No doubt, the punk-rock drinking denizens of the Smiling Moose regard themselves as edgy outlaws in the South Side's sea of frat-boy conformity. And to some extent, that's true. But no amount of Misfits or Crass in the jukebox can adequately brace them for this Wednesday's double whammy.
Pierced mouths will fall open and weak ears will run for the hills when Minneapolis noisicians Cock ESP take the stage. Founded in the early '90s by Emil Hagstrom and Matt Bacon, the duo's CD debut was on Relapse Records' legendary Japanese-American Noise Treaty compilation, which defined the harsh-noise community at the time. But the group adopted the opposite attitude from its austere Japanese brethren, such as Merzbow and Aube, and launched a caustic commentary on the overtly punishing masculinity of the noise scene.
Instead of striving for extremist perfection, Cock ESP thrived on the amplification of mistakes and equipment failure, and its shows earned a reputation for absurd, comedic elements, such as running around in donkey and chicken costumes. Despite all this, Cock ESP were respected enough to crank out a bevy of vinyl releases, CDs and videos, and to open for the likes of Stereolab and Sonic Youth, paving the way for Midwest compadres Wolf Eyes to make noise safe and fashionable for the MySpace generation.
But even a card-carrying member of the Thurston Moore Fan Club will be ill prepared for the infamous French experimental/performance-art legend Jean-Louis Costes, who has been plying his trade since the cassette underground of the mid-'80s. A cross between the scatology of G.G. Allin, the depravity of Whitehouse and the transgressivism of Karen Finley, Costes created a mayhem of sound and splatter with Lisa Suckdog in his previous visit to the now-defunct Turmoil Room gallery in Wilkinsburg, back in 1990.
And things won't be much calmer now. Costes and pal Lisou Prout have a three-act "opera pornosocial" in store, called Les Petits Oiseaux Chient ("Little Birds Shit"). The piece is described as "the story of an ordinary couple ... they meet, they flirt ... they fall into the normal trappings of family existence ... they find solace in acts of bizarre S&M sex ... the logical conclusion of this journey: finishing in Hell."
It'll be very interesting to see how Costes' naked, screaming fuckfest will be received in a punk bar. But in some sense, I'm disappointed this isn't at The Warhol, where director Tom Sokolowski is often heard boasting about shocking mainstream sensibilities. Oh, well -- he can redeem his soul (or damn it) along with the rest of the unsuspecting victims at the Moose.
Jean-Louis Costes, Cock ESP and Plastered Bastards. 9 p.m. Wed., March 14. Smiling Moose, 1306 E. Carson St., South Side. Free. 412-431-4668 or www.smiling-moose.com