Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ugh God Pile on the Tunes at Kung Fu Necktie

Last week, I went on quite the adventure to see Boston powerhouse Pile perform at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia. I was in northeast PA for the holidays and had the simple plan of driving down with a friend to see the band perform alongside Psychic Teens and Ugh God. In typical fashion, my friend bailed and my car broke. After unsuccessfully trying purchase a bus ticket, I was starting to give up hope that I would be able to witness the excellent bill. With nothing to do the next day, my dad offered to drive me there and back. After hearing about the last minute to trip to Philly, my mom decided she wanted to tag along as well. It was evident from the start that this was going to be one of the more interesting concert experiences I’ve had in a while and a strange family outing on top of that.

Clearly, my parents are not typically parents as they spontaneously decided to drive to Philadelphia on a work night to see a post-punk band with me. I was raised on a steady diet of rock and roll and attended many concerts with them growing up including Lollapalooza, so I knew it wasn’t going to be awkward as much as it was going to be hilarious, especially given the bands and the environment. The first ‘act’, Brian William Reichert, solidified the hilarity of the situation as he seemed to be visibly tripping and played songs like "Old MacDonald Had a Farm” while using some really strange psychedelic effect on his voice. He had a drummer in tow who play sparse drums on one track but mainly sat in the back looking confused. The singer/songwriter? was a last minute replacement for Boston’s Fat History Month who couldn’t make the trip down. They were sorely missed. The last song, as my mom put it, “sounded like a renaissance faire.” My dad summarized the opening act perfectly: “That was one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen” adding “It was probably worth the trip just for whatever that was.”

The Philadelphia trio Psychic Teens took the stage next. They had an excellent balance between goth and shoegaze with a touch of punk and industrial aesthetics. When I think of shoegaze, I think of a 'wall of sound' approach and amplifiers being pushed to their limits. These guys took it to the next level. They were one of the loudest bands I have ever seen, which ranks them up there with heavy hitters Boris and My Bloody Valentine. With the blistering volume, the ‘rents moved to the back of the venue but I stayed to endure the punishing noise. Their driving sound reminded me of a perfect middle ground between The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine with some remarkably captivating songs. A nice surprise was the stirring cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Mr. Self Destruct.” It reminded me of sneaking listens of The Downward Spiral from my dad’s collection, boldly disregarding the parental advisory sticker and my parents’ wish for me not to hear the chorus to “Closer.” Something I reminisced with them about at the show.

The moment I had been waiting for finally arrived as Pile took the stage. If you haven’t been keeping up, I am involved in this little endeavor and I have been dying to see the band outside of the Boston scene. The trio immediately got to work with their well-timed build-ups and breakdowns in songs like “Came as a Glow”. The aforementioned song is a live favorite because of its jangly, bluesy guitars and the catchy yet aggressive vocals courtesy of Rick Maguire. Matt Connery’s thick, rumbling bassline breaks the song up before Kris Kuss comes crashing in on drums like a meteor down to earth. It always gets the crowd going crazy and this one was no different. Other highlights included “Pigeon Song” from the Boston Hassle compilation which features one of the greatest starts to any song you’ll hear from 2011. The punchy “Rape Whistle” and “Number One Hit Single” presented the group at their most raucous with the punk turned all the way up.

Having built their skills in dusty Boston basements and now honing them as a road-tested entity, Pile has become an unstoppable post-punk force. The Philly crowd was really responsive even chanting “one more song” for an encore. When I asked my mom what she thought, she perfectly stated, “They have a sound that really gets the floor moving and people bobbing along.” I couldn't have put it better myself. Keep an eye out next year for their upcoming record on Exploding in Sound Records. If the new songs are any indication, it’s going to be a doozy. Don’t miss them on the remaining dates of their east coast tour.

12/8 Charlotte NC – The Milestone w/ Junkhat and Public Relations
12/9 Williamsburg VA – The Meridian
12/10 New Brunswick NJ – The Alamo w/ P.S. Eliot, Swearin’, Eternal Fuzz and Lost Weekend
12/11 NYC – Fat Baby w/ Quilty, Grass Is Green, Bambara and Ovlov
1/13 Allston MA – Great Scott w/ Amoroso, Onslo
1/28 Allston MA – Berfest

Philly favorites Ugh God brought the night to a close. The band is a loud experimental group that employs two drummers, dual guitars, and bass for their bombastic sound. The singer wielded a double-neck guitar and had high-pitched vocals that complemented the music quite well. This may seem too busy in description but it all came together flawlessly to create some catchy, driving tunes. The crowd was going crazy the whole time and it would be hard not to do so with such a large sound being projected at them the entire time. The group ran through a set of songs mostly from their latest effort, A Pony on Top of a Mountain. This was apparently their last show with the current lineup and I was glad I had the chance to witness them in this fashion before they move into their next phase. The remaining members are apparently reconvening and writing new material for next year. I am interested in what they come up with in their next incarnation and look forward to new material next year.

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