They began the first show with only the vaguest idea what they'd play and how long they'd play for. "We played so loud we drove everyone out," says Zac Fairbanks, "then we just kinda stopped, [drummer] Nick [Tibbits] yelled at us for being too loud, and the three people who'd stuck around just..." He begins clapping hesitantly to illustrate the response.
Fairbanks is a guitarist by trade. In Hallelujah Soul Explosion, though, he mostly kneels on the ground, fiddling with his effects pedals. The other three members -- Tibbits, Adam Breeden and Henry Nordstrom (each formerly of TeeVee, currently in Oil of Angels) -- act similarly, playing off each other to an extent but working independently to create the biggest racket possible.
"There's usually a minimalist game plan," says Fairbanks. Meaning there are transitions and bridges. "There are definitely parts, though," Tibbits clarifies, "that we don't want to be music at all."
Though it's hard for the outsider to gauge such things, the band insists their second show was much better. I sat easily through the first 40 minutes of it: a chunky, soupy din of guitar, drum, bass, Rhodes and pedal noodling. It was almost unbearably loud, but it was riveting to focus on how the sound interacted with my body. My shirt rustled at the flits of Rhodes. The flesh of my face jiggled at the resonance of an especially low bass hit. I was totally into it until the video switched to footage of a human eye being prepared for dissection. Then, feeling like I was going to puke, I ducked out the back door.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & ne might conclude from all the listeners they hemorrhage that either a) Hallelujah Soul Explosion sucks or b) Spokane's not ready for a noise scene. I conclude almost the exact opposite: 1) They don't suck -- at least, not in their other bands -- and 2) we ain't gettin' any readier.
I think we need this -- bowel-loosening as it may be -- because it breaks music (and language, for that matter) into its most basic unit: sound. Then, through sheer volume, it demonstrates what that sound is composed of: vibration, pressure, energy.
It's deconstructionist and it really targets the origins of music. We've spent thousands of years as a species trying to create meaning from sound by ordering it and giving it structure. No matter how we dress that pig up, though, it doesn't get much more powerful than raw, elemental noise. For an artist, I imagine, realizing how little distance there is between structured music and its ambient origins could either be earth-shattering or therapeutic.
For Fairbanks -- who also plays a lot of blues, a form "so structured that every song sounds the same" -- it's the latter. "It's amazing going onstage and not knowing what we're going to do and just making this catastrophic noise," he says, "There's something about it that's so incredibly liberating and kinda euphoric."
For the others, it has taken a bit of the pressure off. "It's just so much fun," Breeden says. Some nights, like when "the only compliment you get after a show is 'you play guitar like the guy from Pearl Jam'" -- as happened to Breeden after an Oil of Angels show recently -- fun's all you got.
Friends of Empyrean features Hallelujah Soul Explosion, Smile Line Spark, 7 Years Absence, Oil of Angels, Zac Fairbanks and the Booze Fighters, Kristen Raxter, Kaylee Cole, Kori Henderson, Karli Fairbanks, Joel Smith and Thomas Bechard on Friday, Sept. 21 from 7 pm to midnight. $5; $8, including CD. Call 838-9819.