Last night at Great Scott I was presented with an impossibly rare occurrence for a jaded concert-goer: a four-band set where I was not just willing, but actually excited to see all four bands. How often does that happen? The last instance I can think of was the opening night of the Flower Booking Festival at the Metro in Chicago, where Burning Airlines, Hey Mercedes, Shiner, and Bluetip brought an epic amount of rock. And that was a special occasion. And eleven years ago. But much like that show, the four bands at Great Scott played different, but complimentary styles.
The newly expanded Me You Us Them arrived as a four-piece, with former drummer Jimi Jano rejoining the group as a keyboardist/auxiliary drummer. The change adds depth to their more shoegaze-oriented tracks, represented in their set by “Drugs” and a pair of new songs, and melody and noise to their more aggressive songs (“As of Now” and “iQuit”). It also unleashes drummer Zach Eichenhorn from the tyranny of the click track which accompanied their old backing loops. (Fun fact: Eichenhorn also drums for the instrumental rock band Adam’s Castle, whom I saw in Urbana, IL, back in 2003.) Me You Us Them closed off their set with a nasty take on “Research” (live footage) from their split single with Bloody Knives and the double-drummer ache of “Loving Like Lawyers” (live footage), the highlight of their 2010 LP Post-Data. Here’s hoping the new line-up tours a lot and records those new songs soon.
Fellow Brooklynites Grandfather played second, bringing a confrontational mixture of the aggressive rock of Shellac, the Jesus Lizard, and June of 44, and the art-rock twists of US Maple, Shudder to Think, and Singer. The resulting post-punk concoction swerves between vulnerability and violence, confidence and curiosity as it winds through bracingly intense passages. Their Steve Albini-recorded 2010 LP Why I’d Try is available for free download, but I gladly picked up a copy on vinyl.
After listening to Grass Is Green’s Yeddo and Chibimoon for much of the last week, I appreciated hearing the best of those songs live delivered with kinetic energy and precision. “Slow Machine” was the highlight, its multi-part construction sounding particularly epic. They closed out their set with the hyperactive “Uhm Tsk,” which reminded me of the early, crazy days of the Dismemberment Plan. (No trombone, however.) It was also a special treat to hear Smart Went Crazy’s Con Art as the house music once their set had finished.
Pile closed out the night, sounding downright loose and raw after the tightly wound math-rock of Grass Is Green. Bits of hardcore adrenaline, country finger-picking, and garage rock energy were all filtered through Rick Maguire’s charismatic vocals. What I appreciated most was the unpredictability: they’d get a head of steam, then cut it off and hit a lull; threaten a set-ending jam and then stop the song entirely; turn a howl into a sheepish grin. I grabbed a copy of Pile’s new 7”, “Big Web” + 2, which you can hear and order over at Bandcamp. They’re heading out to the Midwest this month, so catch them if they’re in your area.
There’s an encore performance of this billing at the Cameo Gallery in New York tonight, and it’s awfully tempting to blow off my plans and see the four bands again.