A Politically-Charged Master Class in Determination from Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog + Ahleuchatistas @ The Grey Eagle | 03.26.18

By the point Marc Ribot called for a short impromptu recess, Ches Smith’s drums, pants, and shirt were all completely drenched in blood. The fact that Smith had gone for as long as he had without passing out was a testament to his incredible determination, especially considering the intensity with which he was pounding his kit.

Within the first two songs of Ceramic Dog’s set, the lanky drummer had cut his hand while playing (presumably on a cymbal). Blood was gushing, so Smith rushed off stage following the song and Gerry-rigged a bandage using some tape. Immediately upon returning to stage, he played with the same level of intensity that he’s known for. The adrenaline must have been rushing through his system, which pushed him forward as the blood continued to pour out onto everything he touched. Like an athlete who suffers an ugly injury and then attempts to play through it, it could be tough to watch but also inspiring.

Across the stage, the legendary Marc Ribot seemed oblivious- locked into an aggressive, political set of songs. Bassist Shahzad Ismaily was clearly aware of Smith’s predicament but caught in his own battle against sporadic coughing fits.

It was an odd scene upon the stage, and yet it was also one of the most remarkable displays of musicianship I’ve ever seen. Despite the distractions, each member of the trio played not only with masterful technical prowess but with looseness and raw energy. It was a striking balance between mind boggling talent and visceral experience.

Following their brief intermission during which a couple medically trained professionals in the crowd helped bandage Smith’s hand, the trio returned unfazed. Eventually ending their performance with a fitting cover of MC5’s raucous hit “Kick Out the Jams.”

It’s tough to restrict Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog to any sort of standard genre categorization, but in simplest terms they are an experimental punk group. At times during the set, their songs recalled the hostile forcefulness of early hardcore. An intent level of sloppiness allowed them to avoid sounding polished which would have been detrimental. Elements of the trio’s eclectic musical backgrounds informed every twist an turn within the songs, but it was more punk than all the aggro bands playing to circle pits littered with green Mohawks and spikey leather jackets covered in patches. It’s also the result of the current political climate during which tension, hostility, determination and the need to take action are all pieces of our daily lives.

Ceramic Dog’s set and new songs from YRU Still Here? were inspired, inspiring and totally unforgettable.

Prior to the blood, Asheville’s own Ahleuchatistas had played their own impressive set defined by the incredible textured guitar playing of Shane Parish and Ryan Oslance’s adventurous percussion. It was the perfect kind of opening set that sets the tone for the evening. The duo played their wild concoction of experimental math rock and avant jazz with instinct, precision and skill.


Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog