Richard’s on Richards. 10:30. No opener. That’s the kind of confidence the N.Y.C. math rock outfit Battles can afford now that they’ve spent a year doing nothing but getting music critics on their side. Coming from a blessed musical background though, who could expect anything different? After all, Battles are a bit of a supergroup. The band’s Ian Williams used to belong to Don Caballero back in the ’90s, Tyondai Braxton is the son of legendary sax great Anthony Braxton and drummer John Stanier used to play for rock heroes Helmet. Obviously, Richard’s was packed balls to the wall.
For all that they’re worth, Battles are a sight to behold. Watching the sweat drip from Stanier’s face as he shreds his drumsticks into a fine sawdust—as he crushes your eardrums with every snare hit—is a bit like being sexually violated by Hillary Clinton. It’s like years of pent-up passive-aggressiveness finally exploding out in bursts of spasmodic energy, and you don’t really have any choice in the matter of being stunned, even though you’re in terrible pain.
Or what about Braxton, with his underwear-model looks and fingers tapping so fast on frets and keys that you’re certain he’s never had anything short of his own private harem waiting for him back home? It’s a shame the sound guys boned themselves as badly as they did on his vocals, because when he started singing the bits from “Atlas,” all we heard was everything else. You had to be at the far end of the bar to make anything out.
And the crowd—Jesus Christ, Battles fans are violent. Who knew moshing was still popular for kids out of high school? You can’t blame ’em though. Short of the asshat sound production, Battles were near goddamn remarkable.