Concert Review: Mindless Self Indulgence (Valentine’s, Albany, New York, March 9, 2002)

I feel like I’ve been listening to the future of rock and roll for quite some time now, having scored Mindless Self Indulgence’s dazzlingly unique first two records, Tight and Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy, upon their respective releases. But I hadn’t had a chance to actually see the future of rock and roll until last Saturday night, when Mindless Self Indulgence held court before a sardine tin tight crowd at Valentine’s. It was the most exciting concert experience I’ve had in a lot of years . . . and based on the rabid, fervent, adoring response that the rest of crowd directed towards the stage, I’d expect that I’m not alone in that my assessment.

So what made the show so spectacular? First and foremost, of course, was the music, which was unlike anything I’d ever seen delivered in a live performance before. Mindless Self Indulgence songs tend to be short, lyrically offensive, and incredibly dense, with more happening rhythmically in 30 seconds than many bands manage over the course of a full length album. Try to imagine some hybrid of a bizzy drum and bass rap number like Outkast’s “B.O.B.” crossed with the herky-jerky rhythms of Devo’s “Satisfaction,” leavened with the big pop Burundi beats of Kings of the Wild Frontier-era Adam and the Ants, all recorded at 33 1/3 and played back at 78 rpm. That would be something like the Mindless Self Indulgence sound, only it wouldn’t be as good as what Mindless Self Indulgence do themselves.

MSI have also got stage presence to spare, and they use it in attention-getting and oftentimes disturbing ways, pushing the envelope of crowd provocation (tossing potentially dangerous stage equipment into the pit), audience participation (inviting punters onstage to urinate on instruments) and performer self-abuse (sexual and otherwise) well beyond their normal breaking points. Thing is, though, that Mindless Self Indulgence are one of those rare bands who can work that hard to offend people while making compelling music, all at the same time, much like the Butthole Surfers during their 1984-86 glory days on the road.

Sure, folks like the late G.G. Allin or the Dwarves may have been more offensive in concert than MSI will ever be, but they’ve never scored amazing singles like MSI’s “Bitches” or “Tornado,” nor have they ever crafted such stellar album tracks as “Tight” or “Pussy All Night” or “Faggot” or “I Hate Jimmy Page,” all of which MSI shared with their feverish devotees Sunday night. Nor did they offer a front man of the charismatic character of MSI’s Little Jimmy Urine, who simply vibrated with energy throughout the show, working the crowd like a maestro of mayhem, singing and posing and stripping and posing some more like there was to be no tomorrow, ever again, forever.

His bandmates didn’t lack for onstage talent either. Guitarist Steve, Righ? played the role of the nasty foil to perfection, inviting most of the evening’s more vile fare (he’s got a thing for bodily fluids, methinks) from his corner of the stage, except when he was inviting audience members into the bathroom with him instead. Drummer Kitty beat the hell out of her kit, amazingly keeping up with Urine’s demented pre-programmed beat deconstructions, never misfiring while going into or coming out of any of the evening’s countless stop-start moments. New bassist Lyn-Z played like she’d been in the band forever, holding down the low end in between fits of stage diving and fire-spitting.

As good as those elements were, the sum of their parts was bigger, greater, and more dangerous than it had any right to be. How dangerous? Mindless Self Indulgence absolutely owned the crowd Saturday, and the glee and zeal that audience members exhibited when Urine would his way through the crowd at show’s end-backslapping, kissing, hugging, hand-shaking, groping and being groped-was almost frightening in its intensity. Odds are, he’s gonna lead all of our children straight to hell before he’s done with them, but I’m gonna be tagging along, just to make sure I don’t miss anything good on the way.

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