Shampoo Boy, Vienna MUMOK, 9 April 2016

What a rum evening this was. Shampoo Boy, the group consisting of Editions Mego label boss Peter Rehberg alongside Christian Schachinger on guitar and Christina Nemec on bass, played a curtain-raising set on the second and final night of some heavily sponsored festival or other at the Museumsquartier. (The forerunner of this group, the sadly missed Peterlicker, also played the opening set at a similarly corporate shindig five years ago; see my review of that event here.) Thanks to the logos plastered everywhere about the place, entrance to the entire festival was free. The event was originally supposed to take place in the main Haupthof of the MQ, which would have been nice; sadly, however, inclement weather meant that it was moved inside to a very large and swish hall known as the Hofstallungen, where I had never been before. The audience was fairly large, but I suspect I was the only one among them who had come especially to see Shampoo Boy.

When I last saw this outfit at the Rhiz in 2013, I complained that the concert was too short. No such reservations this time, in fact this was one of those gigs where I couldn’t wait for it to end. Thanks mainly to the unorthodox approach of guitarist Christian Schachinger, the performance had a shambolic quality which meant that on this occasion the trio certainly outstayed their welcome. Schachinger had imbibed generously from the free drinks supplied backstage, and seemed to be having trouble standing up as a result. His guitar may or may not have been plugged in, but he didn’t seem unduly concerned about the matter either way; in any event, from my vantage point close to the stage, it was entirely inaudible. About halfway through, Schachinger finally succumbed to the inevitable and fell over backwards. There he remained for the rest of the set, his back to the audience, occasionally strumming his guitar in a doomed attempt to play some music.

With all of this japery going on, it was a relief to turn my attention to Rehberg and Nemec, who were bringing things nicely to the boil. Rehberg had an impressive array of dials, cables and whatnot on the table alongside his customary laptop, from which he emitted frequent blasts of scouring noise. Nemec ground out waves of implacable bass tones, her unflappable demeanour contrasting favourably with the events unfolding stage left. Eventually Schachinger staggered to his feet, the three of them concluded their business and they wandered offstage. By that time, though, I was pretty much the only person paying attention, as the vast majority of the audience had drifted off to the bar.

Shampoo Boy, Vienna Rhiz, 13 October 2013

A couple of years ago Peterlicker, an Austrian noise rock band with a silly name who were originally and briefly active in the late 1980s, reformed to make an album and play a few gigs. Peterlicker were notable, among other things, for having Peter Rehberg in their line-up. Reviewing their gig at the 2011 Waves Festival, I urged the group to “please try to stick around this time”, a forlorn hope as they split up again soon after. But fear not, as Rehberg and guitarist Christian Schachinger have regrouped to form another band, the equally daftly named Shampoo Boy, which also features Christina Nemec on bass. Having signed to Blackest Ever Black Records, the group played their début Vienna gig last weekend at the Rhiz.

Shampoo Boy may lack the tormented vocals that Franz Hergovich brought to Peterlicker, but Schachinger and Rehberg made up for his absence with a set heavy on explosive guitar and harsh analogue drones. It was a pleasure, indeed, to see Pita using an analogue synth, although it was of course hooked up to a laptop rather than anything so retrograde as a keyboard. His head bowed as he focused on his various dials, never once looking up at the audience, Rehberg issued a constant stream of uneasy atmospherics which lent some needed structure to Schachinger’s psychotic soloing. The guitarist hacked frenziedly away at his instrument, making extensive use of effects pedals to render his playing ever more venomous and thrilling. At one point he ill advisedly took a violin bow to his strings, which didn’t last long before it got wrecked. Standing coolly and unflappably between the other two, Nemec was an unassuming presence on bass, her contributions tentative and frequently inaudible.

All too soon it was over, the group having played for no more than 35 minutes. Coming in the wake of No Home’s gig the other week, which also clocked in at well under an hour, I’m beginning to wonder if playing abbreviated sets is some kind of avant thing these days. Compared to the world of free jazz, where two 45-minute sets are standard, or even that of rock, where gigs also normally go on for at least 90 minutes and often more, audiences at these events are entitled to feel short-changed. I hesitate to make this observation, for fear of sounding like some blimpish value-for-money merchant. But it wouldn’t hurt these avant types to stretch out their live repertoire somewhat, lest people start to think that playing short sets isn’t so much about being extreme as it is about running out of ideas.