Put that in your Pipeby Roger Young / Images by Daniela Sarinski / 06.10.2011
Upstairs at the Kimberly it’s dimly and sparsely lit and the few bar staff are struggling to deal with the crowd. There are no frills here tonight, just Machineri playing their debut album straight through, on a straining sound system. There is something dirty and spiritual about the way they play the blues. Sannie Fox stands on stage, stock still, eying the crowd slyly, like she knows the answer to some greater riddle, her guitar at a right angle to her body. The only parts of her that are moving are her mouth and her fingers rhythmically working through the cyclical blues repetitions. Andre, Machineri’s guitarist stands off the small makeshift Kimberly stage and cycles his notes almost to himself, hidden by his long hair scruffiness. Daniel bashes his drums, sitting like a slave driver keeping the oars in check. And while they three seem to perform apart, the hard driving blues that comes forth from them is one unified yet somehow languid assault.
There are not many adjectives you can use to describe Machineri; they’re tight and they’re strong and they perform like it’s no big deal. They play an evolved blues technically but roughly. They’re the kind of band you hope never make it so that you can always find them in some shitty club providing the backdrop to a knife fight. They’re the kind of band that should be playing wherever there are knife fights to be had. Sannie Fox has a powerful voice and she knows it. You can hear they’ve listened to a lot of Black Keys, Led Zeppelin and North African guitar based blues. Their single Ladder Operator exhibits just how Sannie uses her guitar to drive the whole band with a well oiled effectiveness, Andre’s solo’s are hard and true and brief, the essence of necessary. Their no frills blues is as enviable as it is excluding.
There is a mesmerizing to Machineri that almost sucks you in, but the middle of the set lags, and something disengages. They’re playing blues progressions that don’t seem to be progressing anywhere; a couple of the songs sound exactly the same, Sannie intones lyrics that are hardly discernable from those that came before, all the while with this look in her eye that says “You know what, I can do what I fucking want.” It doesn’t help that the sound system can’t handle her range and drives the top notes into our inner ears like a hot poker. Tonally, they’re standing as still as Sannie is. There is no rest in the set, songs practically merge one into the next, Sannie singing top range, high power with a force and stamina that’s overwhelming, and when she backs off, it’s never long enough for my ears to catch their breath. Eventually, it goes from being a display of blues skill to a marathon of endurance.
It’s mostly saved by “Goodness”, that starts as a harmonica fueled rolling romp, moves into short guitar chunks, then Sannie lets her voice go, like Karen Dalton on jet fuel, into a duet with the guitar switching from chain saw riffs to blues pull backs. In this moment, Machineri are strange and exciting, raw and honest, tearing at something. Then the encore, starting like the soundtrack to Paris Texas, pulls back into that same one chord hard blues chug. I walk out into the road, my ears ringing but not in satisfaction. Something was missing from Machineri, like maybe a knife fight.
*All images © Daniela Sarinski.