On Saturday night, a small cadre of dedicated fans waited patiently for Ben Chasny’s psychedelic folk project, Six Organs of Admittance, to take the stage at Bottom of the Hill just before midnight. Six Organs is currently touring the West Coast in support of their LP Ascent, which was released last month on Drag City. Members of his other project, the noise rock group Comets on Fire, accompanied Chasny on the album and onstage at BOH.
Lead guitarist Chasny and supporting guitarist Noel Harmonson, bassist Ben Flashman, and drummer Utrillo Kushner effectively drenched the punkish, gently swaying crowd in raw, unplugged, cacophonic tribal noise as they orchestrated spooky guitar symphonies, hard rock riffs, and fuzzed-out surf numbers. About half of Six Organs’ jams possessed an epic “I’m marching into battle with a large horned animal” vibe, and Chasny’s intermittent vocals felt dark, scratchy, wispy, and perhaps slightly demonic.
The band clearly had chemistry and sections flowed seamlessly together, but each musician appeared to be having a wholly immersive experience with his instrument, as if he were, at times, unaware of his co-conspirators. I found it especially hard to stop staring at Kushner because I was intrigued by his ecstatic way with the drums, and also because his gold hawk-with-outstretched-wings necklace was awesome.
While the band’s tendency to break into ear-deadening drone strikes enhanced the show’s overall excitement, they could have, perhaps, turned it down a few decibels. And although the crowd more often favored soft head-banging and slow movements, at one point the guy in front of me unleashed some potentially destructive, solo dance moves that almost took me out at the ankles. But that, again, simply added to the show’s excitement.
After playing his last song with the full band, Chasny quietly reappeared on stage and performed a short, quiet, solo encore that completely juxtaposed the sound of the past 45 minutes. I found this a brilliant way to end the evening. And yes, my ears are still ringing.