It’s funny to think that Glaswegians Mogwai hail from the same part of the world that gave us twee acts Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura — and all within the same year, too. The band’s Monday night set at the Regency was a mindbender. And an earbleeder.
The last I’d heard of Mogwai was 1) the song “Hunted By A Freak,” off a 2003 Beggars Group sampler disc I kept in my car during high school, and 2) their pensive soundtrack to Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, which was mostly 4-6 minute, downtempo songs with a lot of brooding, clean guitar. So I went into this one expecting some epically lush soundscapes. Post-rock meditative stuff.
In reality, Braithwaite and company know their way around a fuzz pedal, and they have the loud-soft thing down to a tee (especially the loud). Some of the songs even bordered on instrumental metal, and since this is SF, the crowd stayed really polite despite all the raw energy. Braithwaite and fellow guitarist/vocalist John Cummings sang a couple tunes but the music drowned out the words; conversely, other songs had no vocals but felt like instrumental songs with no words, rather than purposeful instrumental compositions.
The truly epic part came during the finale, after Braithwaite announced they had just two more songs. “George Square Thatcher Death Party” segued right into the 10-minute “Mogwai Fear Satan,” (stretched out to a full 15 minutes) and pretty soon shit got kind of apocalyptic. Not in a hide-your-first-born-the-aliens-are-coming way, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if the buildings started collapsing and Ed Norton and Helena Bonham Carter suddenly appeared. T
The song started off with a mass of distorted, driving melodic guitar chords and a rolling beat, and slowly devolved into single echoing notes with a ton of delay, one foreboding low tom and a weird yellow glow backlighting the band. They brought it down to barely the faintest discernible noise and then shot back up again without warning (think the graveyard scene in Carrie). The set ended in style with a massive guitar effects soundscape as each member took his leave one at a time.
If the world ends in 2012, let’s let Mogwai play the final farewell?