Yolk, Lion’s Den, NYC- 4/6
NYC ROLL-TOP: The Fuckers Moshed!
I didn't know Yolk had fans. I mean, I'm really glad they do. It was just an
odd/nice discovery to make. I figured that their slow disintegration in the
mid-'90s was at least in part due to a lack of an audience for their
hardcore/prog-jazz/horn-blasted agit-rock. And, honestly, I expected their
gig at the Lion's Den on Saturday night to be a bit of nostalgia trip. I
figured that maybe 25 revelers would show up, reminisce about the old days,
and then rock out to one of Yolk's periodic comeback gigs. Maybe it's just
that I don't run with that many folks who lament Yolk's original passing.
Either way, Science Boy and I showed up at the Lion's Den to find it pretty
well packed with bodies. Though it emptied out a taste for Yolk's set, there
was a still an absurdly healthy amount of folks on hand.
And they moshed! The fuckers moshed! It was great! I was always a bit too
timid for moshing the first time around, afraid that my glasses would get
broken/I'd get my nuts kicked in/I'd lose my shoes, etc., but the folks
doing it the other night weren't doing it with any sense of nostalgia
either. It's almost like that particular physical/emotional reaction to
music had been neatly locked up since the early '90s. It made a damn
convincing case for music harboring some kind of objective quality to it.
Yolk's music has always worked hard – maybe too hard – at being relevant.
Early on – though maybe only by me – they were grouped with some of the
other upstate New York jambands. They shared bills (and drummers) with moe.,
as well as (minus the drummer part) Moon Boot Lover, the Ominous Seapods,
and other Albany-area relics. The stylistic comparison wasn't, and isn't,
entirely unfounded. Yolk's horn section, and the Zappa-like weirdness they
emitted, always made them identifiable with that sound. Yet, while the other
bands were getting their funk on, Yolk had a predilection towards Rage
Against The Machine-like political rants.
"They vote for public education budget cuts / And you ask why the government
doesn't listen! / Why would the rich want to change the system?" they
screamed/sang on "Dregs" (from 1995's Caution: Social Prescriptions May
Cause Side-Effects). It's a lot to swallow, both in terms of syllables
and poetics. They sang it the other night, and it still seemed a bit
immature. Rather, it seemed a bit immature in the way that all overtly and
literally political songs seem immature.
But then I kinda looked at singer Jimmy John McCabe's shirt, which featured
the caption "Bad Bush/Good Bush" next to a picture of George W. Bush and a
picture of, well, y'know. Though it's sorta silly, fighting rhetoric with
rhetoric is an acceptable tactic. It made a lot of sense, though there
was something useless about it. Just as the thawed out moshing seemed
like an awakening from the early '90s, there was still something hopeful
about Yolk's music — like slapped bass and funk rhythms might still be used
as tools of insurgence. Yet, the last I'd heard of McCabe before Friday
night was that he'd left Yolk to audition for Rent. During the first
set he disconcertingly yelped lyrics from behind a latex ogre mask. The face
and mouth didn't move. It was snapped permanently in its disgust.
Yolk did rock. Like I said, people moshed. There was a girl
screaming, too, in front of the stage. I'm not sure who she was screaming
at, exactly. It mighta been the band. It mighta been the rest of us. But it
was angry. It was something about Yolk being the best band in the world and
we couldn't/shouldn't challenge that. Then the band would start another song
and she would careen like a pinball, backwards, through the moshers and
bystanders, recompose herself, and charge back to the front of the stage and
start yelling again. It was nice. The music grooved. I recognized some of
the songs, though I couldn't name most of them. Guitarists Pete Carvelas and
Dave Fitzhugh shot lines back and forth, the horns played, and the crowd
danced. I'm glad Yolk are back.
Jesse Jarnow dances under the moon