Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ McDonald Theatre - Eugene, OR

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Once a fluid, musical collective, now a solid line-up of nine members, Godspeed You! Black Emperor continues to show the musical community just how to push the boundaries of art and structure. GY!BE are known as one of the forefather groups of the post-rock genre, and are still touring sporadically since the release of their most recent record, Luciferian Towers in 2017. The instrumental music pioneers stopped in Eugene, Oregon on Wednesday, August 21st. 

Marisa Anderson opened the show with some dark, soulful guitar blues scapes without vocals. 

Apart from the music, Godpseed You! Black Emperor’s live performance hasn’t changed much in the last decade. A low bass hum filled the venue with a distant warmth while the crowd waited. Finally, after what felt like 20 minutes, the band ambled humbly out and took their places in a half circle facing the crowd and each other. A minimal, orange glow was cast on the members, but a double reel of 8mm stock film projected images of war and architecture behind them. The first song began just as slowly, with an ambient intro track entitled “Hope Drone,” leading into “Bosses Hang” from the latest album. The driving guitar riff stimulated a feeling reminiscent of the comfort and confidence felt after a long cry. Eventually cascading into an emotion-filled climax, the song then took a turn for a hypnotizing build-up, followed by an explosive reprise of the original melody. The trance didn’t break, however. 

The movement of the crowd for Godspeed shows, and most post-rock, is very different from usual music shows, mainly because there is none. The fans in the McDonald Theatre stood unnaturally still to absorb the powerful and enduring songs. Next, the band played a brand new, unreleased track entitled “Glacier,” followed by “Fam/Famine” from Luciferian Towers, and then another unreleased track, “Cliff.” All the while, the projectionist seemed to have mastered the art of burning film frames for effect without ruining the device. The result was controlled chaotic beauty, much like the musical main event. Cheers from the fans echoed as the final song of the night was “The Sad Mafioso” from their first album F A ∞. When the players had finished, they allowed their instruments to loop and feedback with the end of the track and walked away, emptying the stage, but filling the room with fantastic noise.