Local music: El Jesus de Magico

By Columbus Alive
From the January 26, 2012 edition

“I hate talking in the past tense,” said Michael O’Shaughnessy, huddled in the Used Kids bathroom with his El Jesus de Magico bandmates.

No one in El Jesus wants to let go of the revelatory noise-punk band, whose activity slowed to a trickle two years ago when keyboardist and sonic guru Tony Allman moved to New York for work.

“It’s a real catharsis being in this band,” O’Shaughnessy said. “It’s great. Life saving.”

It’s not over yet. Columbus Discount just released a hallucinatory new El Jesus LP, “Just Deserts,” and Friday at Ace of Cups the band will perform for the first time since 2010. They have more generous motives than shilling for a new record, though.

Proceeds from the show (also featuring Guinea Worms, The Unholy Two and Psandwich) benefit Letha Rodman Melchior, wife of band pal Dan Melchior.

The couple is inundated with medical bills from fighting Letha’s cancer, so Allman, who has toured multiple continents as Melchior’s keyboard player, was eager to fly into Columbus to help.

Coincidentally, the benefit becomes a de facto release show for “Just Deserts,” culled from the recording spree that marked Allman’s final days in Columbus. Knowing their time was short, the band banged out as much music as possible. Allman captured the marathon sessions on his reel-to-reel and spliced them into a coherent document — as coherent as expected from El Jesus, anyway.

“We were definitely at a place of just experimentally working things out,” singer Jon Witzky said. “It kind of freed us up in a way we’d never been freed up before.”

Now they’ll resurrect that lucid nightmare music with minimal practice time — not necessarily a handicap given their penchant for amorphous skree.

“It could be a train wreck,” guitarist Dave Capaldi said. “But I think it’s kind of an equal chance as it always has been.”