10.23.15 at Complex, Glendale, CA
Call it a Reverse Dylan: Just as Bobby D. shocked and irritated fans at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by going electric, one-man black metal maestro Scott Conner gave convention the middle finger on Friday night by going acoustic -- and semi-country -- at the first-ever Xasthur show. Only this time the shock and irritation was minimal to nonexistent. Ever the consummate professional, promoter Dan Dismal from Church of the 8th Day sent out multiple social media blasts advising fans that tonight’s Xasthur performance would be devoid of corpsepaint, drums and electric guitars. As it turns out, it would even be devoid of Xasthur songs. And Conner wouldn’t be doing any vocals. Instead? A couple of guys with acoustic guitars playing material in the vein of Conner’s post-Xasthur project, Nocturnal Poisoning.
After neofolk duo Noctooa and angelic harp-playing chanteuse Joy Shannon (and her band, the Beauty Marks) set the mood, the artist formerly known as Malefic appears onstage in stocking feet and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, a bandanna covering his face, trusty Guild in hand. Beside him sits another acoustic guitarist in a flannel shirt and cowboy hat with a tambourine around his ankle. After a handful of quietly finger-picked instrumentals, they’re joined by a singer named Robert, a longtime friend of Conner’s. It’s definitely not black metal. It’s not even the “sloppy country & western” Conner jokingly says it will be when we speak with him backstage before the show. Instead, it’s the most punk rock performance that’s happened in Los Angeles in the last 15 or 20 years. Not sonically, but in terms of fearlessness, in terms of defying audience expectations, in terms of music for music’s sake. In terms of really, truly not caring what anyone might think.
Was the dude in the Leviathan hoodie pissed? Was the girl in the studded leather vest disappointed? If they were, they didn’t show it. People clapped. They cheered. The blonde guy in the jacket covered with indecipherable black metal logos was fucking headbanging the entire time. When it was over, a few folks clamored for more.