Concert Review: Fuck Buttons w/ Growing at Rhythm Room

Categories: Concert Review
Frances Michelle Lopez
The crowd was thin at the Rhythm Room last night. There was virtually a show at every venue and gallery; all pulling the Phoenix music scene in various directions. However, the concertgoers who were fortunate enough to catch Brooklyn-based trio Growing and the UK's critically acclaimed duo Fuck Buttons (Pitchfork Media gave them a 9.0 this year)  got quite an intimate show. 

Growing, whose latest addition of Sadie Laska, rounded out the band's sound with sparsely morphed and pitch-shifted vocals. Starting off with loud and thunderous electronics, they dazzled the audience with their well-crafted flourishes and pulsating rhythm. With an almost overwhelming amount of gear, the band created a barrier of intricate detail; each person contributing to a conversation that would bounce from one side of the stage to the other. Kevin Doria played a beautiful old Guild brand guitar through several neat gadgets including a tremolo pedal that ran simultaneously through a Wah-Wah pedal, creating an almost underwater effect that sounded like a muffled voice. Growing has developed in the past couple of years, and it was a nice change to see them perform with many more dimensions and seamless transitions. Although a little less organic than what I recall seeing live a few years ago (the move from Olympia to Brooklyn has provided a creative shift), Growing has nailed their sound with pin-point precision; giving the listener structure and repetition comparable to a dysfunctional union of sirens and car alarms filtered through to create a harmonious wall of sound.

Touring in support of their sophomore release Tarot Sport, the dynamic duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power are the powerhouse behind the electronic cluster-bomb known as Fuck Buttons. Headliners at last night's show, I was incredibly impressed by how their live show accurately translated their new record. Tarot Sport is the follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed Street Horrsing, which garnered the band laurels with experimentalists and noise-junkies alike. Starting off their set with the song "Surf Solar," which sounds like a beat-heavy techno song at first glance, the song developed into this urgent, anxious work of craft, emotional timing, and subtle melodies. While there are some songs that go better with others, as a whole, the songs off of Tarot Sport are refreshingly honest; using its repetitiveness as a tool to evoke a sudden unfolding of feelings and angst.

Captivating the crowd in a near-trance, Fuck Buttons provided warmth that most digital musicians are unable to accomplish. While their entire set up consisted of toy keyboards, sample pads, mixers, and various modulators, the band also utilized a simple floor tom to accompany their vibrant and rhythmic compositions. They even had a modulated Gameboy which Hung used periodically for various sounds and textures hooked up to a mystery device within an open suitcase on stage. Slightly more organic than Growing, Fuck Buttons had a charm to them that highly appealed to me; the use of a Fisher Price tape recorder as well as the fact that both men were facing each other across a table full of electronics made them look like they were playing a musical game of Battleship; each one cooperating as best as he could with the other. The chemistry they had was a key element in how powerful their performance was. At some points, Power would look up at Hung and count silently to him to perfectly time a break or change, showing the audience a shining example of intuition and timing.

Personally, I feel that Fuck Buttons are starting to push the envelope further and have gotten more adventurous in their sonic endeavors. Tarot Sport as an album almost pairs perfectly with Dan Deacon's Bromst, which is another great record to come out this year. It is not overtly intrusive; it keeps its distance while still being able to penetrate deep inside without getting too close. Sheets of static wash over you like a light rain before engulfing you in a tidal wave of complexity and mesmerizing detail.

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