Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Show review: Pelican, Earth & Priestbird at Bowery Ballroom

Got a welcome chance to hit the Bowery last night for a show featuring Priestbird, Earth and Pelican, aka, enough moody instru-metal to grow me some white-girl dreads. The show was presented by MTV Networks' digital download service URGE as part of their Urge Nights series.

The flyer billed this as "ambient metal" so I set myself up for trancey thrash, a la Dust Brothers meets Massacra, but what I got was even better. I won't even try to dissect the delicate boundaries between the various strains of black/dark/doom/drone/ambient/industrial instrumental hodgepodge. But (deep thought alert), I will say that it was the kind of show where you'd maybe bring steel-toe boots AND a neck pillow.

Priestbird (at right) kicked off the show with an energetic set I'm happy I didn't miss. Imagine my surprise when I found out they're the band formerly known as Tarantula AD! I guess they split up for a while, grew some Jesus beards, and came back infinitely more inspired as Priestbird. Truly great songs, plus the Phil Collins allure of the drummer-singer. Solid opening act.

I felt like a fuddy-duddy because I couldn't groove to Earth like everyone else seemed to... Hard to say exactly why. It's drone music, experimental, very heavy and hard, but surprisingly not bleak and decidedly not "just noise," as I'd feared. The progressions are probably deceptively simple, and might make a nice soundtrack to the Condemned sequel if they ever wanted to (gasp!) sell out. But hearing Earth live?.... A bit of a buzz-kill. Though now that I think about it, that's probably what doom's supposed to be. They closed with the title track from 'The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull' and that was aiight. In my next life I'll get more drugs and Kurt Cobain tattoos and maybe then I'll be able to tell the other songs apart.

Next deep thought: Can a band be both prog and doom? Aren't those antonyms? Am I being too literal?

Pelican (no, not THAT one) was great, a much-needed pick-me-upper. Their sounds are strangely catchy for what's essentially a lingering, powerful, almost sloppy jam session, the kind after-school garage band dreams are made of. The band members project a metric ton of inertia from the stage and are almost comically synchronized in their head-banging, something they passed on to the crowd within about 30 seconds. Their new stuff is a lot poppier (for lack of a better word) than their older stuff, and way more succinct, but they haven't completely abandoned their roots: I clocked a couple of tracks at almost 10 minutes last night, in addition to (did I hear it right?) reprisals from 'Fire in Our Throats..." And, bonus deep thought, the drummer looks like Fidel Castro. What's not to enjoy?

Pelican continues their US tour tonight at Brooklyn's wonderful Luna Lounge and ties it all up in their hometown Chicago in late August. Try to catch them at one of their bazillion gigs between now and then if you can. (Priscilla White)

Pelican - "Far From Fields" mp3 buy

Preistbird - "Season Of The Sun" mp3 buy

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