NOTE: copypaste from my Facebook, hence why some ideas/concepts (i.e. earplugs, Holocaust, identifying Bilinda Butcher) that would be obvious for fans are explained to benefit my non-MBV-listening-to readers over there.
You know a show is going to be good when they hand out earplugs at the door.
Obviously, they weren't needed for the openers. The Flowers Of Hell, despite having a moniker that was likely stolen from an 8th grade art project, were a pretty rad post-rock ensemble, mixing up the usual Explosions in the Sky formula that so many repeat (i.e., quiet part-build up-cathartic tremolo picking-cool down) by throwing in a shit-load of instruments and actually getting into a tangible groove, which is something interesting in the all-too pretentious post-rock genre. Plus, Owen Pallett was a surprise guest, so they definitely have my stamp of approval.
Then Gemma Hayes played, and no one really cared, to be honest. Dull, exceedingly generic faux-folk (faulk?) singer-songwriter spiel. During her set I did have my earplugs in, because: a) I thought My Bloody Valentine were about to take the stage, and b) I couldn't be arsed to work those things into my ear canals again.
And then, oh lawd, My Bloody Valentine. Despite having the stage presence of potted cacti, this was, musically, one of the most engaging concerts I've ever been to. Not "engaging" in the sing-along, jump-around, high-five-the-singer sense, but in the wholly-and-utterly-engulfed-in-this-glorious-noise sense. Just to say I did I take out an earplug in the middle of "I Only Said" and good God they truly are the loudest band, ever (although it has been argued that early gigs by the Swans peaked at 140dB.) Seriously, this was a discomforting maelstrom that required earplugs. I do not envy the brave souls who felt they didn't need them. Nor do I envy the man in front of me who literally passed out during the third song; a true testament to the physical power of the band.
Special mention must also be made of one Bilinda Butcher, the female guitarist of the band. Black hair, white dress, swirling lights, the sound of the earth opening up behind her, her blank stare, her utterly feminine, delicate hold of her guitar: this, my friends, is where you lose yourself in music.
Of course, the main draw (or, depending on your point of view, the direct antithesis of a draw) was the infamous "Holocaust section", wherein the mid-song break of "You Made Me Realize" descends into what is something like sticking your face behind a Concord. In a hurricane. For 20 minutes. I can't quite emphasize how much you needed to be there for this. It was surreal. I've never been oppressed by noise quite like that. I've never felt noise. This was, in all honestly, a physical, ritualistic experience. To close your eyes and feel this tangible force envelope your body was truly something else. Combined with the spastic light show, it was very much like the final scene in Eraserhead (which is the perfect analogy for those familiar with the film.)
The man beside me was clearly on some sort of hallucinogen and I will forever envy his experience during those 20 minutes.
He seemed to confront both God and the devil. and saw the most beautiful/horrifying images his mind has ever produced. Seriously, the look of terror on his face was incredible, as was his elatedness when he raised his hands and accepted whatever deity wormed its way out of those Marshall stacks. His words before the Holocaust began will probably always stick with me, too:
"This is it. Life isn't gonna be so sweet after this one."
The show left me literally nauseous and in pain, but I felt as if left the venue walking on clouds.