A Sensuous Night, A Weed Apocalypse

Joseph Schlam

On Thursday night, Fairchild Chapel housed Weed Apocalypse, a four-act concert showcasing Oberlin-affiliated musicians using internally devised systems of expression in non-pop idiom. The performances took place in total darkness, the hypnotic light of candles and the subdued physical presence of the performers inspired introspection and even hallucination.

The chapel was the perfect place for a show, especially one of such an introspective nature. Every set was dope (pun intended) and began without any fanfare at all. Action developed naturally. The small crowd gave a swell of appreciation after each set, an expression of kinship and shared experience. During the breaks, I paced around outside, but during sets, I sat enraptured and tried to feel it all.

The youngest musician there introduced himself as Midnight Thunderstorm, in a quixotically sweet way, and immediately began his set. It introduced the sensuous spectrum of feeling that defined the night. “Midnight Thunderstorm” primarily used non-tonal sound sources, carving out massive emotional peaks and valleys with a totally sincere, youthful sloppiness. He looked super sinister onstage: a black statue behind the shape of a massive amp head and cab, illuminated by the myopic light of candles.

The second set began completely unassuming. It comprised two kids, one lanky with long dark brown or maybe black hair, I don’t even remember. Like “Midnight Thunder,” they were just black statues onstage, kneeling piously over old amps, pedals, a reel-to-reel, a keyboard and a saxophone. They summoned the same miasma of rage, love, hate and everything that the first musician had. They did this in such a deft, unassuming way, but with more emotional and tonal variation because of their greater use of tonal sound sources. They produced moments of pure serenity, but then there would be an anguished cry — maybe from an instrument — that would just rip through you. Despite using so many sound sources, it was super-cohesive.

Near the end of their set, the lanky player stood up, totally possessed, and dragged a precarious wind chime-draped candleholder offstage, through the pews, and out of the chapel.

Though the performer appeared yet again as black statue at a table, methodically sampling tapes, placing one after another in a tape deck, presumably with his eyes closed, the room looked and felt darker for this third set. Awakening quickly from a brief trance, for a second I thought his mouth was a perfectly rectangular pure black void. The entire set was based on a loping rhythm, hypnotic and incredible, like an ocean or like closing your eyes and feeling an ocean. The samples from the tapes ranged from people talking — maybe about psychosis or God — to instrumental sound. Near the end of his set, the performer simply rested his head in his arms and felt the sounds he was creating. It was so serene and badass. I was overwhelmed.

The fourth and final set was a guitar duo. Immediately after the third act, the guitarists simply stepped onstage, but whatever vibe they interrupted was reinvigorated as soon as they started playing, and their bodies transmogrified into black statues. The candlelight stood out once they were seated, alternately cradling and reviling their guitars. The temporal weight of the night began to set in as they played, and it began to feel more and more stressful to just stay seated and bear witness.

The final set featured the dynamic contrast of the duo’s playing styles. Where one pet his guitar softly like a mother caressing her child, the other gleefully bashed screwdrivers and other simple preparations; together they created the most sonorous, beautiful ringing sound: the true communion. I left immediately once their set ended and walked outside into the drizzle, cleansed.