Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 2, 2003 at 1:33 p.m.

Since going down to Common Grounds on Monday night, I've been mentally gridlocked. The performance I witnessed befuddled my fragile little mind so violently that it went into full-scale collapse. Maybe I simply missed the meeting at which the principles of biology were revoked. But, I'll get back to that.

This vocal-free roller coaster ride began on the down slope. For the first time, my regular weekly visit to Common Grounds was nearly refused by employees who must have missed the last seventy times I've been in their establishment taking pictures, notes and frequent glasses of Guinness.

The downward spiral caught speed with the performance of openers Prader-Willi. The three-guitar, one drum set improv band began playing what appeared to be a terribly annoying sound check. Little did I know that this would continue for half an hour, ending up to be their entire schpiel.

The onslaught of "let's see what bothersome sounds our guitars can make" may qualify as the worst thing I've ever heard. It was as if the band got a batch of bad acid and just kept coming back for more. How they can attempt to pawn that cacophony off as music, just because they dress slightly artsy, is beyond my understanding.

Beating guitars on a wall and jamming drumsticks in the strings to a soundtrack of constant high-pitched feedback drove concertgoers directly out the door. Near the middle of their "set," more people stood outside than in front of the stage. Of course, I walked right out with the rest of them. This may be my job, but you can't pay me enough to listen to that.

Upon my re-entry, the roller coaster bucket banked sharply towards the most gigantic upswing imaginable.

Pari Passu took the stage next to soften the Prader-Willi blow with some down-home math rock stylings. Yet again, the young upstart band's crowd numbers increased, proving that Gainesville really does know how to spot the diamonds in the rough sea of bands here.

Admittedly intimidated by sharing a stage with the next group, Hella, Pari Passu committed their share of errors, but they were only noticeable to crazy folk like myself, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on each note played. Yet, despite my attention to detail and precision, I still found myself sitting Indian style in front of the stage, feeling like a kid in a candy store. The band members might not be ready for widespread recognition, but it sure as hell is ready for them.

Brandishing a classic drum set and a flowered Fender Telecaster, Hella made their way to the stage next.

Now, I've seen videos of people breaking the sound barrier, and clips of the quickest musicians in the world, but nothing prepared me for what I saw on Monday night.

In an effortless exercise of excellence, the two seemingly innocuous men in Hella took their instruments and, to steal a pop culture phrase, made them their bitches. This was no ordinary "Hey, that guy is really good" performance. All around the room, heads shook in disbelief and people laughed at the impossibility of what they saw on stage. My note-taking and even my mental skills vanished as I stood, jaw-dropped, and stared at Hella.

The guitar not only hit speeds that light would have trouble matching, but it did so with absolute precision. Before the show, I studied their music carefully, and there was not a single note missed. Of course, he decided to keep his eyes closed throughout most of the more difficult parts. As a guitarist, I now feel embarrassed to ever play again, at least until I can forget this show.

Nearing the end of their set, the drummer, who had been playing riffs that should have dislocated his shoulders long ago, decided to run a little solo. By "little," I mean "seven minutes". Taking 10 second breaks only to remember to breathe, he plowed through a solo that most highly respected professionals couldn't keep going for more than 30 seconds. Then, this marvel of modern science finished the rest of the song, and played one more.

It was after that display that my brain began to ooze out of my ear.

Normal procedure includes writing a review for a concert right afterwards. It is only now, two days later, that my mind has been able to comprehend what went on in that room on Monday. So, my good people, if Hella makes their way to Gainesville again, it's lobotomies all around. You will need one to decide to miss their show, and you'll feel like you've just had one if you don't.

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