Milemarker is probably one of the best bands of the millenial era. Their music is raw, beautiful and very complex sonically and intellectually. As you can imagine, the unraveling of this complexity brings forth great rewards for the dedicated listener. A while back, a letter was sent to Milemarker where many theoretical issues were raised about the band, their music and their performances. I responded to this letter (as did a few others) and the following is my piece... (cc).

My response to Christian Steinmetz will be no where near as intellectual as his original criticism. I haven't read the other 4 responses before writing this. There is a lot of speculation about Milemarker and their goals below.

Part of being human is being a socialized entity. Part of being a socialized entity is that all of your past experiences contribute to your interpretation of a present experience. You can imagine for example, at the extremes, if a member of Milemarker had given you a place to crash one night in the past or had kicked you in the groin, both of those experiences would undoubtedly affect your interpretation of their live show (barring the fact that these experiences might affect your decision to go to the show at all). My point here is that no matter what anyone does in the present, the past experiences of the crowd and band will affect the current show. This works on instantaneous time-scales (a show will be vastly different if started an hour later or an hour earlier).

Milemarker seems to execute their musical recordings in a very exacting and specific manner. The convolution of instruments, lyrics and the final mix is a consequence of their instantaneous perspective (which, remember, is affected by all past experiences). It is very difficult, if not impossible, to re-create these confluences at a live show. The performed songs will change with time no matter what measures they take (save playing the recording) and an interactive relationship between crowd and performer can cause wild swings in the band's ability to execute their art. My theory is that Milemarker used the previous stage-specific aesthetic media particularly in an attempt to be as honestly expressive as possible and separate their performances from the crowd (while still performing for the crowd) or, at least, dominate the audience-performer interaction for the benefit of expression.

I would give Milemarker the critical benefit of the doubt. That is, it seems that they have recently attempted to play down visual aesthetics (cf. "Anaesthetic" and recent performances) as much as possible specifically to concentrate on their sonic expression. In fact, I would argue that you should keep your damn eyes shut when you go to a Milemarker show (while the band is playing... try to avoid injuries at other times).

Another interesting piece of insight manifests through an examination of West Coast vs. East Coast shows. The raucous scene that Christian Steinmetz described is the antithesis of the recent show I had the privilege of attending in a major Northern California city that will remain nameless (or get blanked). At said show, the audience didn't much appreciate a trashing dork like me with my eyes closed. In fact, the majority of the audience stood there... some of them did the classic nod-of-the-head staring-at-the-band number. It is my belief (although I haven't been able to experimentally verify this) that this show, with almost no audience interference or interaction whatsoever, was a better representation of what the band wants to get across sonically. Although, if you would have asked me then I would have told you that I was disappointed that the crowd didn't vocally and physically express their approval of the performance... in retrospect, the audience at this show probably got a better sonic performance out of Milemarker than Christian Steinmetz's show. (Granted you could imagine a constructive audience-performer interaction that would lead to an even better performance).

So, in short, who gives a shit if Milemarker has two different manifestations? In fact, every manifestation (be it performance or recording) of Milemarker is completely different from every other one. Part of the fun of a band like MM is that the character and ringing of their expression changes with time, place, attitude, etc. A major source of variability to the expression is the audience-performer interaction. Maybe they should play with a large, opaque screen in front of them... then their visual aesthetics would be reduced to something very simple and criticism about the "two Milemarkers" would be unfounded. I, however, think they have wisely chosen to include us-- as an audience-- in the experience of the execution of their art so that we can see their contortions, sweat, tonsils and instrument changes as well as their errors and imperfections. There are not "two Milemarkers" but infinite Milemarkers that come and go with every passing moment... and I'd like to be able to appreciate as many as I can.

Joseph Lorenzo Hall

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