Godspeed You! Black Emperor concludes SF residency

Members of the "post-rock" group Godspeed You! Black Emperor played a 5 night residency at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall in between weekends performing at Southern California's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

Experiencing the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, it’s hard to tell where one song starts and another ends.

That’s why, shrouded in darkness except for the eery, vintage film reels projected above them, I barely realized the band had started its performance.

It was about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall when violinist Sophie Trudeau started tuning her violin, and before anyone knew it, the remaining 7 bandmates trickled on stage one by one.

The band was playing a five night residency in between gigs at the two Coachella festival weekends in the Southern California desert.

Anyone lucky enough to get tickets to the five sold out shows at the Great American Music Hall was in for an intimate and visceral audiovisual encounter.

Fast forward 30 minutes and the crowd woke up, providing the first sounds of applause all night.

It’s almost impossible to classify the music created by three to four electric guitars, a cello, violin, drums and percussion.

But the best description I could come up with is that listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor is equivalent to taking a hair dryer to your ears while blasting Beethoven.

The musicians, with no lights on them through the entire performance, weaved in and out of 20-minute dramatic masterpieces, bending and bowing between the whispers of a single violin string and a cacophony of noise.
The noise was, at times, beautiful and melodic. At other times, it was ear-deafening and just plain frightening.
I felt like I was dreaming, until I woke up on a speeding train heading to nowhere.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, founded in 1994 but on hiatus between 2003 and 2010, derives its name from a 1976 Japanese documentary about a biker gang called The Black Emperors.
The members have a host of interesting side projects as well, including  Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La BandFly Pan AmHṚṢṬA,Esmerine, and Set Fire to Flames.
When a reviewer from Bay Area music blog Spinning Platters caught the band three nights in a row when the band was last in San Francisco in 2010, he had this to say:

Here were not the sunny glories of Sigur Rós, nor the numbing white noise of Mogwai; this was an experience that foretold the end of the world, the beginning of life, and everything in between, with eight musicians sounding like a symphony from worlds beyond.


Check out the SF WEEKLY review for another taste of an obscure, but poignant band.

For a taste of the madness, watch the clip below:

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