During the 1990s, rock music evolved in countless ways. As the decade progressed, so did the evolution of rock. Innumerable music experiments were conducted, from minimalist – drastically reduced production and instrumentation – to epic, grandiose pieces of rock orchestration, called post-rock.
Post-rock can be defined as the abandonment of traditional intro-verse-chorus rock song structure, replacing it with free form orchestration while using the same instrumentation traditionally found in rock music (several guitars, bass, drums and sometimes keyboards). Typically, the vocals are few and far between, if not entirely left out.
Mogwai is indisputably one of the most important pioneering bands behind this movement. Their recent concert at the Avalon in New York City – which was, at the time, the closest show to Philadelphia – proved to be one of the most breathtaking performances the audience would ever bear witness to.
Perhaps the venue itself added to the show’s overall mystique. The venue is an ancient metropolitan church transformed into a classy nightclub which occasionally hosts concerts. Imagine a discotheque from the ’70s, complete with an upper balcony lining the perimeter of the main hall and a dance floor complete with psychedelic lights and shadows projected from the cavernous ceiling above.
Mogwai started their show with the classic, “Hunted by a Freak.” The first noticeable aspect of this band’s playing was its sheer volume. As the band progressed through their 75 minute set, the audience was again entranced by the melodious clean guitar work, only to be pummeled mercilessly by the crushing wall of sound, barely contained by the speakers.
Each instrument could be distinctly recognized, in spite of the immense layering of sound. The pauses and breaks in songs were flawless. Between two keyboard players, three guitarists, a bassist and sparse vocal sections, the rich sound of a live Mogwai performance is one that can be matched by nearly no other band.
As the band closed their set with the mammoth “Christmas Steps,” chills were felt all throughout the crowd and looks of utter astonishment were cast all around.
A band like Mogwai is truly unique and although its healthy selection of recordings is a fantastic way to experience the music, its better to see the group live to truly grasp the power of post-rock music.
Check out Mogwai at the Starlight Ballroom on May 11.
Julian Root can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.