Finding the Divine at Melted< < Back to
It’s about 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday night and I’m in church.
Leaning against the cool upper walls of the former First Baptist Church in Columbus, to be exact. I’m paying close attention to what I have deciphered to be the sermon, which is, at the moment, being delivered by indie rock goddess Satomi Matsuzaki. She’s wearing a long skirt and puffy, white sneakers and she pushes herself onto the balls of her feet to reach the microphone, such a small person effortlessly creating oscillating sonic rifts through the energy of a packed room, armed only with the punctuating percussion of her vocals and deliriously groovy guitar riffs.
If this sounds like the kind of organized religion you’d like to get in on, that’s because it very much is.
This particular church, the construction of which was finished in 1898, was long ago converted into a nightlife venue – first to the Bar of Modern Art, and then into The Bluestone in 2010. The unique venue served as the setting for Melted, the glorious, psychedelic offspring of a collaboration between the Nelsonville Music Festival and Columbus-based, independent events promoter Archie Fox Live, on Sunday, February 24.
It was there I saw all matter of feats of sonic alchemy.
I witnessed Satomi Matsuzaki and her Deerhoof bandmates hypnotizing the crowd with mystifying, otherworldly rhythms; Tokyo’s Kikagaku Moyo’s Tomo Katsurada and Daoud Popal summon unknown worlds with dynamic, atmospheric sounds; Cole Alexander and Jared Swilley of Atlanta’s Black Lips’ natural, frothy energy possessing more than one concert goer to completely physically surrender control of their bodies to those around them – allowing them to be lifted into the air above what came dangerously close to being a gyrating mosh pit.
What are these but feats of magic, of transcendence?
Define this lofty terms how we will, I suppose what I mean to say is this: a day-long psychedelic music festival unfolding in an old church seemed like a very pleasing oxymoron. In fact, when I started to work on previewing the event some months ago, nearly each time I was writing voicers for interview features I had to restrain myself from making this observation over and over.
I wanted to make some kind of witty statement about bringing rock ‘n’ roll to church – a Baptist church, yet. Rock music, and certainly psychedelic rock music, is here to get your children dancing a reckless dance right into Satan’s palm, right?
However, the longer I stayed at the event, it became clear that what we were experiencing as concert goers wasn’t really so different from the faith demanding wonders that take place in a church. In fact, I’d say Melted was like a cousin of those kinds of activities – a cousin that can speak a bottomless myriad of languages. Regardless of your cultural background, it’s difficult to deny the fierce sonic power of bands like Cherry Glazerr, Dana, JJUUJJUU, and every other act on the bill.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Noel Von Harmonson of Heron Oblivion, Clementine Creevy of Cherry Glazerr, and the entirety of Dana in advance of their performances at Melted — and in each interview, I asked the musicians how they define “psychedelic music,” as that had been the broad genre under which the festival had been billed. Every one had different answers — Harmonson had a particularly poignant definition that seemed to seep into what he believes it means to lead a meaningful existence; Creery gave me a pretty straight forward answer concerning the tonality of guitars in psychedelic music; and Dana playfully tossed the question around during our interview without ever coming to a really concise answer, which kind of felt like more of an answer, anyway.
As I did my best to articular whatever witticism I felt there was to be found in writing about a rock festival taking place in an old church, I also mulled over what “psychedelic music” really is. After several hours of experiencing the music in various ways, I came to the conclusion that psychedelic music, in some senses, could very much so be considered religious music — spiritual music. I don’t think that is making much of a stretch, at least in rhetoric, if not genre.
Listening to headliners Ty Segall and Tim Presley (White Fence), I couldn’t help but heave myself completely into the music. This experience was not unlike the way I listened to choir music when I was a young girl in church — I can distinctly remember the first time I felt this weightless merging with sound while listening to the off-key choir of the Lutheran Church I attended as a kid: I closed my eyes, and I thought, “this, this must be what heaven is like!” Fast forward some 16 years later, and that is very much what heaven is like, only this time around I closed my eyes and felt a thousand coalescing universes sewn into the nook and cranny of every abstract guitar hook rather than in the metaphysical space crafted by the well-meaning, but deeply discordant voices of churchgoers.
Gazing up into the sanctuary of The Bluestone, I felt the sense of largeness that was intended by the original architects — some gut-feeling about something that could only be categorized as divine conjured up by the colored lights diffusing over billowing clouds of smoke from the stage paired with the kaleidoscopic, thunderous riffs emanating from below.
If there was a message at the heart 10-hour-plus mega-sermon that Melted could be thought of, it might be that it is quite natural and common to find evidence of the transcendent amidst liquid light shows, wiry nests of guitar pedals, and mind-melting guitar riffs.