The amps were turned up high and the lights were turned down low at the Great American Music Hall on Wednesday night, as some feedbacky, shoegazery throwback bands were on the bill. The Big Pink showed up with half of the band missing, A Place to Bury Strangers ended their set in blood, and hardly anyone got there early to watch io echo. It was a weird show that featured good music, but was less than satisfying in the end. It could have been better.
I walked in a couple of songs into io echo’s set after receiving a message from a friend, “There’s nobody here.” And sure enough, I was able to walk right up to the front row without bothering a soul. The stage was incredibly dark for the opening band’s set. It could have been anyone up there playing anything for all I know. I was wholly unfamiliar with the band, but I liked what I heard. They have a song in a cell phone commercial, but I don’t watch much TV so I don’t even know which song it was.
Next up were A Place to Bury Strangers, and right away these guys were loud. Really loud. A friend described them “like Jesus and Mary Chain but turned up louder.” They were pretty awesome, though. Just watching the bass player mess around on his bass and work the pedals was impressive. The sounds coming out of the guitar were monstrous. There were vocals, but they were hardly audible.
One thing holding them back from being truly awesome is that the drummer seems to flub it every once in a while. It’s key in this sort of music that the drummer keep a strong steady beat, and I don’t think he was really up to it. The first song in particular was sloppy, and I thought I was in for a rough set. He warmed up later, but he was never as tight and precise as is called for, and APtBS suffered some because of it.
As for the set end? The guitar player and bass started swinging their instruments around to get all sorts of cool sounding feedback, and one or the other made contact with the bass player’s skull, which began bleeding profusely, ending the set somewhat abruptly. As the guitar player was cleaning up, we asked if he was alright. “I really don’t know,” came the answer. I hope so!
While waiting for The Big Pink to start, I got a message from my friend Sandy from Grimy Goods. She knew I was at the show, and she told me that Milo hadn’t been there last night. Yes, Milo Cordell, half of The Big Pink, was apparently not on this tour. Could that be so? The photographer in the pit called bullshit, and when the band came out, we started comparing iPhone pictures of Milo with the guy playing bass, and in the darkened room, came to the conclusion that he was playing bass for some reason. We convinced ourselves of this. It turns out we were wrong, as we found out after the show. A two-piece band with one member missing? Seems a bit weak if you ask me.
I don’t know if this affected the crowd energy or not, but as the show went on, with the band playing some of the killer tracks from their album, A Brief History of Love, like “Velvet” and “Crystal Visions,” I looked around to see that no one was moving an inch. They were staring straight ahead or, dare I say, gazing at their shoes, and it seemed to me like they were waiting for “Dominos.” The only exception were this young pair of Super Fans who were pointing and screaming at every opportunity. Watching them was more fun than watching the stage at most times.
When they finally played “Dominos” as the set closer, the crowd came to life, singing along and dancing. Had everyone here paid $17 to hear one song? I’m pretty sure I had, so who am I to criticize? It’s a great song! Then they walked off stage, turned on the lights, turned off the feedback, and everybody went home. A few confused people looked straight ahead, clapping, wondering why no encore would come. It was a strangely anticlimactic end to an entertaining but never transcendent show.
The Big Pink Set List for 3/10/10: