Fellow Glaswegians Errors opened with their own brand of disco-inflected math rock, serving as a fun, dance-y opener for a somewhat un-danceable band.
Then Mogwai came on with frontman Stuart Braithwaite announcing, in his charming Glagow brogue: “Hey-llooo Salt Lack Citay.”
Mogwai is force of nature. Music editor Dan Nailen had suggested I buy earplugs for the show. In my youthful stupidity, I ignored him and insisted on standing a mere three feet from the stage. I could feel the air being pushed from the Avalon’s gigantic speakers with every thump of the bass. It was incredible, even if my friends and I did spend the rest of the evening yelling at each other incomprehensibly.
Given the extreme loudness of the speakers and Mogwai’s dense instrumentalism, the sound was actually pretty great (props to Mogwai’s sound guy). I did hear complaints about the acoustics from audience members who (wisely) stood farther away from the stage, but we all agreed that it was probably the venue itself.
Now, the fun part: it’s incredibly hard to describe a Mogwai show. I cannot list you song names (they probably wouldn’t mean anything to you anyway). I can’t really describe the sounds in earthly terms. In the age of post-rock, it seems trite to talk about layers of sound or a sculptural quality of the melody towering above you. But with Mogwai, all this is true. It’s hard to say anything else.
I can describe the joyful anticipation as band members prepare to stomp their distortion pedals: you know something really great is about to happen. I can describe the obscure but entertaining film that appeared behind them, which started with a galaxy and ended up following a guy in a poncho on a bicycle. I can describe the lights, the colors, the fog machine, but that doesn’t really tell you what the show was like.
The show was loud. The show was epic. The show was a two hours of being lost in a gorgeous sonic forest, where unexpected melodic flourishes cavort happily among the tall trees of powerful drums, a driving bass and truly inspired guitars. But this all seems lame in the face of a band that has been bringing its walls of sound crashing over audiences for almost 20 years. I guess the only way for you to really know a Mogwai show is to see it. But I would bring earplugs.