Music

Dance to the Underground

Get in Line for Numbers

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Numbers
w/ Kill Me Tomorrow, Point Line Plane, Coachwhips
Sun May 5
Blackbird

In case you haven't noticed yet, the new-new wave is all about punk that's meant to make you dance--like an electrocution is taking place in your spine. The resurgence of interest in the experimental side of punk for the past few years has bands like Erase Errata and Adult taking deep swipes into the once-buried synthetic paths forged by acts like Suicide and the Screamers. And somewhere amid this protean music scene live Numbers, a three-piece outfit that's heavily inspired by Devo and Kraftwerk. Numbers play sharp-turn post-punk that flirts with the dance-groove of the above-mentioned bands, as they flex a big rock muscle.

Numbers guitarist Dave Broekema and Moog player Eric Landmark met years ago at University of Wisconsin and worked together in Xerobot, a band that specialized in two-second fits of total chaos, while drummer Indra Dunis cut her teeth in a spazz-Devo outfit called Tractorman. The trio started playing together as Numbers shortly after moving to San Francisco in 1998. Where the members' previous bands' fractured noise was all about breaking continuity, with Numbers, Broekema, Landmark, and Dunis take a different tack. They streamline the spasmodic outbursts into taut, fully rocking pop songs that have a tendency to freak out for three manic seconds, followed up by tried and true dance patterns that deliver a jerky punch.

Numbers' music creates a tension between what's not being played and what's making a lot of noise. As Dunis lays a foundation of snapping snare and floor tom hits, Landmark builds up more musical layers with the squelch-noises and groove-and-shake runs that are continually emitted by his moog. Meanwhile, Broekema accents the drum lines with abbreviated riffs and chopped up chord changes--but for the most part, the guitar lies in silence, waiting. Broekema barely makes a sound for the first couple verses, then flips into getting twice as loud when he does play, and the tension is shattered by a break that just hammers, with the up-until-now reticent guitar ripping a great big rock move as the drums pound underneath. That second of tsunami noise is like a cattle prod hitting raw flesh, and the audience's only choice is to hurl their bodies before the band. In all the flash and re-creation of Suicide's creep-wave disco and Kraftwerk's robotic cool, the basic "grab you by the throat and make you like it" principal of good rock music can get lost, but fortunately Numbers pick up the slack.

When asked why Numbers are attracted to such a spastic structure, Broekema explains that it's all about the people experiencing the music. "A show is only as fun as the crowd makes it," he says. "The best music makes you want to dance, and I don't think people are allowed to do that so much these days. Everybody just stands around and stares at the band. That's no fun for anybody. We want people to have fun. We like it when people dance at our shows. We want people to take their shirts off." (And the shirts do come off at shows, along with other odd reactions, such as ink mustaches appearing in the audience.)

Different artists have mixed punk and dance music for years, but when bulleting down that path, it's easy for a band to lose sight of rock's vitality and just start making cold noise. Of the slew of bands exploring the new punk/new wave, cross-pollinated fronts, Numbers--who have a CD coming out soon on Kid606's Tigerbeat6 label and a split EP with Portland's own, sadly defunct great dance band Emergency--come out near the top, doing high kicks past punk's parameters without forgetting to feed you a big dancefloor hook.

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