No brainer on what band gets the first mention in terms of the letter P folks. A Place to Bury Strangers has been one of my favorite bands since I first saw them terrorize the small crowd that was brave enough to witness their fury at the Monolith Festival back in 2008. The moment is still unforgettable to me. My sister and I had just finished watching The Fratellis play a great set on the main stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. I told her I wanted to check out the end “of this Place to Bury Strangers’ set in the Rock Room”. This festival had five stages and as many as three were being used at one time to give all the festival goers plenty of options.
When we walked into the Visitor Center Terry told me she would meet me in the Rock Room where APTBS were already playing. What was frightening was we could already hear the band and as I approached the Rock Room the sound got louder and louder. I walked in that room and it was pitch black, except for the strobe light on the stage. It was packed but many of the folks in the room were toward the back of the room. I watched the onslaught for about a minute and realized I had to move up front to experience the full effect.
At this point the guitarist for A Place to Bury Strangers took off his guitar and set it on the stage floor. A guy from offstage ran out with another guitar and once it was plugged in the band transitioned into a new song. Mind you, there was no vocals during any of this so far, so the only reason I knew this was because of the change in tempo and sound. When I walked in it was a case of all three members just wildly (so I thought) flailing away at their instruments.
I managed to get all the way up front but off to the side a bit which put me right in front of one of the speakers. Big mistake. I found out later the name of the song being played was “Ocean”, the last track from the band’s self-titled debut. The tempo of the song was not mellow but it definitely was not hyper-kinetic either, which caused me to relax a bit. I was so mesmerized by the guitarist/vocalist Oliver Ackermann that I was not prepared for what happened at the end of the song. Ackermann stopped singing and momentarily the volume from the band decreased slightly. This was just a set-up because Ackermann hit a note on his guitar that was so earth-shattering, so vicious, so furious that everyone up front, including yours truly jumped. It scared the piss out of me but again, I was so mesmerized I could not take my eyes off the band. Ackermann was a wild man at this point, hammering away at his axe with a fury that a man his size should not possess, bassist Jono MOFO while maintaining a cool edge was just as intense and drummer Jay Space nearly punched holes into his drums, the pounding he delivered was that ferocious.
Then it was over and the band walked off the stage without saying a word to the crowd. It was one of the most incredible sets I ever witnessed and I only saw a song and a half. Everyone in the crowd just looked at each other in shock and awe. I found my sister at the back of the room and she had that same expression.
I raced outside to the merch table and asked the guy that helped me for a copy of the band’s CD. He told me they were on the way, the band had not delivered them yet. I waited and watched another guy come up and ask the same guy the same question. Then another. And another. At this point the gentleman selling items said, “Holy shit, those guys must have been awesome!” All of us waiting said, “Yep!” I still have the A Place to Bury Strangers disc that was released in 2007 in my collection and trust me, it is never going anywhere.
I saw the band a few months later at Coachella 2009. How important was it to see all of their set and right up front? I left the Silversun Pickups set after only two songs and was late getting to Paul McCartney’s set because I refused to leave the set from APTBS early. Yes, I showed up late to see one of The Beatles. Six months later I saw them again in Seattle. I have also seen the band twice at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix and I will be honest, when I asked Oliver to sign my Exploding Head CD and told him I saw them play three times already, including at Monolith and Coachella, I was more than a little starstruck. Oliver was cool as heck and the second time I saw them at the Rhythm Room I had a chance to talk with new bassist Dion Lunadon as well. He is just as cool.
Take shoegaze, mix in a healthy dose of post punk and most important, add in experimental rock and you have an idea what this band sounds like. What amazes me is the fact A Place to Bury Strangers can create so much noise and power and STILL infuse the sound with loads of pop hooks. Any band can create noise but that gets old after a while if the music does not hook you. Listen to a song like “In Your Heart” or “Onwards to the Wall” and then try to disagree with me.
These guys shred and with a fourth album on the horizon I know I will have a chance to see them again soon. I will travel to see these guys if an Arizona show does not happen. APTBS is so bad ass you are getting two videos folks, one for “Ocean” from when I saw them at Coachella in 2009 and the official video for “In Your Heart.” I STRONGLY suggest you brace yourself at the 3:28 mark of the live clip. Enjoy!