Maggot Heart: A Live Report
Go see this band.
Friday night. Late August. Sweltering heat. My assistant and I are hanging around the Toilet ov Hell’s Phoenix Office, soaking up the air conditioning and waiting for the Sun to fuck off. We’ve got a hot date with Maggot Heart at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, and because we already saw them live earlier this year we know they are going to ride us hard and put us away soaking wet. We have a few drinks while the clock drags, mocking us; we watch a few episodes of some dumb reality cooking show because we have trash taste in television programming and also because television is generally garbage these days so why not sink to the bottom?
If you are (somehow) unfamiliar with Maggot Heart, you can read about them in detail elsewhere on the Toilet. For the moment, I’ll just say that they play dark, riffy rock with a metallic punk edge and serious death rock overtones: urban gloom and doom performed with the kind of intensity that makes you want to put on your steel-toe boots and kick holes in the walls, then skip town and leave your landlords to deal with the damage. We caught their show opening for King Dude earlier this year at Club Red, which is a mid-profile venue with excellent sound and a pathetic beer selection. We forgot to bring earplugs to that show and I think my hearing is permanently damaged. Otherwise, it was a hell of a night.
Yucca Tap Room may be a smaller venue—essentially a tiny bar with a decent sized stage—but it has become my favorite place to catch live music. The sound is not perfect but very good, and the beer selection is immense. There’s usually a mix of disinterested locals drinking away their paychecks and proper show-goers. The shows are mostly free, which is maybe bad news for the bands but good news for fans who are tired of being violated by exorbitant ticket-processing fees.
Following a group hug, Maggot Heart takes the stage at 10:30. Pretty late for a grumpy old fuck like me, but I’ve had a nap so I’m good. Maggot Heart does not fuck around. They get up, plug in and immediately start ripping our faces off with the blistering opening barrage of “Neuromancer.” There’s virtually no banter between songs; just enough down-time to sip your beer before the next attack.
The band’s new touring lineup is a multi-national three-piece, and these three are tight. Their performance is raw yet flawless. I’m especially enamored with the drummer, who pulls off an inhuman balance of precision and aggression, wildly beating the piss out of his set with surprising intricacy, all the while whipping his long brown sweaty mane around like a windmill. This dude plays with his soul—which is something I never noticed was so rare until I first saw him perform. The bassist keeps pace with him while band-leader Linnéa Olsson scratches out her bewitching riffs and licks, singing her anthems of night-crawling and mental derangement and tragically empty hedonism. Her vocals are a bit low in the mix but still audible enough for her ferocity to shine through. Her lyrics are like barbs and I find it impossible not to mutter along.
At some point Olsson indicates that she is thirsty and requires a brew of malted barley, hops and yeast to combat her parched throat. My assistant abandons her photographic duties to traipse off to the bar and snatch her a beer. She deposits the beer on the stage while Olsson’s back is turned, and for a while the singer does not seem to see it. Then she retrieves it, gives thanks and chugs. Later, more beers are supplied by more Good Samaritans—Mexican beers with wedges of lime crammed into them—and I have to wonder if this tradition of garnishing thin lagers with limes seems at all strange to a group of Europeans. I want to ask after the show but I forget to do it (and now I’m kicking myself because I’m afraid I’m going to die without ever learning the answer).
Whatever the case, here’s how I feel about the show overall:
U.S. Grave is a local band about whom I feel confident stating, based solely on the strength of their debut EP, that they are potentially one of the best new bands in the new wave of new goth. This was their first show. They ran a sound check at 8:30 and then waited until almost 10:00 to take the stage, which I found off-putting. Their facebook flyer for the event featured their name all huge at the top and below that, in microscopic font, “Opening for Maggot Heart”, which I found to be in poor etiquette. I guess they’re just dicks. Dicks who’ve stolen my heart with their sing-along goth ditties, but dicks all the same.
SEPTEMBER – MEXICO
4 SAN LUIS POTOSI
8 MEXICO CITY
1 BERLIN, DE
3 CHICAGO, IL
4 DETROIT, MI
5 LEXINGTON, KY
7 CLEVELAND, OH
10 BOSTON, MA
11 HAMDEN, CT
12 BROOKLYN, NY
13 PHILADELPHIA, PA
Photographic Credit: The Assistant