You know a band’s got volume when you keep your earplugs in for a mid-gig toilet break.
It’s the first leg of Grey Daturas’ June/July Australian tour. They’ve recently returned from yet another European tour where – among 20 other dates – they played with Neurosis, Om, Earth and other revered instrumental doom-drone acts. Ding Dong hosts a sparse yet devoted crowd. There’s a good chance many fans are holding out for an upcoming gig at The Arthouse, where Grey Daturas are supporting US noise-punk legends Flipper.
I’d been warned about what was in store by a comment the night before by the singer of another Melbourne band. “We played with Grey Daturas, remember?” he reminded his guitarist.
“We were out the front and it was like World War III had broken out inside.”
As soon as the first droning guitar sound emerges from the Orange speaker stack, builds in volume, and begins to extend itself indefinitely, the room plunges into some sort of involuntary group meditation. There’s none of the jostling that occurs at other gigs. It’s replaced with imperceptible swaying, faces sunk deep into the recesses of hoodies, even some head-cradled-in-hands action among the seat-dwellers towards the back. It would all be a bit funny if it weren’t also so intense.
About 20 minutes in, I break away for said toilet break (keeping earplugs ensconced). On exiting I encounter two drunken women, trying to seal themselves in the bathroom by slamming the door closed on a wad of dampened toilet paper. “It’s so noisy! Can you shut us in?” they implore theatrically. At least, that’s what I lip-read through my earplugs and the wall of feedback squall radiating from the stage.
The sound frequency Grey Daturas are producing begins to make organs I didn’t know I had vibrate themselves into a separate state of consciousness.
This organ-aware sensation continues until I began to fear my freshly-awakened body parts might develop tiny, self-righteous brains, vacate my body altogether and rally a procession of enraged human giblets down the Ding Dong stairs.
Ten minutes later the gig is suddenly over. The mood surges ceiling-wards immediately as the post-gig mix drifts on. People seem, in fact, quite uplifted. Maybe it’s because seeing Grey Daturas is an all-encompassing experience with no trivial distractions. You’ve got two choices at the start – leave, or go with it. Once you decide on the latter, for the next 45 minutes (the standard length of Grey Daturas’ improvised shows) you’re entirely in their hands. There’s something incredibly refreshing about this surrender and also about coming out “on the other side”.
My friend tells me she wishes she’d known about Grey Daturas when she worked with the deaf community. “We used to bring them to shows like this,” she explains.
“Music they can feel with their body.”