Outside of amusical context, the word "botch" stirs up thoughts of medical procedures gone wrong. The desperate smell of medicine and the horror of a routine operation run afoul due to human error. A sponge left in a chest cavity. A clamp forgotten in a patient's abdomen. A nose job gone awry. Dread and "what a shame"-inspiring circumstances that seem in line with the skittish zeal of Botch, my favorite Pacific Northwest, evil mathrock band.
My favorite human error inside the musical context of Botch is seeing them live and watching the audience not quite manage to bob their heads or pump their fists in time with the music. We all stand around trying to keep time and "feel it," but instead we start and stop, catching ourselves off-beat right when we thought we'd gotten on. And, on the rare occasion that we do find ourselves on time, we realize our movements are those like somebody zapped full charge with the paddles of a defibrillator. So being on, like being off, feels wrong. But you twitch and jolt onwards trying to find a livable medium and wear your seizure as fashionably as you can.
This bad form on the dance floor is due to Botch keeping almost everything just slightly off the expected rhythm--their odd changes and quirky time signatures keep everybody wobbly like geriatrics during free skate. Hence the "mathrock" tag they carry, but unlike other bands I've heard described as such, Botch decided somewhere in there they weren't going to stare at the floor and have the only exercise going down onstage be one of keeping everybody rhythmically off balance. No, Botch PUT OUT. And do so with an intensity most people writing songs as complex as Botch either don't have, don't care to share with us, or can't express because they'll miss their time changes. Somehow, Botch manage to find the precarious balance between holding the tedious song structures together and going apeshit.
"During a really good show, I don't know what's going on around me. I'm not aware of what I'm doing, where I am, how I'm standing, how I'm moving," says Brian Cook, Botch's bassist. "I couldn't tell you what I'm thinking or what I'm looking at. I'm completely lost. I don't feel pain."
Likewise, seeing the band completely give themselves over to the music onstage compels the audience to abandon all pretense and surrender to the energy the band is putting out. Structural analysis and lyrical interpretation is for another time--Botch live is all about release. About getting pummeled by a bunch of self-described nerds yelling about volcanoes and grandparents. About having the rock delivered to you by "the scrawniest band around" in a most brutal and sonically challenging fashion.
Brian continues, "Usually, the only thing rooting me into reality is exhaustion, being out of breath, feeling like I'm going to vomit."
If vicarious physical overexertion isn't enough to stir your interest, there's always the strobe lights, whirling and undulating effects pedals, and sweaty, screaming hordes smashed into each other to form one critical mass of appreciation in front of the stage.
And if THAT laundry list of ability-to-bring-the-rock attributes isn't enough, there's always the fact that they're playing with Neurosis, veteran juggernauts of raw power.