Antemasque with Le Butcherettes, The Rock, Friday, August 8
The first thing that grabs your attention while witnessing Le Butcherettes perform is singer/guitarist/keyboardist Teri Gender Bender's eyes. She could sing be singing heartfelt and love struck gentle balladry and the white hot intensity emanating from those big eyes could bore a whole right through your entire existence. But her music isn't even in the same galaxy of easy listening pop. She's more like the natural successor to Karen O.—barbaric theatricality based in no wave confrontation. And that goes double for the band as a whole.
Le Butcherettes plays a brainy amalgam of scabrous punk and electro-shock Kraut funk, adorned at times by icy electronics. The trio is an assault in all senses of the term—the beats swing but they also pummel while the bass simulates a throbbing heartbeat, albeit after the owner of said heart just got stabbed. This foundation provides the literal and figurative stage for Bender's explosive vocals and physical performance. Each song entered and exited on a corrosive groove, gathering considerable momentum from its unending repetition. Sometimes the bedrock rhythms were as obtuse as Captain Beefheart's most challenging work; at other points cut from the same contorted funk cloth as James Chance. But Bender's larger than life persona and her band's songs were never less than spectacular.
Antemasque has a potentially suffocating albatross coiled around the band's neck, and it's called "featuring ex-members of At The Drive-In and the Mars Volta." Indeed, three of the four members were in the latter, including Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who revolutionized punk rock in the '90s as At The Drive-In, and pulled off the same trick the following decade with experimental prog rock with the Mars Volta. That's quite a legacy to live up to, but Antemasque effortlessly succeeded by grafting the adventurousness of the latter with the urgency of the former.
More than anything, however, was the comfort in which both Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez have gracefully matured without losing the edge that has defined their finest work. And they did it without becoming a nostalgia show to boot. Antemasque simplified the excesses that frequently bogged down the Mars Volta's potential for immediacy, but they didn't revert back to the youth brigade of At The Drive-In either. It's rare to see an aging punk agitator whose art is still relevant, and Antemasque is just current step in the evolution of life long agitators.