Last Thursday night I tentatively made my way down the long strip of Grand Street between the B/D station and the Williamsburg Bridge, keeping my eyes peeled for the mysterious Abrons Art Center. Amidst one of the few places in Manhattan that still actually sort of resembles the type of neighborhood in novels like Lust For Life, I saw a few likely suspects slipping into a lovely-looking small theater. I walked into what I was surprised to find was a seated auditorium, quickly slunk into a chair, and without warning, suddenly time-traveled to 1967.
Joshua Light Show is a psychedelic liquid light show that made its revival last week with several shows at Abrons. The visuals. are. stunning. When I heard that Woods was playing with a “light show” I imagined lasers in a planetarium, a la that one episode of Freaks and Geeks. What I was confronted with were enormous, bold movements of color, bleeding into and away from each other as one of the most masterful bands in Brooklyn today improvised some of the coolest jams I’ve ever heard. It could only make you wonder why we don’t do this all the time. The visuals lent a true extra layer to the experience, and I felt the bands in a visceral way that I never quite have before. At the end of the performance, the curtain was lifted to reveal the massive amounts of art equipment and people it took to make the images, answering my question. It’s a special happening. Still, I think light shows should make a comeback.
While MV&EE stumbled a bit in their set, ultimately just playing some good jammy, mandolin-laden improvs, Woods absolutely proved that they are a band with the entire package: an of-the-moment sound paired with stunning musicianship and just exactly the right amount of x factor. I guess the whole “jamming out to a laser light show” thing doesn’t really help argue against Pitchfork’s characterization of Woods as Dead-influenced in their recent review, but the band proved nothing like Garcia and Co. on Thursday. The ferociously attacked guitar solos with an air of punk and improvised Beach Boys-sounding drumming over the humming layer of tape-deck distortions and occasional trumpet solos really were, yes, transcendent. Between the aural performance and the visual performance, I really was transported somewhere else. Not the sixties, but a really wonderful place of sheer musical enjoyment. Hopefully Joshua Light show will be back next year. Keep your eyes peeled, because this isn’t something you’ll want to miss.
I took a bunch of photos at the show. You can check them out at Impose here.