Since the summer of 2004, a wild-eyed, cult-like gathering has been making noise on the fringes of Athens' music scene, churning out thunderous rock 'n' roll ecstasy milked to the point of hysteria. That musical cabal is Dark Meat, an ever-changing ensemble that incorporates as many as 17 players during its shows, including a horn section dubbed the Vomit Lasers Family Band. Members of Elf Power, Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control and pretty much every other band in Athens have been counted among their ranks all under the direction of leaders Jim McHugh (guitar, vocals) and Ben Clack (bass). Their shows unfold like trippy battles royale of writhing, Manson Family psychedelia, intensified by the sheer number of participants.
Having released two albums of left-field rock spliced with experimental jazz, Dark Meat's shambolic atmospherics willfully rose above the realm of kitsch and spectacle. But just as the group was starting to flesh out its true musical voice, Dark Meat is breaking up. It's not the end for any of its myriad players, but the big band's livelihood has run its course. "Our last tour was fucked up," McHugh says. "Financially, we've been super stressed-out because we bent ourselves over the barrel, but there are no regrets. It's a positive thing that all of us hit a critical mass and are moving on to the next phases of our lives. That's where I am."
With Barreracudas and Social Studies. $8. 9 p.m. Sat., Feb. 13. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.
From the start, Dark Meat was all over the place. The ensemble's '06 debut, Universal Indians (Vice) is still a strikingly self-conscious rock record, spliced with interludes of free jazz freak-outs meant to be howled at the moon. It also came endowed with a curious dedication to free jazz sax man Albert Ayler. "That record was all about this collision of classic song form and formless, noisy impressionistic skronk which is a lot of what Ayler did," McHugh explains. "He was such a pure artist that he always played from his balls and from his heart. He influenced me greatly in terms of song structure and form, but also in terms of commitment and conviction."
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