S/T Survived … My Bloody Valentine Without Earplugs, While on Ecstasy

[Photos by Aaron Richter]

By Andrew Parks

Our ears aren’t ringing right now; not even a little bit. In fact, they’re still about as intact as they were before we stepped into the maelstrom that was Tuesday’s My Bloody Valentine concert at Roseland Ballroom.

The reason? Quite simple, really: the self-titled staff wanted to hear MBV as it’s meant to be heard. Unfiltered. Uncompromising. And unabashedly LOUD. So we decided to stand dead center and towards the back, where the band’s wave of distortion would wash over us rather than clobber our very being. This allowed s/t to leave Roseland’s complimentary earplugs out for most of the set, right up until the 20 patience-testing minutes of “You Made Me Realize.”

Now before you call us irresponsible or ignorant, know this: We tried listening both ways, with and without cushy orange cones in our ears. And since they’re not musician grade, My Bloody Valentine unplugged is the difference between listening to a live band while drowning in the deep end of a pool and feeling like Kevin Shields just beamed power chords into the blackest corners of our soul.

So yeah, we experienced all of the frequencies and pedal-pounding effects that cut through the air for nearly 90 draining, dare-we-say-transcendent minutes. All while maximizing the reported out-of-body experiences of this past weekend’s ATP show with Ecstasy that happened to be at the bottom of a certain editor’s sock drawer. (While we don’t endorse drug use, we do endorse trying E–should you insist on injesting it–in a context that doesn’t involve electro beats or Daft Punk. Hell, the stuff made us ‘see god’ at a Mono show once.)

Anyway, the following is Tuesday’s set list along with the notes we took while slowly losing our sense of self …

1. I Only Said
And we’re off. Everything looks like a shattered prism at the moment. What is this–My Bloody Valentine as seen through Dark Side of the Moon‘s record sleeve?

2. When You Sleep

We just busted out the decibel meter application on our iPhone and it maxed out around 110 dB, which is equivalent to a chainsaw or your standard issue concert according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

3. You Never Should

Woah with the searing guitar lead, Kevin. We’re trying to retain all five senses here.

4. When You Wake

So if MBV’s psych-tastic visuals are to be believed, we are now driving through a forest with Belinda sitting shotgun. You know what? We can live with that.

5. Cigarette In Your Bed

A sea of hot pink lets in a slightly synthetic back beat and glimpses of what may or may not be an acoustic guitar.

6. Come In Alone

At this point, we’re starting to feel like (A) we found the best spot to soak up everything without going deaf or blind and (B) the stage’s epileptic lighting is more violent and potentially life-threatening than My Bloody Valentine at its most masochistic.

7. Only Shallow
Ah, the oh-so-memorable opening salvo of Loveless, as chased by a bitch goddess of white lights and white heat. Some parts of this song sound more extreme than a battalion of black-metal bands.

8. Thorn

Having put our earplugs in for a second, we’re struck by how much this makes us focus on the group’s visuals. Images of a girl running through a hallway (or is she falling down stairs?) are eerie and ethereal.

9. Nothing Much To Lose

Um, our knees are getting a little wobbly suddenly. Must … stand … up … straight.

10. To Here Knows When

A cocoon of cooing (thank you very much, Belinda) reminds us of how vocals are simply one of a million layers in a My Bloody Valentine song at any given time. Why do we suddenly feel like a living, breathing flotation device? Hmmm…

11. Slow

You know, this song seemed quite sweet at first. And then Shields had to break the spell with snarling chords and a backdrop of sulfur-tinged spotlights.

12. Soon

We try putting our earplugs in one more time. After a minute, we yank them out, however, and find the transition disorienting, as if a muffled mess just gave way to a trip through Alice’s looking glass.

13. Feed Me With Your Kiss

Nice Matrix-esque visuals, guys. Now what’s it gonna be: the blue pill or the red pill. Oh wait …

14. You Made Me Realize

And now for the track everyone’s been waiting for, which feels, and sounds, like a fireball spiraling ever so slowly toward us over the course of 10-15 minutes. The last five are spent playing what actually sounds like a song. Bravo, guys. We don’t know what just happened, and we likely never will. All we know is this was the greatest thrill ride for grownups we’ve ever been on.