By Baylen Hannah Brown
Packed onto the ten by fifteen foot stage of a dingy bar with drop ceiling and barely enough space to stand, sit two full speaker cabinets. Ethan Lynch kneels between two drum sets, focused intently on the suitcase in front of him.
It is unclear when the set up ends and the show begins. There is no introduction, as the 26-year-old experiments with the guitar and the pedals at his feet. As the only guitarist, with no one to tune to, Lynch simply plays, pausing only to tweak a pedal until the sound he is looking for begins to emerge.
Gradually the drums fall into the music, subtly adding structure to the web Crud Spider weaves. The guitar hits you in the gut as the song really starts. Standing in the front row feeling the air moving from the amps is like taking a time machine back to 1970, when music was as much a physical experience as it was auditory.
Trading pristine signal for the dirty analog feeling of a wall of speakers standing as tall as him, the cabinets Lynch builds pump sound into the room in a way that toes the line between listening to and feeling the music.
Forever searching for the right combination of gear to create the perfect sound, Lynch started modifying and building his own gear four years ago. The Mount Pleasant native currently plays guitar as one-third of the act Crud Spider.
Crud Spider is a self-described “psychedelic sludge/glam rock”, with some ambient, jazzy tunes mixed in. With Lynch on guitar and Keith Dast and Sean Roberts, of Mount Pleasant, Mich., both on drums, Crud Spider produces a wall of sound not typical of the average 3-piece group.
Dast and Lynch were in a previous band together, an indie group called the Ugly Broads. Playing with a group where he was working together with a bass guitarist is very different from the setup with Crud Spider, but according to Lynch, the process is the same.
“What I’m looking for in a bassist is just someone I vibe with well,” he said.
It’s the same reason he, Dast and Roberts fell into writing and performing together.
“If I do something unexpected, it’s not outside of their vocabulary,” Lynch said. “We need to be able to play off each other, and we do.”
While attending a live show is the best way to experience the give and take between Lynch’s guitar and two drummers, Lynch said recording in the studio has its benefits. The studio allows him to create one compelling guitar track to start, and then build layer by layer until he has what he is looking for.
Surprising to anyone but another artist, there is plenty of planning that goes into creating chaos. Live, he replicates these sounds using loop and oscillation pedals.
Live oscillation doesn’t have the same control that is achieved in studio, however. Whatever goes from Lynch’s guitar, through his pedal board and out through the amp, bounces around and builds in intensity until the next note drowns it out or it is intentionally muted.
This chaotic feeling of listening to something that teeters on the edge of spinning out of control brings something unexpected to every live set the group plays.
“[There has to be] dynamic range in everything,” Lynch said. “Good or bad, let it repeat and play off it…”
Whether the note comes out right or not, it all becomes part of the experience, Lynch said. He described how a band he enjoys seeing live doesn’t mute their guitars while they tune between songs, which creates a unique transition back into the performance.
“There’s all this noise,” Lynch said, “and then there’s the snap back from cacophony to tightness.”
Lynch has worked to incorporate the idea of songs not having a definite ending into Crud Spider’s music, a nod to the dynamic contrast created in that bounce back into a song after allowing the music to circle out of control.
Lynch works in commercial audio production. Despite a constant influx of new and used gear, he says work isn’t a great source for the guitar-specific gear he is looking for — but it is a good place to meet other people with similar interests. Between work and musician friends, Lynch is always working on building or modifying something.
“A couple dollars in parts can change the whole sound of a distortion pedal,” Lynch said.
In the future, he wants to continue modifying pedals and building speaker cabinets for profit.
Right now Lynch is working on a “kill switch” modification to enable the instant switch from the dirtiest, most out of control sound to a dead silent amp, and then back-another testament to Lynch’s love for musical contrast.
As the show goes on, the music continues to swell and contract, growing in intensity as the three musicians begin to work as one, producing a sound that fills the room. By the end of the night, the exhaustion brings the music to a heavy grinding halt, the audience’s ears buzzing but wanting more.
If the band does return for an encore, it’s sure to be something unexpected like an ultra heavy surf rock rendition of “Wipeout” that gets the whole audience dancing.
Baylen Hannah Brown is a graduate of Central Michigan University. Her music taste is eclectic and purely Michigan. Her photos can be found on Facebook.