Last night, one of my favorite bands officially became irrelevant. What seemed like a setup for the perfect show quickly turned into a disastrous evening and one of the worst shows I can remember (David Bowie at PNC Bank Arts Center takes the cake). Enon took the stage around 11:30 after two DJ sets in front of one of the smallest Johnny Brenda’s crowds I can recall. There couldn’t have been more than 40 people in attendance of a venue that holds 200+ at full capacity. The band opened with an incredible version of “Rubber Car,” a personal favorite. John Schmersal’s distorted vocals and stage antics quickly brought out the schizophrenic side of the front man that he exhibited years ago with Brainiac. Shortly after the opener, Schmersal began asking why toilet paper was white and the wheels fell off.
Earlier in the day, I had caught a few songs from a live stream of Holy Fuck’s Amsterdam gig. Holy Fuck is now highlighted by the relentless Matt Schulz on drums. We were lucky to catch the group’s impressive performance at Brenda’s last year with Schulz. Schulz’s departure from Enon last year has left a big hole that the band has not been able to fill. Initially, we were impressed by the ability and energy of the new drummer and assumed the band was back at full strength. Unfortunately, Enon was caught with their pants down when a pre-recorded drum track began playing before the new drummer started playing over it. It was an embarrassing Ashley Simpson moment that had the crowd wincing. After a while, the band made no effort to hide the fact that the show was, in fact, a rehearsal session for a new drummer. The drummer even triggered the programmed drums in the middle of one of Schmersal’s uncomfortable rants to the crowd. It was one of many awkward moments throughout the night. The band even used some pre-recorded backup vocals.
Toko Yasuda, Enon’s female vocalist and bass player, suffered several technical difficulties and was under the weather due to allergies. During a break in the show due to a technical glitch, Yasuda even asked the crowd what she should to take for her allergies. A careless sound check led to several problems for a frustrated Yasuda, who’s mic went in and out all night. A tech spent much of the show near the stage trying to troubleshoot the problem. At one point, Yasuda went over and sang into Schmersal’s mic. She apologized to the crowd for all the issues. Schmersal quickly reacted by telling her that she should never apologize. The mix was the worst I’ve heard at the numerous Johnny Brenda’s shows I’ve been to over the past few years. This is a venue that has gained a reputation for great sound, which was most recently confirmed with an inspiring performance by Tapes N’ Tapes a few weeks ago.
Schmersal seemed to be in a strange mood. His conversations with the crowd were uncomfortable, as he joked about the light crowd giving off the proper amount of carbon dioxide in the room during Earth Week. He also asked the crowd why toilet paper is bleached white. The crowd seemed puzzled and wondered how motivated Schmersal was to play after all the calamities during the night. After the band finished their short set, we wondered if a small and unenthusiastic crowd warranted a curtain call. After minimal applause from the confused crowd, Enon took the stage for a very awkward encore. After the first song of the encore, Schmersal’s discussion with the crowd had us shaking our heads, and we left early. It was obvious that the band was not prepared and was using the small venue to warm-up, keep sharp and test some new material. The new material did sound great and adds some promise for the band’s return to true form. Fortunately, the tickets last night were only $10.