Thee nodes May 2014 Northcote Social Club
Thee Nodes Filthy Gaze clip
One night in 2014 I went upstairs at the Tote and saw one of the best live performances I have ever witnessed: the punk band ‘Thee Nodes’ from Montreal, Canada. High intensity guitar sounds with screeching vocals ringing out above the fuzz which rips at the gutters of your being; but this show was way bigger than the music.
It was not something I liked because I thought I had to or that someone told me to. It was more visceral than that: I simply had no choice but to be blown away. The way ‘Mr Node’ displayed his vulnerability on stage, the way he confronted the audience, the way some of the audience reacted to his persona… He wore bandages around his head, augmenting his alienated, crazy, masochistic, sub-human character. I was terrified and mesmerised at the same time. Mr Node was like a living car crash that seemed to be outwardly battling with himself as if he was conjuring and exorcising the demons inside him all at once, while darling you to be a voyeur and chastising you for not looking away. “Fuck you!” he screeched at the audience, “You think this is a joke, you think this is a game? You think that I am seeking out some sort of fame? I hate you! I hate you more than you hate me! I hate every fucking person that I see! … Don’t look at me!”.
He used pitch effects on his vocals which amplified the dark, vulnerable, Golem-like character as he half-cowered, half-prowled around the stage, goading the audience to react to him; and they did: The audience seemed to violate him as they pulled at his bandages, kicked him, punched him and yelled abuse at him as his spider-like body scuttled past, until they had taken off his all his clothes and he stood there naked and vulnerable. It was then, at 18 minutes in, that Mr Node abruptly left the room and the gig ended. It’s unclear whether the singer (let’s make a distinction here between the singer and Mr Node) walked out because he’d had enough of the abuse or whether Mr Node’s intention was to bring the audience to a climax, a heightened state and leave them hanging, with his bandages in their hands, as if to catch them red-handed and force them to reflect upon the darkness of their own behaviour.
I had never witnessed anything like it before both in art or in music. The audience had basically assaulted him and yet it was as if they were part of the show and they knew at what point to begin ripping off his bandages and clothes. I can imagine GG Allen may have had a similar effect on an audience. Thee Nodes was much, much more than “just” a punk rock band performing; their show was performance art of the highest order. Paul Mc Carthy (the performance artist not Paul Mc Cartney the Beatle) would have been impressed.
It was because of the band’s effect on me that I simply had to go and see the documentary, ‘Who Are You, Mr Node?’ that screened upstairs at The Tote; the scene of the crime (their first live performance in Melbourne) that blew my mind so far off my head that it never quite came back. I was curious to see how the filmmakers would tackle the mystery of Mr Node, the band, and what other questions they would add to the ones I had. I wanted the film to add to the mystery, to keep the performance going, to increase the sense of Mr Node’s viciousness and vulnerability battling for supremacy, and to widen my senses as the band’s live performance had done.
Sadly, I was asking too much of the film. My expectations were way too high and unfortunately the video really tainted my vision of something that was so wonderfully raw, pure and vulnerable. The film turned out to be a mockumentary which attempted to explain, rather than question. It focused on the enigma that is Mr Node; each band member was interviewed, including Mr Node himself. The film showed his ‘living quarters’ (some room they had ‘found’ with some trash bags in it) as it tried to give us an insight into his persona and did so very poorly. The band members had no personality and were terrible actors, which sadly applies for Mr Node, too – A disappointing revelation, considering that I was ready to buy into what was surely going to be another utterly mesmerising layer to the intriguing world/performance of Thee Nodes.
The filmmakers also thought it appropriate to interview a ‘doctor’ about the singer’s “degenerative disease” which he allegedly contracted from a Tasmanian devil while on tour in Australia …Really? Come on! This wasn’t funny, it wasn’t insightful and it destroyed all the intrigue, edginess and darkness that the live performance created. It was nigh on painful to watch. The premise that Mr Node would have contracted a disease from a Tassie devil was so tragically lame, and was made worse by the shitty acting.
Ironically, the only good things about the film were the few seconds of live performance footage they included. Why oh why did they make this film??? I can only hope that the band, having presumably seen the film, will bury it and never let it raise its ugly (not good ugly), Z grade (not good z grade), severely disappointing head ever again.
The moral of this story is (my) curiosity killed Mr Node.