By John Wallent, CO-Chair & Radio Manager
On the night of December 6, 2019, Lewis and Clark fell into an inescapable state of hypnosis as strange noises drifted across campus, emanating from the Coop. Students partook in the sacred art of Amplifier Worship contorting their bodies in new, disturbing ways to complex rhythms as crowds formed outside in the pouring rain, dancing to the thunderous face-melting tones that the five musicians known as WEEED conjured from their instruments.
Their lineup consisted of the triple-piston percussion engine of John Goodhue, Evan Franz, and Ian Hartley as well as the amplifier altars of guitarist Mitchell Fosnaugh and bassist Gabriel Seaver. The band launched into their set with some transcendent cuts off their 2019 album You Are the Sky, effortlessly switching between highly syncopated cloudlike vibes to supermassive eardrum-destroying doom riffs. Highlights of the show included the joyfully frantic and trance-inducing grooves of Where Did You Go?, the gut-busting heaviness of Falling into the Earth, and the yet to be released multi-part epic introduced simply as Country Song.
Where Did You Go? provided the first big crowd pleasing moment of the night.
Students bounced in time with the three drummers as something peculiar unfolded.
As recalled by Max Morrish ‘22 “the bass player took off his instrument and just began dancing, eyes closed, totally possessed”. Footage captured by Morrish shows students mimicking his otherworldly movements, feeding off his energy as a beautiful cacophony of screams and shouts filled the room. The volume of the band and the intensity of the dance grew together until Seaver reunited with his bass, providing one last transcendent buildup and release before the end of the tune, which was met with joyous cheers and a long bout of applause.
The high energy atmosphere continued throughout the set, peaking again during Country Song. As the title was introduced, a few calls of “yeehaw!” broke out among the crowd but these jovial hollers were quickly replaced by an energized silence, punctuated by occasional screams as the audience was taken over by an unignorable need to move. The triple drummers relentlessly pounded out a groovy 16th note assault, reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire but performed about twice as fast and transposed to a previously unexplored dimension. Outside the walls of The Coop, a large group of students danced to WEEED’s high-volume hypnotic act in the pouring rain with absolutely zero inhibition.
How did this happen? How is it that the people of LC had such a reaction to the band’s eclectic mix of country, prog rock, gnawa music, and doom metal? On what planet is it possible that the Patagonia-clad populace of Lewis and Clark fell victim to the sorcery of the riff? The answer obviously lies in the sheer musicianship of the band, but there was another hidden factor at play that night: amplifier worship.
Amplifier worship is a term coined by Japanese drone metal band Boris on the aptly titled 1998 album Amplifier Worship. Initially it referred to the specific form of fuzzed out, wall of sound riffage that Boris perfected on the album, but the term has since come to describe the experience of listening to amplified guitar music at such a high volume that it becomes a full body sensation capable of inducing states of meditative trance and deep concentration; states of mind that were widespread among LC students on that fateful night whether they were dancing in the rain to the propulsion of Country Song or convulsing wildly to the grooves of Where Did You Go. Back in August of this year I sat down virtually with WEEED’s bassist Gabriel Seaver to ask about his takes on amplifier worship and the significance of the live show.
Seaver discussed his own relationship with amplifier worship. He recalled his experience at multiple Boris shows and stated,“to me amplifier worship, on the most illuminated level, is the relationship between the body and sound … feeling the music with my whole body and how cathartic that is.” Seaver went on to describe how when partaking in amplifier worship, there reaches a point when the body fully “receives the sound”, creating the perfect atmosphere for the volume’s effects to truly take hold.This relationship between volume and altered states of consciousness becomes especially clear when recounting the unique experience that students had at the Coop that night. Mac Cornish ’22 gives her recollection of the show:
“The three drummers just kept building and building, it was so loud —. I remember at the peaks of Country Song and Where Did You Go? people started screaming and going wild. Everyone was in a trance and there were no questions asked, just dancing and absolutely vibing out … which is kind of rare because sometimes college shows and parties can be kind of a ‘cool kids club’ where people are too insecure to express themselves fully. We had shows last year where people were dancing but that kind of response at the WEEED show where people are just losing it is not common at all at LC.”
When talking to those who attended, it just kept coming back to the high volume and the trance of the crowd. According to Seaver, this musically-induced trance based in high volume that Cornish describes is an essential part of the band’s goal of honing “the art of the live performance”; amplifier worship and the effect that it has on the body is an essential piece of that. Perhaps these elements explain how and why the band’s Coop performance created such a unique atmosphere for the campus populace to escape their minds, relishing in the intensity of the volume and the physical effects that it took on their bodies.
Campus shows probably won’t be returning soon, but rumor has it that KLC Radio is already discussing inviting back WEEED as soon as it’s safe. If you’re dying to see them “live,” shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for an extensive archive of concert footage from various shows over the years. In the meantime I’d highly recommend listening to their latest studio release, You Are the Sky, while you’re waiting for the chance to experience one of Lewis and Clark’s favorite live acts in person. Fall 2021 perhaps? I suppose we will see.
Author John Wallent is a Junior at Lewis and Clark majoring in Sorcery. He is a devout follower of the riff and his favorite band is Weeed.