(Industrial) Revelation at the Comet

The problem is the word: jazz bears too much baggage, reeks of crusty antiquity, is easy to make fun of. The music Industrial Revelation played at the Comet Tavern last night had as much to do with jazz as did the music Radiohead played at Key Arena a few months back. Which is to say that it couldn’t exist without jazz being born 100 years ago in a dank, cramped New Orleans basement nightclub. That’s the extent—and the paucity—of the relationship. One hundred years, a million miles, countless creative leaps between then and now.

Industrial Revelation had more in common with post-rock, the climactic, cinematic music of bands like Tortoise and Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros. Those bands play guitars and synths at arena-size volumes so they’re classified differently, though they embrace the compositional structure and instrumental lyricism of jazz. Because of them, we’re used to dipping rock ‘n’ roll into the jazz idiom. We appreciate jazz, just as long as it’s not called that.

Within the first five minutes of last night’s gig, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes ripped the fretboard off his upright. Yes: He was playing so damn hard he ripped his damn bass apart. In an instant he dropped the instrument to the floor, stormed offstage and ran out the front door. He never came back. The quartet carried on another 40-some minutes as a trio.

Josh Rawlings sat at a Fender Rhodes with a head-high rack of compressors behind him and wah-wah pedal beneath. He played the organ like a guitar with a whammie-bar, making the ancient thing screech and belt and roar in analog ecstasy. Aham Oluo was spare in his runs on the trumpet, often coloring the space around the melody rather than filling in lines. His horn was an instrument of pressurization; he blew with such force and volume you could almost feel the air shifting inside the club. Oluo lolled in sensual blue notes, mediating Rawlings’ gonzo organ spasms. On drums, D’Vonne Lewis was impeccable and versatile, probably Seattle’s most undersung drummer of any genre.

The songs they played were beautiful, dramatic, psychedelic, funny, funky, swinging, punchy. So much breadth in a single tune; many were multi-movement pieces of six or eight minutes that would sojourn in unexpected interludes before returning triumphant to a principal theme. They had names like “No Tears for a Wolf” (an Oluo original) and “Shadowboxing in the Wind” (by Lewis). By the end of the set, Oluo was in his undershirt and the other guys were sweating through their sweater vests (why the sweater vests, guys?). They closed with a ridiculous cover of “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel, the crowd whoa-oh-ohing along.

All night the Comet was the Comet—beer-stained, noisy, dim, brick and broken-down. There were regulars at the bar, hippies and hipsters and grandpas in the audience. It was perfect. The old music sprung from places like this, not from supper clubs or concert halls. Putting Industrial Revelation there on a Friday night was the best thing Seattle could do for jazz. If that’s what you wanna call it.

Photo by Carlos Morado.