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Live Report: Siege @ Saint Vitus

photo by Christopher Harrington
Siege & John Zorn by Christopher Harrington

The skies parted last Saturday at Saint Vitus. There was darkness, even deeper than usual, scrawling across the wooden floors and the glossy metallic bar. An eerie draft meandered through the Greenpoint staple, ever present, ever evolving. Three bands, with disparate methods, pushed and pulled and transcended the ever-growing crowd. By the time legendary experimental jazz saxophonist John Zorn took the stage with the equally legendary punk outfit Siege for their last show in New York, the netherworld had been reached.

Wicked King Wicker by Christopher Harrington
Wicked King Wicker by Christopher Harrington

Noise-centric doom outfit Wicked King Wicker appeared first. Like lithe specters, the ambiguous trio danced through trembling harshness. Occasionally, sunny portals sprouted from the madness, signaling that the band had a sense of levity amidst the grey storm. Wicked King Wicker was sharp, but also free, dedicated to pure energy. The allusion to structure was maintained throughout the set, but the extensions out of that outline — and the performance’s organic quality — raised the group beyond the norm. Waves of intensity blossomed from the stage. The crowd was stunted, and content.

NYC jazz thrashers Trigger followed, playing a set of Zorn’s Bagatelles. The trio was fast and to the point, barreling through a plethora of compositions by the saxophone master. The songs were mind-numbing, thrashing, overtly progressive, and absolutely ecstatic. Short outbursts of madness and precision toppled onto each other like Daniel Libeskind architecture: glowing, blind and colossal.

Trigger by Christopher Harrington
Trigger by Christopher Harrington

Trigger are adept at playing “songs in the key of Zorn.” The group’s latest recording, the Limousine EP, could be easily mistaken for something like Naked City or Masada: experimental, daring and stormy, but sculptural, like a needle and a block. The band blasted their the room into shards of infancy. The crowd was left panting for more; it was too quick, but perfect.

Siege finished things off even faster than Trigger. Punishing proto-grind and thrash was climactic, as the legendary Massachusetts punk rockers got on stage and played directly, like an invisible mirror: raging and sparkly. Siege grew up in the eighties hardcore scene and was one of the earliest creators of grindcore and other experimental hardcore/metal forms. Original members Kurt Habelt and Rob Williams reformed the band again in 2016 (after first reforming in 1992), and to everyone’s satisfaction, unleashed hell during their final performance in the New York area.

Siege by Christopher Harrington
Siege by Christopher Harrington

Avant-jazz legend John Zorn joined in toward the end (their set passed so quickly, it might as well have been the beginning), blowing abstraction into the hardcore assault. The result was dreamy and industrial, hazy and hard; the art was flowing purely and evenly, and the temple of Saint Vitus was warm with glow and memories. One thought of hardcore in its infancy, so righteous and tactile, and of the mating of jazz and metal, punk and classical, noise and freedom of expression. It was a real night, with three equally real bands. It was brief, but every moment was eternal.

—Christopher Harrington

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