After three long years when someone who used to organize foreign-headlined shows asked about it (too bad though that I couldn’t find a link to that Facebook poll anymore, possibly deleted by the author after the whole thing didn’t work out as planned), the experimental rock trio of Ian Williams, Dave Konopka and John Stanier – collectively known as Battles – had finally arrived here in Manila last night. This author right here couldn’t be any more happier after having heard the news while just casually browsing Facebook and coming up with stuff to write a day after another previous show. Aside from being the second ever Warp Records artist to visit the country (after dance-rock outfit !!! did a free show back in 2014 and Warp being a personal favorite record label too), a band featuring original members of alt-metal and math rock icons Helmet (Stanier) and Don Caballero (Williams; Konopka was in fellow math rock group Lynx), respectively, is something 90’s kids who grew up even with just the former band at the very least SHOULD totally look forward to. In fact, seeing Stanier alone with my very eyes last night was more than enough for me to fulfill my teenage dream of seeing at least one original Helmet member.

Was originally supposed to go with somebody else last night (same as who I was with in that previous show we both went to) but personal reasons prevented her from doing so; good thing I talked to a dear friend from the hardcore punk scene last Friday about the show and she happened to be interested to watch Battles as well so that other ticket I bought wasn’t gone to waste after all (thanks a lot, dear friend, for saving what could’ve been 1500 bucks gone *poof* ^_^ ). A younger friend from the post-rock scene and his girlfriend (Sweetie and Shag? Hihi…) were also there at 12 Monkeys but while they were able to watch opening act Earthmover (which I personally don’t give much of a thought about as of the moment until that band decides to do something that will make their sound really stand out), I decided to wait for my friend as her work shift ended at 10pm last night. Thankfully, Battles was only setting up their gear by the time my friend arrived so all’s well that ends well.

Battles’ gear setup last night was a feast for the eyes as it was a visual treat seeing not just one of Williams’ keyboards glued to the venue’s stage pillar (presumably with really strong double adhesive tape, a change from the usual parallel placement of his two keyboards as I’ve seen in the band’s live clips) but also the very reason that Battles stands out as a live act to watch: Stanier’s rather imposing, very highly placed crash cymbal which he has to strike as needed with his right arm raised to its fullest.

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Ian Williams (formerly of math rock OGs Don Caballero). Check out that keyboard taped vertically to the stage pillar and tell me that’s not the most awesome keyboard placement ever.
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Dave Konopka (formerly of math rock band (and Don Cab contemporary) Lynx)

While it can’t be denied that both Williams and Konopka are more than excellent enough in working their (math?) magic with all those angular guitar riffs, sweeping keys and looping electronics, my own attention was almost firmly fixed in Stanier’s very precise, hard-hitting drum playing. While it sure felt a bit weird seeing Stanier shaking some sleigh bells (rather apt for the current month, I must say, hahahaha… Merry Christmas!!) imo, there’s no question that he still is one of the most influential drummers around (see: Helmet’s 90’s-era discography when they were still at their peak) that anyone starting out with pounding some skins should be really looking up to as a prime example of simplicity and efficiency without relying too much on hyper blastbeats, gravity rolls, double pedals kicking at quadruple speed and other overly technical gimmicks that are the drum equivalent of overly self-indulgent guitar wankery.

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John Stanier (most known for being the original drummer of Helmet from the band’s formation until 1997’s “Aftertaste”; also currently still drumming for experimental oddball supergroup Tomahawk)
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Tfw your crash cymbal is so damn tall that you can’t help but just stand already while striking it repeatedly instead of having to fully extend your arm upward. Was actually quipping to my friend from the local post-rock scene to try and convince his band’s drummer to make a crash cymbal stand around two storeys tall, lolololololol.

How I wish though that Battles’ show was held on a weekend (Friday to Sunday preferably) so that people wouldn’t be coming up with really lame excuses as to why they can’t go (unless you have an office job to tend to on the day and time of the show itself or you have to report to work really early the next day, of course… those are the only totally valid reasons I tend to consider right there; took some time off from my day job as a matter of fact just to go catch Battles due to reason stated in the first sentence of this show review) instead of a Monday. Other than that, it was really nice of those who organized last night’s show to finally bring Battles over here after a really long wait. Here’s to more Warp Records artists visiting the country in the foreseeable future…

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