If musicians were paid by the note, Hella might have flown a Learjet to the Warehouse Next Door on Monday. The Sacramento guitar-and-drums outfit assaults its instruments with such unrelenting speed, the music might be dangerous to more sensitive listeners. You can't dance to this stuff, but you could have a seizure to it.
Like Washington's own Orthrelm and Providence's Lightning Bolt before them, Hella is a duo specializing in rapid-fire, arrhythmic and primarily instrumental post-punk. Their Memorial Day set sounded like "Led Zeppelin II" on fast-forward, with drummer Zach Hill righteously playing the John Bonham role. Hill's ham-fisted cacophony was a joy to witness, and his blunt avalanche of tom-smashing gave some much-needed soul to the band's otherwise monochromatic performance. Guitarist Spencer Seim wandered the fretboard as if trapped soloing over a never-ending drum fill, quickly dulling the band's initial burst into an exhausting hour of prog-punk aerobics.
Opening act Need New Body fared much better. The oddball Philadelphia sextet blithely hurdled back and forth between loungey piano ballads (sung in mock-falsetto) and reckless spasms of tribal percussion. With their amps draped in faux-fur and sequined fabric, and a bicycle wheel inexplicably jutting out from the center of the stage, their performance felt like an acid trip at the thrift store.
And the lunacy was apparently contagious. By set's end, the crowd had erupted in a fit of hysterical dancing, causing the Warehouse floorboards to bounce and wobble as if they might cave in.
-- Chris Richards