“To Your Health”

It all began with work in Mexico City. A friend of mine had bought a ticket to Health only to find out that he’d be unable to go. “You want it?” he asked me, a bit forlorn and deflated. “Sure,” I responded not particularly knowing what I was throwing myself into. And then events happen as they do to everybody, the ones that cripple the will and crush the desire, the ones where you either decide to go to a concert or to keep hiding under your sheets worrying what the hell to do with your life – the proletariat blues.

So there I was outside of Point Ephémère (resembling something like a warehouse conceived by Warhol, flirting dangerously with the lapping waters of the canal, and the firehouse next door which continually spat out screaming engines and ambulances that blazed through music-lovers holding plastic cups) with my own plastic cup, still deciding whether to go inside or to jump into the canal and sink to the bottom (most likely only to be saved by an
annoyed fireman).

Okay, I was depressed, but all of that quickly changed once I got inside and saw, who looked to me like a youngish James Murphy alone on the stage sending out stacked and expansive beats that seemed to drift in and out of the smoke and lights devouring him. In fact he would later tell me that his name is Chad Valley, and he would be touring the United States soon. Before I had known this, I consumed his layer cake sound and sympathized with his emotionally charged declarations à la M83, manipulated by a double-fisting of microphones and tweaking of dials. And lo and behold, I felt that smirk, you know the kind, that smirk that tells you that you’re having a good time not matter how much you wish to fight it. It wasn’t long afterwards that I was dancing myself clean, shedding those burdensome doubts that had clung to the back of my mind for far too long.

After a plastic pint outside, I heard the borborygmus churning inside the belly of Point Ephémère, a sound that seemed much different from Chad Valley’s, but somehow fitting nonetheless. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw from this Los Angeles foursome as I packed myself rather comfortably between Betty Page and Alison Mosshart. The bassist (John) had taken center stage, a towering whirlwind (wearing a muscle shirt of a giant and ominous eyeball) of metal-meets-otherworldly, flailing with his long, black hair stylishly as the singer/guitarist (Jake) and the guitarist/backup vocals/percussion (Jupiter) were laying torturous bleats from their guitars like some crazed soldiers in the back rooms of Abu Ghraib. The pain was surgical, direct, hitting points very much deep within the chest and subconscious. And then, buried far inside the smoke and strobe lights there sat the drummer (BJ) who pounded out “Crimewave”, like nails into bone, a violence both rhythmic and chaotic, sewing the band together. But as the dual vocals of Jake and Jupiter were laid over the carnage, like some warm blanket, the music took on a different tone entirely, moving from noisy experimentation to crunchy and metallic drones. “Die Slow” pulsed out from the stage and I thought of Thom Yorke mixed with metal martians who came to Earth for only one thing: to clense us with fire.

The ability of Health to sway and swoon the crowd and at the same time drown them in acid (and have us like it) takes incredible talent and energy on their part. “We Are Water,” a personal favorite of mine, soon crashed over the crowd and, like some switch had been turned on, shadowy heads banged and hands rose to the ceiling. I felt my smirk come back, the negativity that I had carried with me had been exorcised and there was a sense of renewal. After a very brief, yet extremely cathartic encore, I had told myself that Health is a name genuinely befitting the music behind the group. I was glad to have gotten out from under my sheets.

ABOUT MATT MOWATT: Matthew Mowatt is currently working as a freelance editor and English teacher in Paris, France. He’s searching for publishers to accept his first finished novella and in the meantime, he seeks out musicians and writers for entertainment of the inspirational kind. He occasionally contributes to his own fanless blog (fairweather chronicles) when he’s licked by life.

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