MANHATTAN, NY—Rich Balling of Rx Bandits gathered a collective of musicians in 2004 to record heavy, experimental and progressive rock music. Although the varying ensembles recorded three albums between 2005 and 2008 as The Sound Of Animals Fighting, it was unclear whether such a band actually existed. The musicians used pseudonyms such as Nightingale, Walrus, Lynx, Swan and Raven, and publicity photographs showed them wearing animal masks to conceal their identities. As a live unit, 12 masked musicians performed as The Sound Of Animals Fighting for only four West Coast shows in 2006. Since 2008, the concept remained silent until tickets went on sale for seven March 2014 concerts.
The Sound Of Animals Fighting brought the second night of its brief tour to the Best Buy Theater on March 22, and it was a spectacle. As the lights lowered, nearly invisible musicians took their places on the darkened stage. Vocalist Matthew Kelly of The Autumns then appeared before a microphone stand during “Overture.” As he assumed his position, a long row of silent bodies covered head to toe in orange and gold body suits shuffled to center stage in single file, hands on the shoulder of the morph before him as if they were blind. These faceless bodies crouched below Kelly as he sang an a cappella version of “The Heretic,” punctuating the line “don’t be afraid.” The morphs then left the stage in the manner in which they entered, single file with hands on the shoulders in front of them.
Moments later, new colored bodies were led by roadies to the front of the stage, unrolling a banner which read: “We Must Become The Change We Want To See” as the band performed “Act I: Chasing Suns.” The suite continued with “Act II: All Is Ash Or The Light Shining Through It” and “Act III: Modulate Back To The Tonic.” The anonymous morphs returned to illustrate The Ocean And The Sun album; like waves, blue morphs hunched in a row at the end of the stage, and yellow morphs formed a sun in the middle of the stage. The band performed “I, The Swan,” “Another Leather Lung,” “Cellophane” and “The Heraldic Beak Of The Manufacturers Medallion,” all of which had never been performed live before this tour. The set moved into trip-hop with “Chinese New Year” and “My Horse Must Lose,” and closed with yet another live debut, “On The Occasion Of Wet Snow.” The encores were “Skullflower” and “Act IV: You Don’t Need A Witness.”
Several vocalists alternated throughout the set. The ringmaster, Rich Balling, was joined on vocals by his first collaborator on this project, Anthony Green of Saosin and Circa Survive. Balling also reunited with three of his former Rx Bandits partners, guitarist/vocalist Matt Embree, guitarist/keyboardist Steve Choi and drummer Chris Tsagakis. Overall, the music was visionary, as its experimental origins prohibited it from sticking with one genre. Often the music was industrial and post-hardcore, inspiring crowd surfing. The music then gravitated to prog rock, art rock, and later moved in a ghostly psychedelic direction. The inventive music bent and swayed between raw power and mystery. This was the sound of musicians imagining a daring musical concept.
Visit The Sound Of Animals Fighting at thesoundofanimalsfighting.com.