Tonight: Jucifer brings 'sludge metal' to Belvedere's

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Parking can be tough in Pittsburgh. Especially when you’re trying to find a place for the RV that you live in.

The RV parked near Belvedere’s on Butler Street in Lawrenceville today is significant to those who follow “sludge metal” because it means Jucifer has arrived.

Jucifer is the husband-and-wife duo of Edgar Livengood and Gazelle Amber Valentine, who have been touring the continent in their four-wheeled home for 13 years, stopping at clubs to play music that has been described as blackened doom, deathdrone, grindgaze, brutal folk and the ever-embraceable sludge metal.

The group, formed in Athens, Ga., in 1993, started out with Mr. Livengood on drums, Ms. Valentine on guitar and vocals, and a bass player who was with them “for about a month.” The bass player left, but Jucifer rolls on.

They do their rolling in the recreational vehicle, leading a noisy nomadic life that thrives on playing music and traveling.

The “noisy” label isn’t meant to disparage their music. But if you are going to see a Jucifer show, you’d better be ready for something that will set your ears ringing.

“We play loud,” Ms. Valentine said. “It’s like a jet engine. We have been clocked at 140 decibels.

“We think a show should be something much more than just listening to the album at home on your stereo. The experience of music is physical to begin with, I mean the way your ears actually sense sound and take it into your brain. And to have it coming into your entire body in a way that vibrates into your bones is very special. It’s much more of an adrenaline boost.”

And the performers are hearing the music just as loud as the audience is.

“To be perfectly honest, it’s completely selfish,” Ms. Valentine said. “We really do it like that for our own enjoyment. The fact that other people enjoy it, too, is a fortunate by-product, I guess.

“We approach our live show as something entirely different from an album. When you’re at home listening to an album, you might be thinking about the lyrics. But a lot of bands lose the message in a live show, unless it’s a really quiet show in which the focus is on the vocalist. We’ve never been that kind of a live band. I mostly do a lot of screaming in live shows, so there’s not as much nuance to get buried.”

Loud screaming, however, isn’t really considered a music genre. But asking Ms. Valentine to pick a label is tricky.

“We’re not self-limiting,” she said. “Those labels can be deceptive. We’re sort of a pre-Internet band. We’ve never shaped ourselves to how to be marketed. All those labels, there’s some of all of that. There’s thrash metal, a little hard-core punk. We don’t really switch genres between songs so much as we combine elements. I like to call it ‘deathdrone.’”

After 20 years — most of them living in the RV — it would be reasonable to expect the couple to start to wear down. But that isn’t happening.

“We’re not playing a type of music that makes you rich and famous, so you really have to love it,” Ms. Valentine said.

“A lot of people have no idea what to expect at our shows and they can’t stand it and leave, which is perfect for us, because if they’re not going to get into it, that’s what they should do. But then there’s people who feel about it in the same way we do, or at least a similar way. It’s more of an experience than a lot of shows. We communicate to the audience that we’re not just going through the motions. We’re actually doing something that’s really intense for us, and I guess that connects with the people who are strong enough to stand up to the volume.”

Jucifer shares the Belvedere’s bill tonight with Night Vapor and Resin. The show at 4016 Butler St. begins at 9 p.m. and there’s a $10 cover.

Dan Majors:

First Published December 2, 2013 4:32 PM

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