I love Artist Spotlights and the enthusiasm we have for our favorite bands. We talk about what makes an album great, but I’m going to talk about pure live music. Crash Worship is an obscure live act from 20-odd years ago. They were a drum circle jam band. I can barely name their songs or their albums, and I have no idea what any of the band members’ names are. I’m not sure any of their songs have words, or are even actual composed music, but their shows were among the most awe-inspiring I’ve ever been to.
I first saw Crash Worship in the fall of 1993. I was wholly unprepared. Those were the days when I’d see any band, anywhere, but I usually knew something about the music first. This was a word of mouth deal. “You have to go” is all our friend who knew about them would tell us. The show was in a live music space above a café, the Mercury Café in Denver. The Merc was respectably funky and arty, with the stage just inches above the hardwood floor, and it was perfect for an intimate show. We destroyed that space. Drums. Milk. Fruit. Wine. Paganism to an endless beat. The band took the stage, and quickly wound through the crowd. Band is a loose description of a naked woman riding a palanquin and several percussionists. We were all swept up in the band’s wake, entranced by tribal rhythms. We danced because we were helpless not to. We followed the drummers outside and around the block. I’m pretty sure we set fires. We all left later that night, covered in sweat and bacchanalian detritus, and we were utterly transformed. Ancient druidic rites must’ve felt similar. I’ve never had such a primal live music experience with any other band.
I didn’t miss a show after that. Now seasoned participants, my friends and I figured out how to make our own light and noise additions. There was one more show in a theater, but bookers learned to put them in vacant lots. There were more fires then. I never knew all that much about Crash Worship. Their history wasn’t important, just the Taoist present. When I saw one of their albums appear in a record store, I’d buy it, but the albums were no match for the live experience. This album cut is fine (especially the echoey bit around 1:45), but a little airless, and I wonder how the band was able to keep from dancing in and out of the studio.
Live music can be transformative, and Crash Worship taught me that better than any other band before or since. The band is long gone, there isn’t that much content on YouTube, and these videos don’t really convey how nuts the shows were. “You have to go.” I was so lucky that I went.