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Pineal Ventana is hazardous to your health.
~concert review and photos by J

I had to step through the paramedics and cops to get into the Earl.  It seems a gentleman had had a bit much to drink and had collapsed on the sidewalk outside the establishment.  The prognosis was that he'd be fine, excepting the feeling of a railroad spike through his head in the morning.

The band attracts a rough crowd.  I arrive just as Pineal Ventana begins setting up their plethora of gear, including two banks of synths and a rack of associated gadgetry, tubular red lights, a bunch of drums, and an odd set of guitars and a bass with matching metal headstocks.  This band's been at it for years and years, and you can tell it from the crowd.  Most everyone knows the band, and there are several members of other Atlanta bands from days gone by, such as the El Caminos and Tweezer, in attendance.

Pineal blurs lines.  There are times when I've been uncertain if the show has started, or if it's ended.  But tonight, Mitchell Foy comes out of the back carrying a large metal sink.  He pushes through the crowd and lifts it over his head.  Some wit cries out "Ah, the kitchen sink!"  The sink crashes to the floor, which, I think, is the start of the show.

The men of Pineal start playing, warming up with a minimalist dirge.  Clara Clamp makes her way through the crowd and hops up on the stage.  She has a creepy, little girl quality to her voice and a pathologically introverted stage manner, singing as though she's locked up alone in an attic room.

One song ends.  Quickly, another begins.  The shifts are big.  Droning noise is followed by an almost punk aggression.  Instruments are exchanged.  I'm pretty sure I've seen everyone in Pineal play guitar at one time or another, though Clamp, sporting a cast on her wrist, is just singing tonight.  Foy might play keys on one song, yell though a distorted mic on the next, and drum on the one after that.

The drumming is what drew me to this band originally.  It's frenetic and tribal, focusing on toms.  There is no snare.  In it's place is an inverted, stainless steel pan that looks like it may once have been part of a hospital sink.  Rarely do the drummers sit, so there's little kick drum, either. There are also free-floating toms that one or two other people sometimes play on the more aggressive numbers.  I am transfixed by the multiple drummer songs; it's like watching some sort of Blue Man Group from hell.

And then Clara Clamp screams.  It sounds like it hurts.

My favorite song of the evening was a very haunting one late in the set. Clamp delivered it like she was on the very of a breakdown.  It was slow and sweet, with a refrain something along the lines of "you dance so slow".  I don't think Foy played anything on the song, just danced and stumbled around behind Clamp and looked bewildered, like an absent-minded lover who is not quite aware that something is terribly, awfully wrong.

The finale was chaos.  The song was full-out Pineal Ventana, earsplitting and harsh.  After several minutes, where most bands would end the song, Clamp disappears from view, but the band keeps playing.  Foy wanders into the crowd with an insecticide sprayer, leaving a liquid trail across the floor.  Whatever the liquid was, it was flammable; Foy's next move was to ignite it.  So now the floor in front of the stage is on fire, and the rest of the band is still playing full tilt.  Foy wanders backstage, and someone tries stomping out the fire.  It mostly works, except for a few cracks in the floor that have collected detritus and are still burning fairly well.

Foy returns with a large metal tank that might be the gas tank of a riding lawnmower or small car.  He slams the tank down on the remaining flames.  He goes backstage for another tank.  From the stage, drumsticks and drums are thrown off.  The sink from the beginning of the show reappears.  Kneeling in front of the stage, the band and its associates bang away on these things. (It sounds like they may have practiced doing this; it is a fast, interlocking series of simple rhythms that add up to an interesting whole.)

A keyboard is making noises like a radio dial turned rapidly one way and then the other.  The insecticide sprayer is now used to set the floor percussion on fire.  A member of the crowd insists on standing in the flames.  Whichever band member was playing keyboards on this song is gone, replaced by some guy who had previously been videotaping the show.

Things begin winding down.  Someone is walking through the crowd and playing a clarinet. I'm not really sure how they decided it was over.