The Garden - live in Baltimore (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Garden

live in Baltimore (2018)

live show

Ever the shape shifters, The Garden took to the stage of Baltimore’s Metro Gallery on November 30 and immediately launched into a cranked up, synth punk attack. As that song ripped to an ending, both brothers immediately snapped up their instruments- Fletcher on drums, Wyatt on bass- and kicked into one of their explosive, but minimalistic punk smashers. From there, they swung from formation to formation, sometimes playing synths and instruments, sometimes yelling in a hardcore assault over the mic to an electronic backing, and sometimes creating floating atmospheres of non-music.

Perhaps moreso than ever before, the brothers were confident and really stretched their wings. In previous years and previous releases, the band sort of kept the synth stuff on one side, and punk/hardcore on another. At their Baltimore show, they obliterated that boundary and mixed the two sides of the hourglass until it was one freaky mélange. Focusing on their last three releases -Mirror Might Steal Your Charm, U Want the Scoop, and Haha, they very much created their own genre that was crazed, but also systematic. Even more interesting is that while their newest music often verges into the challenging, they’ve been able to bring their fanbase with them, who seemed to be as charged by the schizoid “Shame Shadow” as more classic style rocker, “Call the Dogs Out.”

Still, it sure was a thrill when the brothers did assemble behind their instruments and just really blast it out. “Vexation” was as fierce as any d-beat you can find and tore the place down. “Red Green yellow,” with its sub one minute running time and Wire-ish lyrics was equally a charge. Meanwhile, the band’s, perhaps more reflective numbers, like “Egg” and “This Could Build Us a Home” were given a more vitriolic presentation and seem to be igniting as the band flew threw them. As their live show exemplified, as they bind their multiple facets into one organism- the electronic and the organic- the band seems to be becoming more and more combustible, existing in a spiraling ball of unpredictability and frankly, strangeness. Often, combustibility is the result of a band just letting loose and letting the winds carry them as they will. Paradoxically, the Garden’s own multi-style explosiveness seems to the be result of specific, dedicated vision and one feels that the live show detailed just the first few steps of this far out adventure.

The Garden is no normal rock band so it was fitting to have Le1f, who is no normal Hip Hopper, take the stage before them. Le1f is an openly gay rapper that not only challenges many heteronormative Hip Hop (and rock) norms, but has an impressive production resume to boot. Flipping between street style raps and Sade style ballads, Le1f impressively is equally talented in both fields and is, quite amusingly, able to provide the R B hooks to his own songs. Le1f’s songs focused on interpersonal relationships and broader social issues, while maintaining certain diva-ish flair, in the grand style of Big Freedia. Confident, secure, and envelope pushing, Leif’s performance presented a bold statement rarely seen before in such a way that it didn’t seem like a bold statement, but rather, something everyone already knew all along, but didn’t realize it.

Before Le1f, machine smashed through a 40 minute set of what can only be described as electro-grindcore-industrial-dance-punk. Often verging on the cacophonic, Machine Girl willing threw pummeling music at the audience, albeit ina danceable style, and the crowd was into this challenging contrast. The vocals were warped into the sound of an evil computer more often than not, making the band feel like they were pulled from some secret danceclub in Bladerunner. Machine Girl was fast, vicious, and uncompromising, meaning they weren’t always an easy listen, but they were always an interesting, and challenging listen. And frankly, in these uncertain times, people need to be challenged instead of placated, and all three of these acts did exactly that in their own unique style.