Brendan Fowler of the band BARR gave himself a nasal enema at my house before he played the show at the Steynberg Gallery Sunday night. The process is much the same as a regular enema: you mix a powder with distilled water and place it into a tube with a long spout. However, with a nasal enema, the water apparently shoots up through one hole (nostril A) and comes out another one (nostril B).
He’s doing this because he’s sick, and while it’s slightly embarrassing for him to ask me to do it in my bathroom upon meeting me, it turns into a night-long joke.
And such is the music and performance of BARR. At times it’s humiliating and embarrassing and nakedly emotional, but it’s all juxtaposed alongside some sort of sick and weird humor that makes the whole experience oddly comfortable and friendly.
BARR and Marnie Stern both arrived at my house coming hot off of new releases (“Summary” and “In Advance of a Broken Arm,” respectively). Stern has achieved mainstream publication hype and BARR’s getting unfolding respect from the kids who hang out and smoke cigarettes in front of thousands of clubs across the United States.
However, neither seem to really let any of this off. At one point, Stern told me that she spends most of her time reading biographies, and one on Abraham Lincoln really inspired her.
And for some reason, that makes me feel OK telling her that the freneticism of her album made me shave my beard off the other day while I was listening to it in the shower. That’s a really awkward comment and I know it, but for some reason it all comes off as understandable as BARR and nasal enemas.
She then proceeded to shred guitar to her iPod, an activity I imagine she does all the time in her bedroom. However, she’s not really alone in this case, and there’s more than sixty people watching her from their seats.
The whole thing comes off a little awkward and weird. For some reason, I’m standing in the corner laughing at how awesome the music and the whole scenario are. She closes with “Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling” and somehow the loudness doubles. The iPod is playing her vocals and she’s singing along with it while tapping her fingers wildly over her guitar. The fact that I can’t concentrate on anything but wild noise makes the experience disorienting. When she finishes, no one stands up or moves and they all sit and stare as she hauls her equipment off stage. A little bit too shell-shocked, maybe.
BARR followed that up with Brendan Fowler leading his solo music project into full band form (three other dudes). The show finds him crawling over people and yelling something about an STD screening that he thought was supposed to be an AIDS screening. Meanwhile, a bassist pounces across equipment in an endearing rock display.
He closes his set with “Context Ender” before an impromptu encore demanded by an enraptured audience. Before he drives away, I tell him that song is my favorite and I probably listened to it for a full hour over and over the moment I got his album. And I know in some way that statement is awkward, weird, nerdy and slightly ridiculous. But then again . so is BARR. It’s the first time I have ever said something like that and had someone take it in the right way because he then tells me that song is one of the few things he’s ever made that he’s proud of.
It’s a really serious moment until Marnie Stern yells about hurrying up. It’s ridiculously appropriate that the call of Tio Alberto’s ends the conversation forcing it into a hug and “come back again soon.”
Show tip: Mountain Goats on Saturday at the Steynberg Gallery. It may be sold out by the time you read this. So if you can’t get tickets, maybe see Port O’Brien play at Steynberg Gallery on Thursday at 7 p.m.