Published on January 28th, 2014 | by Dave Scaddan0
Concert Review: Winnipeg – Venetian Snares
Just back from a quick jaunt to Winnipeg where Venetian Snares did a show for the Winnipeg Symphony’s Pop Nuit, and it now seems well worth the travel. Pop Nuit is a kind of avant-garde sideshow of musical performances slated to coincide with the symphony’s New Music Festival, so local breakcore genius Aaron Funk (a.k.a. Venetian Snares) seems like an obvious and appropriate booking for the event. Venetian Snares performances aren’t all that common on the prairie, as Funk’s notoriety, which is ample, is anything but locally-focused and he doesn’t really tour. For example, his next gig is in May, in Nagano. So as a long-time fan of his music, this seemed like a chance to see something that lives nearby, but doesn’t come out into the light that often.
I was especially curious to see what the Robot Gene Krupa-on-diet-pills sound of Venetian Snares would do to a live audience (would people try to dance to 7/4 and 11/4 time signatures at 160+bpms?) and what Funk himself would actually look like while doing his thing (would he merely stand behind a wall of screens and cords and raise a hand every so often just before dropping a break?). The crowd was young, local, and enthusiastic, and clearly familiar with what they were hearing, but as I expected might happen, no one really seemed to know what the proper reaction was to hearing something like this unfolding from a small bed of electronics on a stage a few feet away:
So yeah, whether from awkward enthusiasm or desperate confusion, people tried to dance, and the results were pretty amusing. It’s strange, because while Venetian Snares’ music certainly pushes a lot of the same buttons as more ‘traditional’ electronic dance music, the body doesn’t naturally know what to do once those buttons are pushed. The beats are so alien, so sudden, so quick and so quick-to-change that nothing anyone knows about dancing makes sense when this music is playing, but dang it if it doesn’t practically force the body to do something. Some bang their heads, some try helplessly to pogo in rhythm, some sway their arms Stevie Nicks-style to the dementia of the drums, and some just shove their buddies around while others stand dumbstruck by the experience. I felt a kind of kinship with these people, mostly because Venetian Snares has always made music that I listen to alone, what with it not seeming fair to subject others to Funk’s relentless sonic tyranny, and it was exciting to be in the presence of so many people who wouldn’t want to clear the living room if something from ‘Chocolate Wheelchair’ came up in shuffle play.
Funk himself is as good a showman as I’ve seen from behind a battery of effects dials and turntables — in fact he’s one of the only people I’ve ever seen looking totally natural from this vantage. He doesn’t pretentiously try to whip up the crowd, knowing that anyone paying to see him will be whipped up enough by what’s being heard, but he doesn’t do the cool, somber, DJ posturing either. As angry and aggressive as his music can sound, he clearly has a lot of fun performing it, and he doesn’t bother to hide this from his audience, making those in attendance feel like they’re watching him work at home, and even revealing an obviously sharp sense of humour. And let me just say, it helps to have a sense of humour when you’re in a show at Union Sound Hall in Winnipeg in the middle of January, where every time someone opens a door anywhere in the entire building, it feels like Old Man Winter has become a Snares fan. I don’t feel too bad ragging on poor Winnipeg here, in an article about a guy who once released an EP called ‘Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole.’ See, Venetian Snares says what we are all thinking.
With plenty of interesting names flocking to Winnipeg’s zero visibility confines this month, home-boy Aaron Funk was the one, more than Dweezil Zappa or Lee Ranaldo or Jim Jarmusch, that I really felt I needed to see and hear live. If you ever get the chance, wake up to what so many European admirers know, and so few prairie folks seem to: Venetian Snares is a one-of-a-kind musical experience and has been for fifteen years, right in our frozen backyard.