Kill The Vultures at Walker Art Center

Kill The Vultures in the Walker's Gallery 8 - Photo by Emily Crenshaw

As the haunting introduction of their classic “Beasts of Burden” provoked the mingling attendees to occupy a state somewhere between bewilderment and apprehension, Kill the Vultures‘ poet Crescent Moon and DJ Anatomy capped a wave of unbridled tension last Friday night from the stage of Gallery 8 during the Walker’s AfterHours opening for its Abstract Resistance exhibition.

Not much else we have to offer from our metropolitan musical coffers could capture the phrase entitling the exhibit more aptly – those who ventured forth eight stories high in their finest gala apparel certainly found themselves subjected to abstract crafting of gruff and rumble hip hop concisely soldered to noir jazz that resisted any easy attempts to ignore the duo’s unsettling, hypnotic delivery. With the full moon little more than a day off and a clear city skyline leaping into the room to christen the occasion, MC Alexei Casselle (aka Crescent Moon) and Anatomy took a bright space full of plush strangers and cool confidants and warped the big atmosphere into their own personal studio loft, one where dark advice is given freely and hope is kept cornered on a short leash.

Even the bright, white, shape-shifting Target logos that swung out into the keen Minneapolis panorama, neatly cut through your sharp, floating reflection and then swooped back across the cheerful party landscape could not deny the subterranean wisdom employed by selecting Kill the Vultures for a celebration of trailblazing and iconoclastic kinetics. I couldn’t help but recall my luck in train-hopping to the dada retrospective at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art four years ago, where every expectation of the clash between curator and creator was fully embraced and discussed at the door.

When the band broke its lock on our attention and prepared for the second set, we found small plates of a delicious spinach mix to slather with a lemon-loaded baba ghanoush and worked our way back to the friendly and attentive bar staff for mineral gins that lent some levity to the surroundings while the music-makers’ stark grip on us paused temporarily. Some things always change, but food and drink still reign as a staple for just about any opening you can imagine or remember.

After Anatomy had resumed the lotus position and donned the headphones for a second round, we all eventually got to a familiar bathtub track adopted by the Current a few years back – the insatiable singalong “Moonshine” that sets the outstanding Careless Flame LP into motion. Felt by many of the first-time listeners Friday night to be an oddly relaxing break from the new Ecce Beast album material, the onlookers who had remained focused seemed to finally find a bastion of comfort from the band’s ceaseless challenges to the city and the night, and a few appeared genuinely shocked to find themselves suddenly swaying along with smiles to the earnest and happy-go-lucky mad frustration stitched into the chorus (“moonshine/drink it all the time/goes down rough but it’s good for your dime”). The peaking moon outside, stoic and beaming, the moon onstage in a steamy rage, and nearly everyone awash in the moonshine of their choice. You could not have asked for much more illumination.

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