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In keeping with a longstanding tradition of bringing (always) awesome and (frequently) local music to Rhino Records, KSPC recently hit a high point with their Summer Concert Series. On Sunday, July 20th the Inland Empire was treated to a rare and fascinating performance by pioneering experimentalists Amps for Christ.


Amps for Christ features an ever rotating cast of band members (ranging from founder Henry Barnes’ father to musicians like Erika M Anderson), so each performance and album varies in terms of influence and intensity. The live set at Rhino seemed appropriately set on the small stage, with Henry front and center alongside his collaborator Skott Rusch. To my untrained eye, many of their instruments looked heavily modified, or perhaps I’m unaware of the rapidly spinning properties of unidentifiable wooden string cylinders. Henry Barnes grinned happily between blissfully loud, harsh renditions of some of Amps more recognizable tracks, pausing often to explain the sonic features of his instruments and audio setup.


The beauty of seeing Amps for Christ live is not knowing what to expect. From one album to the next you can find traces of folk music alongside experimental noise and extreme metal. Their live performance at Rhino just served to underscore the incredibly range and creativity of Barnes, a trait that emerges again and again in new Amps albums as well as in Barnes’ various other projects (Two Ambiguous Figures, Man Is the Bastard). In their short set at Rhino, many of the varied and recognizable styles throughout the Amps for Christ catalogue were highlighted remarkably well, reminding me of earlier, noise-influenced tracks on classic Amps albums like Electrosphere (1999).


Part of the tremendous privilege of seeing Henry Barnes in whatever form he embodies is the fact that everyone in the audience, from kids with giant noise-cancelling headphones to very cool 19 year olds sitting a bit too close to the monitors, enjoyed watching and learning just how those sounds were produced. I’d be hard pressed to find a more open mind than that of Henry Barnes, and I think most of the people sitting attentively 8 inches from the stage at Rhino Records would agree with me.