The Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group - The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 27/09/12
The small stage at the Deaf Insititute looked like it could barely support so many keyboards and other slightly less familiar instruments as Omar Rodriguez Lopez and his new group Bosnian Rainbows came out to play. There have been many incarnations of Omar's ever-changing band project, and the current one is much more focused with just 4 members, including the man himself.
Teri Gender Bender (of Mexican garage group Le Butcherettes) fronts the band confidently on lead vocals, her shamanic dancing and hypnotic grace turning into erratic, Ian Curtis-esque body jerking as the set dips in and out of madness. Deantoni Parks sits on his drum stool, the sleekest member of the group, taking care of keys with one hand and his drumkit with the other. As a member of The Mars Volta, Omar's prog-rock, salsa and jazz-infused outfit, Parks sure knows how to please his leader with heavy, funked out rhythms that lay the foundation for the largely electronic sound from the rest of the band, which also contains elements of punk and less of the latin grooves that Omar is normally associated with.
The gig felt intimate, as they often do in The Deaf Institute due to its small size and uncanny ability to feel as though it is closing in on you. Gone are the days when I enjoy sweating my skin off amongst a mass of others, but the audience here looked comfortable and content which was apparent in the calm atmosphere. My vantage point in the top left balcony was perfect, placing me just above the left of the stage with an amazing view of the spectacle below me. Omar positioned himself at the back, giving Teri the full attention of the audience but still conducting the whole experiment, flailing like a madman during his cosmic wah-wah guitar freakouts but still keeping a firm grip on his fellow musicians.
Teri impressed me with her deep, affecting vocals, which at times channelled Nico and also Beach House's Victoria Legrand during the baritone-orientated sections. At first I thought she would merely be a gimmick, with her crazy, slightly confrontational stage presence, but during the softer, slower moments she quashed my assumptions and displayed a real talent. I was unfamiliar with the new material but this didn't stop me allowing it to wash over me completely. There was a lot to take in, layers and layers of space-age sound, apocalyptic synths complimenting Teri's feral screams and masculine, primal wails. Led Zeppelin-style folk guitar bled into heavy slices of rock, driven by bone-shattering tribal beats courtesy of Parks. Teri locked eyes with audience members fuelled by manic intent, and everything seemed to hang by a thread at times. As a result it was a truly special gig experience.
The most memorable moment of the show came very close to the end, as Omar walked to the front of the stage, micless, and thanked the audience for attending. He was a hero by the end of the night, telling everyone in the room that their presence was everything and even thanked people who might not have particularly enjoyed the gig, grateful for their curiosity. He said: "It's hard enough to get anyone into anything these days, to even get them to leave the house, thanks so much and it means so so much that you guys even showed up." It was a truly humbling expression of gratitude from a man that has been percieved as a pretentious asshole on more than one occasion, and was greeted with sincere cheers from everyone in the room. The band then rounded off their performance and exploded into an intense krautrock jam before shaking hands with the crowd and bidding them goodnight.
I came to the gig not knowing much about Omar's recent material, with my main reason for attending being that I am such an admirer of his work with The Mars Volta. But I can safely say I will be paying more attention to his other releases from now on.