Friday, September 13, 2002

Rock Shows of Note XL
Congratulations to show reviews being the first standing category to break the 40-mile mark! I had to enlist Steven Gibbs' Roman numeral conversion page again. A useful tool.

Tuesday night, Coco and I went to the Middle East Upstairs to see the In Out and the Pee Wee Fist. I didn't really pay attention to the In Out during the Anchormen's recent show with them and Tunnel of Love, distracted by drink, conversation with friends, and getting in the "zone" for the Anchormen's set, so I wanted to catch them again. And Coco's friends with Pete and Anna of the Fist -- and used to date another member of the band. So she wanted to see them play -- and she had some Korean tuna-fish cans that she wanted to give Anna. Anna sculpts birds out of metal cans.

But, like at the last In Out show, we were early. Way early. I have no idea why the Middle East only booked two bands for this show, but while we arrived at 9, a fine time for a show to start, the In Out wasn't scheduled to hit the stage until after 10. So we hung out at the bar, chatting with Jef and Steph, and catching up a little with some of the guys from the In Out.

Their set was amazing. They've been together since 1995, but their sound is straight out of the '80s. Equal part the Fall and Gang of Four, with some vocal elements of the Talking Heads and perhaps even the B-52's, the In Out played an excellent set of energetic, edgily dramatic, tangle pop songs. The vocalist's delivery was exceptional -- wonderful deadpan delivery -- and the dual guitar-bass work was fun to figure out. I couldn't always tell who was making what noises, and the guitarist used a neat strumming technique that kept tricking me into looking at the bassist. And vice versa. The drummer, then, was one of the most focused and intense percussionists I've seen in awhile. He leaned into his kit as though he were near-sighted, staring down the cymbals as he maintained a counterpoint rhythm on the bass and toms. Fun, fun, fun. I'll have to track down some of their recordings, and I'll definitely have to see them again.

Then came the Pee Wee Fist, or the Fist, as I'm going to call them. The Fist are slightly more straight-ahead, combining a theremin, keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums to craft a thoughtful, if at times overly serious, rock sound that occasionally reminded me of the Elephant Six or British folk music. The Fist is an atmospheric rock band, with layers of sound. I enjoyed Pete and Anna's interplay on stage. And I was glad that the theremin wasn't overly assertive. John opted for a pleasant accompaniment approach to his theremin playing, offering swelling chords and harmonies to offset the melodies instead of the usual science-fiction freak-show fidgeting that many theremin players seem to specialize in. The accordionist was absent, and Andy, the usual drummer (also a mainstay in Schwang) wasn't joining the Fist on tour, so another drummer sat -- or stood, rather -- in for the night.

This drummer, who wore some sort of hat the whole show, was responsible for some of the most interesting parts of the set. Evoking memories of Poi Dog Pondering's dance-oriented work, the Fist's use of a drum machine set a solid foundation for some fun stop-and-start groove-oriented tunes, still with the angular orchestral rock sound in full effect. Interesting combination of the traditional rock lineup and electronic gear.

You can also read Koshka's review of the show.

No comments: