On October 27th, the Crystal Ballroom was packed with clowns. The sea of fans in their respective versions of jester-inspired face paint were gathered to see The Garden on their Portland stop of their tour supporting their latest album HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66. The Orange County experimental punk two-piece composed of twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears have amassed a cult-like following. The crowd was wild and incessantly moshed and crowd-surfed song after song through the 25+ track setlist.
The show kicked off with an opening set from New York-based electropunk project Machine Girl. In typical Machine Girl fashion, the set was roaringly loud and a spectacle of showmanship. Producer and frontman, Matthew Stephenson creates an unparalleled abrasive energy, escalating the noisy and hardcore quality of their recorded discography. From his unhinged thrashing on stage to jumping into the pit, the set was nonstop, animalistic intensity.
While the bar for vitality was set high, The Garden followed up and carried the energy upwards and onwards. Their stage setup was just the basics: Fletcher on bass and vocals, Wyatt on drums, a single amp, and of course, the iconic inflatable jester behind the brothers. The simple setup meant most attention was on the drums and bass but they were accompanied by backing tracks of the synth melodies and samples that make up their genre-bending California punk meets electronica sound. The band played the perfect crowd-pleasing lineup of fan favorites from their previous 4 albums as well as a generous handful of hits and deeper cuts from the most recent record. HORSESHIT ON ROUTE 66 is an amalgamation of all their previous eras. The result is a genre-transcendent, punchy, comedic, and in The Garden’s own terminology, “vada vada” experience.
The evening was electric. I highly recommend seeing a show on this tour if you get the chance, if not for the music, then for an unforgettable night of people-watching. There is something bizarre and special (and foul-smelling) taking place in the crowd at any Machine Girl/The Garden concert.