Surgery Dot Com’s BETA Launch – By Ari Ross

Ping-pong tables flank the concert stage, and two yards in front of me the singer announces through the long ropes of curls binding his face, “Occupy the nest. Lay eggs and occupy the nest.”
“This has been kind of a weird show,” someone standing nearby comments.
It wasn’t the interstitial rants of Surgery Dot Com’s singer Ross Camp K that supplied the weirdness, but the show’s lineup was kind of weird. Surgery Dot Com were playing their first headlining show, at Comet Ping Pong, with openers Replicant and Booze Riot. The opening bands would fit comfortably together on another bill: Booze Riot’s thing is Black Flag influenced aggro on the punk tip, while Replicant plays scary-growl metal.
While Booze Riot and Replicant aggress in an immediate, physical way, Surgery Dot Com expresses aggression by standing behind purposely intelligible lyrics attacking less traditional topics such as morality and the transition from adult-adolescent to adult.  Rather than literally striking the audience in the gut, Surgery Dot Com sticks it to them by eschewing the caveman routine to connect directly. Not all bands can get away with this, and it was striking how this approach pushed Dot Com out of the wheelbarrow of the show into their own fiefdom. Some of this can likely be attributed to the band members’ history and the development of the band’s sound.
Singer-guitarist Ross Camp K and drummer Dan Sachs came to form Surgery Dot Com with bassist James Haitchwai after playing together in the alternative band True Womanhood. While Dan left TW after six months, Ross spent about a year locked up with the band, experimenting and coming up with new sounds. As True Womanhood’s current sound bears little resemblance to its Ross-era stylings, Dot Com retains no cognizable relation to old or new True Womanhood.
At least three Dot Com songs started as riffs in the old band. “At least they’re as I remember them,” Ross says. His job in True Womanhood involved scraping his fingers up and down his guitar like noodles slapping the strings, creating as much noise as melody. Writing songs for the first time, Ross now holds together this “power trio,” and has acquiesced to a much more solid rhythm role in Dot Com.
There’s always the risk of cliche, boredom, and a lack of options with any guitar-bass-drum trio. It’s been done to death and, without more than the central instruments, or at least a shtick, there is the danger of doing what countless other three-piece rock bands have done.
Watching Surgery Dot Com, one can imagine that Camp K’s  songs would be freed to wander across more dangerous territory with a fourth pair of hands available to throttle the guitar and handle noise duty independent of the singer’s focus. Camp K is locked to his guitar as he sings, and this self-imposed limit inevitably shapes the band’s performances.
The result of the members’ history with music that is more confessional and refined than pugnacious has led the group to songs that shift from mid-tempo grooves with clearly enunciated lyrics to blazing Hüsker Dü-style rockers.
While the band’s audio dynamite lumps them in with No Wave-inspired new rock, they gig alongside metal and punk bands that evoke words such as “nihilism” and “beer.” The former group defines itself against the world through the content of the delivery and a disinterest in the thoughts of the audience. The latter offers singers who define themselves against the world by raging shirtless, pelting the audience with (mostly) spent beer cans and belittling all within the point-blank range of whoever holds the mic at a given time.
Performers, and people, can’t simply will themselves toward social status. It comes with comfort in one’s own skin. Justified confidence makes concern and fear disappear, and then Ross K is just looking at the ceiling, playing with toys in front of people. He knows there is an audience out there somewhere. The audience likes this.

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