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Throbbing Gristle Was Tough to Swallow @ The Grand, 4/23/09

April 24, 2009

The show sold out almost immediately.

Anyone who calls themselves an industrial fan has at least heard of Throbbing Gristle. But they’ve been so dormant for so long that my motivation for buying tickets were more about knowing I should be there than necessarily being a fan of the music.


I decided to watch this show from the back to fully take in the sound and visuals. As the set was about to commence, the houselights brighten instead of dim. They are filming the set, which, apparently, necessitates this. Or perhaps it’s part of their aesthetic. Either way, it made me uncomfortable. I am used to experiencing live music in the dark; this made me squinty, irritable, and easily distracted.

A stark, laptop focused stage awaits Genesis, who comes out looking very Donatella Versace robo-granny with his sleek ‘do paired with a baggy shirt, skirt, and vest; Sleazy, Cosey, and Chris Carter in a kimono follow. The music begins, loud and full bodied- I forgot that sometimes people go see live shows for the sound. I’m usually up close trying to be onewiththeband. The visuals were very lean- only a red, tribal looking projection was behind them.

Genesis starts with his smoke-soaked voice, talking about murdering children in the song “Very Friendly”, which references the Moors Murders that occurred in Manchester when the band was growing up. The 18 minute long song establishes the provocative tone yet subdued rhythm that would be maintained through the barely over an hour long set. “Persuasion” follows.

I felt like I was at a museum, watching an exhibit of a band playing. There was a huge wall between the band and the audience; no give and take allowed. Appreciation trumps the fun factor….and this is a notion that is hard for me to maintain while watching a set. The lights made me very distracted: oh, there’s a girl with a really ugly skirt on; look, that guy is really fucked up; my, that man has a purse and is fanning himself with a chinese fan; hmmm…I believe that’s Mike Patton standing near me…

Listening to the band play that inspired a lot of the bands I love is an interesting experience. It’s kind of like witnessing a bunch of raw ingredients that were later mixed with other ingredients and baked by your favorite bands.

Here are some loose examples:

Genesis – cigarettes + melody = Ogre
Chris Carter + speed + guitar = Reznor

Next, TG went into “Something Came Over Me”, with the not so subtly perverse lyrics “Something came over me…was it white? Was it sticky?”

The slower, meandering beats paired with the bright light kind of sent me into a wormhole. I was thinking how I would probably be really into this if I were on drugs, which caused me to look around and find people who were on drugs, think about which kind of drugs, then on to what they do for a living, what happened in their past that made them take drugs, what if they aren’t on drugs but just act like that normally, which version of them I would prefer between those two options, what neighborhood they live in, how did they get here, where did they get their ticket, do they ever read my site….you get the picture. Suddenly, I wasn’t at a show, I was at the DMV with better music and the same bad lighting….waiting…

A birthday wish was made to Genesis’ daughter, who came out on stage. Some guy up in the balcony started yelling. I look up in the balcony and notice that people are sitting. “It’s a museum…one day you’ll appreciate it.” echoed in my head.

‘Discipline’, a faster song with more to it, awakens me from my daze. The floor rumbles and I move a little to the music. However, this was the final song. Applause brings them back out, but only to bow like at the end of a play. It’s only 10:30pm. The house lights dim as we leave. Oh, the irony.

OVERALL: 7.25/10
Throbbing Gristle performance: 7.5/10
venue (The Grand): 7.5/10
crowd/scene: 8/10
value ($30.00/ticket): 7/10
memorable: 6.5/10


  1. I was front row, slightly stage right so the lights were behind me and not a distraction. From that position, with Genesis only a few feet away, there was only Throbbing Gristle and the glorious noise, no distractions.

    I must admit, I had forgotten just how shocking and controversial some of their songs are until I heard them in the flesh last night.

    Thanx for the interesting write up!


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