Weird bill? Yeah, weird bill. If they wanted to, Floor probably could’ve picked two Floor-influenced stoner bands to go out with on their US tour supporting the release last week of their first album in 10 years, Oblation (review here), but it was clear from the start of Darsombra‘s half-hour of projection-backed good-karma hippie drone that they and Hot Victory would be up to much different kinds of mischief than the evening’s headliners at the Great Scott in Allston. I’d arrived at the venue early, as I’m apparently wont to do, and sat for a little bit watching the Red Sox on the tv toward the front of the house while Darsombra set up.
When the lights went down and projections of trees scrolled by on the while screen erected behind them, I wasn’t even sure it was the start of their set, but once Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton took the stage — also dressed in white and playing through painted-white amps so that they too became a screen for the projected videos– they sat in front of their pedal board and keyboard, respectively, picked up a mic and explained what was up, invited people to sit or otherwise get comfortable and, smiling wide all the while, dug into a wall of sound both brightly toned and sonically weighted. Loud enough to want earplugs, but warm in its consumption. Like a guru who also eats you.
They’ve been on tour since the end of February, are in the home stretch. Here’s a phrase you don’t hear all the time: “We’re into the ninth week of our tour.” It’s hard not to admire such a nomadic ethic, and the dynamic between Daniloski (formerly of underrated stone-grinders Meatjack) and Everton was plain to see. Standing to pick up a bass, then switching to guitar, Daniloski couldn’t resist injecting a little more heavy into the noise wash, again, smiling as he did, and Everton accordingly broke out a gong to accompany, resulting in a blend of natural and electronic/manipulated sounds that would somehow serve as a fitting precursor to Portland, Oregon’s Hot Victory when they came on next.
I noted a Stumpfest hat on Ben Stoller that was a dead giveaway of their origins. In my head, I’d somehow crossed them up with Tee Pee retro riffers Hot Lunch, but by the time Stoller and fellow percussionist/sampler Caitlin Love finished loading up their elaborate spread of gear — a double-drum kit with two bass drums, snare, electronic elements, full pre-amped mixing board, keyboard, sampler, etc. — it was clear who was who. It took a while for them to get going, and the dancier start kind of turned me off, but as they went into their second piece, I took a step back — figuratively, since it was starting to get crowded in there — and asked myself, “Wait a second, what part of this isn’t brilliant?”
Like Darsombra, Hot Victory were probably something better seen live than heard on record, where seeing how they’re made feeds into the perception of the songs — though “seeing” is relative since they basically played in the dark. Ultimately, Love and Stoller wound up crafting intricate rhythms across their drums and the electronics, and samples filled out what was some of the most satisfying prog I’ve seen live since the early days of Zombi. Next time Kylesa finds itself in need of two drummers, they might do well to absorb them the way the Melvins did to Big Business, but even on their own, Hot Victory delivered a heavy sonic experience that boasted the precision of electronic music with the element of danger that comes with an organic live performance. At any moment, the entire thing could’ve come undone, but it never did.
Between the new release, the recent interview with guitarist Anthony Vialon and my general nerdly glee at their moving beyond “reunion band” status, it’s safe to say Floor have been on my mind of late. In hitting the Great Scott show, my interest was to see how the Miami trio were approaching that prospect; going from being a band playing reunion shows to a working trio supporting a new record with a cycle of touring. Unquestionably, putting out a new full-length was the right call, and Oblation material made a well-fitting complement to songs from Floor‘s 2002 landmark self-titled in the set, featuring heavily in trades back and forth between new songs and older ones while transitions between cuts like “The Key” and “New Man” came across as crisply live on stage as they do on the album.
The tour started April 30, so they were just a week into just over a month’s run, but it was clear they were getting settled into their process. The other times I’ve seen Floor over the last couple years have been one-offs, or short tours — all-out blasts with nothing kept in reserve. This was different. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, the aforementioned Vialon (who’s usually pretty meditative on stage anyway) and drummer Henry Wilson knew they’d be playing again the next night. Rest assured, they warmed up as they went on — bomb-string riffs dropped liberally all the while — and as “Oblation,” “Trick Scene” and “Find Away” from Oblation gave way to “Kallisti/Song for Eris” from the self-titled and “Dove,” they were on a roll that kept up for the remainder of their time. Wilson seemed particularly to catch fire, and while all three seemed to still be acclimating to the newer songs, the set was well constructed to have a flow between the familiar and the more recent.
Of the many things I’ll complain about on a given day, I don’t think I’ll ever bitch for hearing “Scimitar,” “Return to Zero” and “Downed Star” one into the next. The opening salvo from the self-titled was presented in album order and followed by “The Key,” “New Man” and “Sister Sophia,” likewise running in the set as they do on Oblation. “Iron Girl” fed into “Love Comes Crushing” well despite the decade-plus between when each was written, and “Tales of Lolita” was as infectiously catchy as ever. I had been hoping for “Homecomings and Transitions” from the new one, but “War Party,” the extended “Sign of Aeth” and the rush of “Raised to a Star” made suitable replacements, Oblation closer “Forever Still” preceding the ultra-heavy, feedback-drenched finish of “The Quill” and “Ein (Below and Beyond),” the two songs summing up Floor‘s “the more things change…” continuity between then and now.
I guess the answer I got to my initial question — how Floor would do in going from reunion act to working one — was the same answer I got from Oblation itself. They’ve taken their sound and progressed with it, and just as on the album there was nothing that sounded like they couldn’t just keep going with it, what they were doing on stage looked sustainable as well, and vital even with the inclusion of new material after years of playing the same songs. As a record, Floor is such a static presence — like a monument cut in marble to be idealized — but what the trio have proven with this album and what they proved again on stage last night is that actually these songs and this sound is meant to move, meant to go different places and explore different ideas. I keep they keep the development going, because it seems like as much as they’re getting adjusted now, there’s still ground for them to cover going forward.
It was pretty dark all night, but there are some more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.