A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS, August 19, 2010, Death by Audio, Brooklyn, NY

by twhalliii
August 20, 2010 3:53 AM
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I had a great day yesterday.

In the early evening, I made my way to BAM for a screening of Olivier Assayas' L'Eau Froide (Cold Water), one of my favorite films of the 1990's. The idea that this movie is still unavailable on DVD here in the USA is mortifying (I'm looking at you, Criterion Blu-Ray) and the scratchy, old English-subtitled print that continues to make the rounds in the Anglophone world is in dire need of an upgrade; with Assayas' Carlos set to make a splash in the USA in the coming months, it seems a shame that films like L'Eau Froide, Paris s'éveille, Une Nouvelle Vie, Désordre or L'enfant de l'hiver aren't available to American film lovers. Assayas is one of the greats of this generation, up there with Arnaud Desplechin in my eyes, and a filmmaker whose body of work is vastly underrepresented in the marketplace here in the USA. All of these films aren't "great", but even the "great" films like Irma Vep or Late August, Early September, or the criminally under-appreciated Les destinées sentimentales aren't available in pristine Blu-Ray (although the re-release of Irma Vep a couple of years ago is an improvement). While I am dying to see Carlos, I am more hopeful that the film will inspire a retrospective here or there so America can get another look at Assayas' career (the last time was at MoMA if I am not mistaken, many years ago) and hopefully light a fire to make his films available on video.

After watching the film, which features one of my favorite scenes in all of cinema, a drug-fueled teen party on an abandoned country estate, I headed to a show by the band A Place To Bury Strangers at a place called Death By Audio, which proved to be a drug-fueled twenty-something party in a very intimate space. Aside from being a small, filthy performance space hidden behind an unmarked door in Williamsburg (and one with cheap beer and which permits smoking-- all of which combines to make it a terrific venue in my eyes), Death By Audio is also the name of the company run by guitarist Oliver Ackermann, who builds custom guitar effect pedals that seem designed to tear human ears into a million little pieces. One of them is even called Total Sonic Annihilation (no joke.) Ackermann is one of those geniuses that can not only re-invent his instrument, but can play the living shit out of it as well. His band, A Place To Bury Strangers, is a group that, when you hear them on a recording, seems to feature three or four guitarists, each with an arsenal of sonic contortions that can be deployed with a stomp on an effects box. So, when you see them live, and a wall of sound hits you that is even more enormous than you could have ever imagined, your jaw tends to hit the floor when you realize it's just Oliver Ackermann and his lone guitar that is destroying everything in sight.

Last night's show was more than special; an intimate performance in what is essentially Ackermann's home office, A Place To Bury Strangers gave one of those one-in-a-million performances that can shape a music lover's life. The band played with incredible intensity, pushing the audience into a crowd surfing (yes, crowd surfing) frenzy only to turn on the fog machine and strobe for their finale, Ocean, which was the musical equivalent of how I imagine death might arrive; transcendent, pulsating, ears washed out, flickering lights. Here was a band that could demolish areans with their sound, only they were playing in their own living room. For a noise junkie like me it was, as someone else said, the equivalent of catching The Beatles at the Cavern Club. Impossible to believe but there it was, happening; no more than 150 people, packed together in a room, watching an incredible band just killing it. I won't forget this show as long as I live and I won't, if I can help it, miss another chance to see whatever it is that Oliver Ackermann decides to do next. Amazing night.


EDIT: A reader posted a link to a YouTube video from the show itself. I have embedded it here. Thank you (!!!) and a tip of the hat to Music on Video:

Update: September 8, 2010... More from the show, from YouTube user Dave Cromwell:

Most YouTube videos hardly do this band justice (nothing can capture the volume of... well...volume), but a couple of interesting clips of previous performances for the, erm, interested:

A Place To Bury Strangers: To Fix The Gash In Your Head

A Place To Bury Strangers: Keep Slipping Away

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More: Music, Personal


  • g hoov | November 30, 2010 1:43 AMReply

    if this is music, then music is dead!

  • hi P | August 23, 2010 2:37 AMReply

    wrong, sorry!!!!
    Les enfants du désordre isn't by Assayas

    so, sorry, there is really no Assayas movie i would like to save

    i've mixed up these two
    which is good


    which i don't like

  • hi P | August 23, 2010 2:28 AMReply

    I recently saw Les enfants du désordre, by Assayas, which is rather good actually (esp. Emmanuelle Béart).
    But, generally speaking, there is no 'whole work' in Assyas, nothing consistent growing up.
    And... I am a personal friend of Assayas' sister-in-law... the Assay- family has more or less rejected Olivier, esp. since Carlos... This is French turmoil and stuff, and, sure, people from outside don't see the same things.

    I was thinking...: what will happen when AD's father will die? Will HE survive..?!!!!!!!!! it will be an earthquake in his life, that may help him to (finally) grow up and move on!

  • twhalliii | August 22, 2010 7:40 AMReply

    The links between Assayas and Desplechin? They are both French directors of the same generation who have made amazing films that I love. Assayas has made more (and has been far more inconsistent), and while I think Desplechin is my favorite living filmmaker, I love several films by Assayas (and think some are only okay). When you say he is a maker, I think that's probably true; he is always working, always making a movie whereas Desplechin is more deliberate and artful. Still, SUMMER HOURS, IRMA VEP, LATE AUGUST EARLY SEPTEMBER, LES DESTINEES and I hope CARLOS (dying to see it) are all excellent films, and COLD WATER is a touchstone for me.

    ps- Hi P!

  • Disagree@gmail.com | August 21, 2010 7:44 AMReply

    I really don't see any link btw Assayas and Desplechin.
    Many people in France hate Assayas: he is a 'maker', not an artist.

  • twhalliii | August 20, 2010 6:59 AMReply

    Thank you so much... I have edited the post to embed the clip. Much appreciated... GREAT footage and it looks amazing.

  • Music on Video | August 20, 2010 6:37 AMReply

    check out this HD video from the show last night. The audio is blown out but it captures the energy of the show for sure.