Lesion At Arlene’s Grocery, Saturday, August 11th, 2018, Reviewed
Gustav Ludwig Hertz was a German experimental physicist and Nobel Prize winner for his work on inelastic electron collisions in gases.
Dr. Gustave Hurtz was born in Essen, Germany. “My father was a mortician and constantly stank of formaldehyde. Mother was a waitress and often smelled of pancakes with syrup.”
One of those bios is true, and the other is the alter ego for one of the best band leaders you haven’t heard of.
At Arlene’s Grocery last night, the mortician’s son proved something I have always believed, all the self-confidence, all the skills, and all the rehearsal, all the abilities, looks, artistry, all put together, is not enough to make you a great front man. What James Brown had, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart -a sort of shameless self-regard and empowering skill to make the large small, and then again, large needs to have a magic added to it and the Lesion frontman has it. “Who here likes rock music?” Dr. Hertz, towering over Arlene’s tiny stage, asked ” I mean really rawwwwkpfpf... music” and that size question loomed through the packed out floor. You could imagine Gustave, without much effort, mastering MSG or MetLife, his voice is a metalcore roar that baritones and thunders, and while he looks like a bald middle aged man dressed like a glam stormtrooper in Hong Kong, his presence is so commanding, he comes across like a sexgod, and you fnd yourself watching him, even when the pure white shards of lead guitarist Piss Promise is damaging your ear drums.
Dr. Hurtz is the lead singer of Lesion, a performance art metalcore prog band, five member (two bass players who alternate songs, guitar and drums), who have performed on and off since 2000.The on again, off again band, appear in small videos through their various incarnations, directed by John Bergdahl, who savors his role as the impregnable roar that is Gustav, relishing the introduction of a song as a “rape in outer space” clomping at the bit as he does a wild dance around the stage, his feet crashing against the stage floor, while he kicks them up like a Gypsy being fucked by a cossack. The films are very enjoyable satires of rock stars and their abilities, it is as though everything is being viewed by a magnifying glass. Lesion haven’t performed together in three years, though as the film that opened the show, Burn-Outs” advised, Lesion has been offered a billion dollars for one last show by an eccentric tycoon and back they came last night, not the slightest rust upon them, it was like they never left.
I’ve been aware of Lesion for years now, rock nyc writer and my niece Louba Lababedi’s husband Michael Podniesinski is Mr. Pod (as in I…), one of the bassists, apparently a sex maniac with a pipe not unlike a certain late owner of a magazine. I’d heard Lesion and thought they were pretty good but I am not necessarily a hardcore fan (editor Helen Bach is a hardcore girl and she told me that the songs were indeed great), what I didn’t realize was that recorded songs was not their natural habitat. Michael left after the birth of his children and was replaced by American Art (Art Mirkin), the two bassists alternated songs on stage, both have a taste for prog, and all proginess here seems to come from the bass. Gustav was born to sing metal, and lead (er, only) guitarist Piss Promise (Chris Thomas) wouldn’t have been out of place in the late great Glenn Branca’s band (his young daughter, wearing noise muffling cans, was dancing in the front row), he was like Thurston Moore without the assholeness, the bassists had an ear for more exciting variants than just keeping down the bottom except on show highlight funky as fuck “Turn It Out,” and they could do that because in the pocket drummer Venison (Mike Faivre) doesn’t only have the best backstory (a deer bit off his tongue) but is precisely what a drummer needs to be, he was so on the mark from beginning to end, and like punk and not metal drummers, concise to the point of abruptness, no wonder they sounded as though they performed 200 shows a year.
The audience were a mix of friends, family, fans, and some kids who wandered in and got a ton more fun than they expected: a thrilling, loud fast rules, performance by the band, and a ridiculously great leader of the band. Gustav was as great as anybody I have ever seen, his skills would be the envy of anyone I know. When you think art rock, you think self-consciousness, and these guys are the least self conscious art rockers I have ever seen. It is all a send up but it doesn’t sound like a send up, it is hard rock riffology meets noise, a glorious ear piercing sound, that doesn’t poke fun at the music, the music it takes seriously, it laughs at all importance, at taking itself seriously,it laughs loud and hard at political correctness, as in top spng “You’re gay but not homo”. Whether claiming that he lost his suspenders during the last number, and next his pants will be around his ankles, then calling us sexy, or reading a fan letter by a school administrator informing that Mr. Pod will not be getting an Exchange Student (for excellent reason), shouting out to members of the audience, or preening and powering his way through the absolutely brilliant “Witches Tit,” the Doctor was all in all the way, it was an honor to watch him in action.
For God’s sake guys, I’ll pay the billion myself, just don’t make us wait three years for the next show.