With the choice of giving a highly stylized, music video-esque streaming concert and a more straight-up, view-from-the-front row live stream performance, Greg Puciato’s “Fuck Content” live stream fell somewhere in between, with a dose of rock documentary sprinkled in for good measure.
Hosted by the website of his own Federal Prisoner label and art collective, the “live” stream mostly took place on a heavily fogged stage set with a projector screen and stage lights. Roving camera work was put through a series of VHS glitch effects that often interfered with the liveness, putting it more in the camp of music video. Cutaways to digital noise and B-roll often served to illustrate lyrical content. Not a lot of intimacy to be had here, at least not at first. The short and sweet acoustic meditation “Heaven of Stone,” that kicked things off, was kept at a distance. Only until midway through the set, with Puciato slinging an axe for the Soundgarden-esque riff explosions of “Do You Need Me to Remind You?,” is the camera close and clear enough to see the sweat on his face, as one would see from the front row, which is what these streaming concerts at a time of widespread venue closure should at least in part aspire to recreate.
The set was, for the most part, a play-through of his first solo album: Child Soldier: Creator of God, which was released this October and placed number one on our Top 50 Best Albums of 2020. The album runs the gamut from screaming thrash metal to tender ballad to muddy electro, like the glitchy title track “Creator of God,” which is thick with Kid A-era Radiohead DNA. The performances were faithful to the studio versions, colored by the impulsive energy Puciato has cultivated in the two decades since he started fronting The Dillinger Escape Plan at the age of 21.
Visually, the more electronic tracks got the most visual fx treatment, almost to a fault, with horizontal bands of magnetic noise obscuring what parts of the band aren’t already hiding behind a dense layer of fog. A standout moment was the most singular entry of Child Soldier, the tight, three-minute (and infectiously catchy) pop sprint “Down When I’m Not,” which, outlier that it is, is emblematic of Puciato’s tendency to dodge categories, although his hardcore roots certainly bubble through. Riff-heavy sludge like the Soundgarden-esque “Do You Need Me to Remind You?” belie his early interest in the band, sealed by a gravelly croon that has unmistakable similarities to the late Chris Cornell. Given that the album’s artwork is an homage to Soundgarden’s Louder than Love, it’s unsurprising that the sonic aesthetic follows suit.
The rock doc segments interspersed through the stream told the story of its own making. Viewers got to see drum tracking decisions, couch banter between bandmates which included horrid descriptions of “show shirts” smelling like cat piss (and other things) after multiple consecutive wearings, but ultimately, after performing the quiet plea of album-closer “September City,” which carried the vibe of a reflective boy band interlude track, people heard Puciato discussing the plan to write a new song during production of the very thing people were watching, and to show the writing and recording process over the course of the video as well. It turns out this resulted in four new songs instead of one, which were the songs seen performed in the studio in black and white, scattered into the set list (noted below). Some had an artificial “film noise” filter to make the video of these brand new songs appear vintage, but that’s neither here nor there.
Ranging from meditative nu metal to screamcore, often in the same song, like the scorcher “Absence as a Presence”, they were not the strongest nor most polished songs of the set, which wasn’t the purpose. The very title of the stream indicates Puciato’s sentiment. But for someone as devoted to their art as Puciato has proven to be, it is revelatory to see the thought process in action. The fact that he plays all the instruments on the album (except drums) puts him on par with the Billy Corgans and Dave Grohls of the world, which is impressive regardless of what anyone thinks of the output. “Lying at the Bottom of the Sky,” which played over the credits, may have sounded like a knock-off of Goo Goo Dolls earworm 1998 “Iris,” but the fact that it and three others were written and recorded all while producing the performance of the live stream itself is nothing to sneeze at. It just makes it all the more tantalizing to think about what Greg Puciato will do next.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat