Frequently when a band is described as technically proficient, it is a left-handed compliment by which the speaker means to imply soulless. Nothing could be further from the truth in Hammer’s case. They are brilliant, technically proficient musicians and dripping with soul. This was one of the best shows I have seen in Durham in years. The fellas left their hearts on the stage, you could see the smiles of joy playing across their faces, as the jammed out literally every single one of their songs over more than three hours.
When Hammer left the stage Monday night all I could think about was that there are some ways in which machine will never replicate human, no matter how many times Big Blue wins at chess. There was sublime communication on-stage between these men. When technically proficient meets soulful, it is the conjuncture where humans beings are transcendent. It is a place and a feeling that Steve Jobs clearly knew. Many others made computers, Jobs created objects where technically superior met the elegance and grace of artistic design. Hammer no More the Fingers creates and plays music in that same realm.
There are notes on a page and then there is the way waves of music can crash through our souls rearranging us on a mitochondrial level. A machine can read notes on page. A human being can use music to explain to us how much they loved and cared about and treasured and were grateful for their friend. When Joe Hall would occasionally open his eyes and peak through his wavy rock star hair to glance at Duncan Webster, I could see the amazement and bliss on his face. Jeff Stickley positively communicated from the drums, as Hammer navigated themes rooted in friendship, understanding, patience, and practice to the crowd from the elevated Pinhook stage.
From rocking to delicate, they switched moods, chords, pace, with a synchronicity that was bedazzling. The difference between a discordant wall of sound and a shockingly powerful wave of rock music is subtle, but ineffable.
For as long as I can remember, we have been dreaming of machines that can get what we know intrinsically as humans.
I don’t think it is ever happening.
This was a night to treasure our humanity.