As I walk into the Rickshaw Stop on a rainy sunday night, I'm a little bit surprised to find that it's almost empty, save 10 or 15 folks milling about on the dance floor or leaning against the bar. I saw Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Fox Theater last May and the large theatre was packed, and while I certainly didn’t expect attendance on that scale, I figured more of that crowd would relish the opportunity to see the band’s enigmatic co-founder in a more intimate and less high-concept environment. I'm even more surprised to see that Efrim Menuck is also standing at the bar, quietly ignoring those around him and being quietly ignored in turn. Menuck cuts an imposing figure and towers over those near him. He’s wearing a black hat and trenchcoat, both of which he sheds before he takes the stage with Kevin Doria.

Doria spent the majority of the show leaning over a table covered in modular synths and didn’t speak to the audience at all during the show. Menuck was similarly occupied with a slightly more manageable looking setup, plus a mic fed into a pedalboard. For most of the songs, Menuck and Doria spend the first few minutes building up intricate synth loops until, apparently satisfied, Menuck steps to the microphone and begins half-singing half-speaking pained lyrics that loop on top of themselves.

Menuck’s stage presence is, to put it lightly, understated. For the majority of each song, Menuck’s face is hidden either by his long, thick hair or by the large microphone he sings into. The lighting remains static throughout the show, and the music speaks for itself. The audience is subdued, lost in the layers of sound and there’s only a rare break where everyone can catch their breath. There’s no classic stage banter and Menuck doesn’t even use the mic when he addresses the audience, as if it’s a holy instrument that should not be contaminated by non-musical input. The only significant interruption was Menuck introducing one of his songs. “This song is about the police and what to do about them,” Menuck says in a deep, gruff voice. “When they look at us, they don’t see people. So maybe we shouldn’t see them as people neither.” This final statement elicits perhaps the largest response from the crowd all night.

Pissing Stars (2018), Menuck’s most recent solo album, translates surprisingly well into a live show. From the start to the end I was captivated by the mood that Menuck and Doria created simply through their instruments, with very little assistance from external forces. Those in the crowd seemed equally entranced by their performance. I only wish that Menuck's Bay Area fans had shown up a bit more for him.

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