No Age at Grand Central, January 18

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View photos from No Age's performance at Grand Central here.

No Age

With Beings and Rene Hell

Grand Central

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Better Than: The outcome of the Heat game a couple blocks away.

No Age shows in Miami, by now, seem to attract two distinct but related groups. There's a core of underage, mostly male fans who come to go batshit, and then a vast swath of older folks who used to be those kids, and enjoy the contact high.

Out of the three shows the L.A. band has headlined here over the past nine months, the divide was most apparent last night at Grand Central. That was probably due to the sprawling size of the venue -- the added space meant the adults had enough room to stand back, tap toes, and type on smart phones, rather than be forced into the middle of the action.

This didn't much dampen the overall energy of the room, though. The crowd, at barely over 100 people, was more scant than expected -- maybe enough people got their No Age fix during Art Basel, and on a more alcohol-allowing weekend night, to boot. But the feisty teens who usually populate the band's all-ages shows bounced extra hard, and No Age didn't let up on its own end, either.

If only more people overall had been present for locals Beings' opening set, which lasted exactly 19 minutes but was the evening's pleasant surprise. The trio is one of the best local bands going right now, with its fresh bend of pogo-punk drums, fuzzed out indie, slop pop, and the tiniest hint of stoner sludge. (This provided a particularly funny juxtaposition against the between-song noise interruption their set suffered, as the band's amps picked up the signal of a low-dial Spanish radio station.)

And while every band member is nimbly talented on his or her instrument, the breakout star is drummer Beatriz Monteavaro. Her tight timing and cheerful grinning keep the band energetically propelled forward.

Because of the band's similarities in style and tempo, Beings would have probably been the wisest choice on the lineup to directly precede No Age. Instead, sandwiched between the bands was No Age tourmate/buddy Rene Hell. It's the latest pseudonym used by the super-underground cult solo artist Jeff Witscher, who, despite having recorded under the name "Deep Jew," actually appears to be a slightly built Asian.

Apparently, not enough people consulted our handy blog post introduction to Rene Hell earlier in the afternoon (hah!) because his set of wandering, loud ambient was received with bemused silence. Or, even, contained rage -- apparently, one audience member was so irritated he/she tracked down said blog post to comment on Hell's set as it went on. Technology is amazing.

Hell's experiments with analog synths are interesting enough, especially when he pushes them to heavy metal levels of volume and chest cavity vibration. But with little in the way of song structure or tempo increase, the enthusiasm in the room didn't exactly build. In fact, 20 minutes after Hell had started, the stage went dark. The audience only realized the set was over and clapped in recognition when the lights came back on, and he was already wrapping up his cables.

In a way, though, this was a bit of genius on No Age's part, because by the time the headliners took the stage, their fans still had a lot of pent-up energy to burn. And there is a sort of expected interplay, by now, at local No Age shows: Band plays a couple songs, crowd starts to freak out, crowd continues to freak out, which makes band freak out (in a good way), things fly, and the whole thing goes over its allotted time limit, always. Predictable might be an accurate descriptor, but predictable in the same satisfying way as your favorite meal -- so maybe "dependable."

The main difference between last night's performance and the band's two 2010 shows in town was the rising prominence of an official-unofficial third member, the impressively named William Kai Stangeland-Menchaca.

He wasn't present for No Age's headlining slot at Sweatstock, but joined the band sometime in the fall and did show up in time for its show this past December at Fountain Art Fair. He just wasn't as visually prominent then. Now he's been pushed up to the front of the stage, and looks more conspicuous in a Blues Brother-style suit getup (last night, at least). Consequently, synth and sample work also seems to figure louder, in volume, in No Age's live show now, although that could just be a matter of changed perception.

The rest remains familiarly spare but loud and distorted, with drummer-singer Dean Spunt's vocals remaining just a faint yelp in the background and the band collectively seeming to play itself into exhaustion. Though there were marked concentric rings of increasing crowd age from the stage's edge, the kids dutifully ran amok amongst themselves, wringing sweat from Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall through five, 10, then 15, then even more songs.

These included nearly every expected hit -- "Glitter," "Eraser," and large swaths off the band's last two albums -- and none of the possible covers we considered here on Crossfade yesterday. (Sorry, to the dude who futilely yelled "G.G. Allin!" as the house lights went up post-show.) They did, however, include at least one cover, which they announced was a Misfits song, but whose fuzz-buried rendition made it pretty unrecognizable.

By the end of their set, about an hour and 10 minutes after they first took the stage, No Age had sped through some 19 songs and overshot its noise curfew by 33 minutes. Those were worthy stats to finish up the band's seasonal Miami run.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: This marks the third time I've reviewed a No Age show in nine months, which may, perhaps, lessen my surprise at any of the antics onstage or off.... If any of it gets predictable, well, it's predictably enjoyable.

The Crowd: People born in the '90s dancing like crazy. People born in the '80s and before tweeting and staying the hell out of the way.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Yes! YES! FINALLY!" (at the end of Rene Hell's set)

Random Detail: Grand Central's drink prices may seem steep. And they can be. But check the receipt they give you with each drink -- there's an 18 percent gratuity built in.

Random Detail #2: Between-band DJ Alex Caso's selections are always on point. Roxy Music or Wire, anyone?

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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