam puts blind crowd surfing in his “Sam’s Top Ten List of Things NOT To Do at a Show.”

Fortunately for those poor souls who missed this awesome (for lack of a better word) show, Big Catholic Guilt will be playing around town again soon. Don’t miss the chance to check out BCG while they’re still a “local” band. Only at much larger shows have I seen such unbridled energy in a crowd. As for the January 29th show at the Rathskellar, Sam puts it in his top three performances. In his own words, they were really “jazzed.” So was the crowd as it went happily home, satisfied and licking its wounds.