The first time I saw Guerilla Toss live was in the dark pit of a Brooklyn venue better known as Palisades. It’s become one of the band’s usual haunts since it opened a few years ago — they’ll play their album release show there soon after their stint at SXSW — both because it’s become one of the centers of the DFA scene that they’ve been subsumed into with their most recent full-length, Eraser Stargazer, and because its blacked-out, cave-like atmosphere is most conducive to facilitating the dissociative weirdness that the band works tirelessly to evoke.
The inside stage at Cheer Up Charlies, where the band played during AdHoc’s unofficial showcase yesterday, has a bit more light filtering through it than the dark recesses of Palisades, but the idea was the same. The best G-Toss performances thrive on claustrophobia, a sense that if you don’t brace yourself you could fall straight into some sort of nebulous danger. The quick-paced SXSW grind doesn’t often allow for that kind of transportive show experience — everything goes by too fast, bands don’t get much of an opportunity to stretch out. So G-Toss were, at least to some extent, victims of that crunch. Their sets typically have a rise and fall to them, something that a truncated 20-minute set just can’t contain.
But what they lacked in time they made up in intensity. Since making the move to Brooklyn recently, the band’s live arrangements have only grown tighter and more incisive, a progression that’s very noticeable on Eraser Stargazer, and bared out yesterday as well. The record’s bouncy title anthem, “Eraser Stargazer Forever,” served as the centerpiece of their set, and it was during that track that everything came together to exemplify why this band is worth seeing live, many times.
Kassie Carlson has an inimitable, commanding stage presence; she didn’t move around much, but there’s a powerful connection she makes with the audience, like she’s staring them down and seeing what they’re made of. The band turned off the house lights for their set, and turned up some ferocious strobes that bathed the stage in an spastic mix of purples and greens. Projections of a glowing sphere and a mouth opening and closing tightly shut played out on the back wall. Even though they only played for a little over 15 minutes, they made that stage their home — a nice burst of uncontrollable chaos in the midst of a week where many bands are too frazzled to deliver even that.