It’s telling that any time the press or those who are ‘in the know’ claim that a genre is dead, you can almost guarantee that the bands who were around at the scene’s height will continue to innovate and draw in a respectable crowd. It’s almost like the press don’t have a clue, right? Anyway, for all that the post-metal scene dropped off of the collective radar of Pitchfork and their ilk, Russian Circles, Neurosis and Pelican are all going strong, and it’s the latter that are here to celebrate, and be celebrated, tonight.
Before that it’s Slow Crush, a Belgian four-piece who don’t sound like anything else we could have envisioned for tonight and yet fit like the proverbial glove. With the bulk of their set being culled from last year’s debut Aurora, they’ve had plenty of time to give these songs the love and attention they deserve and it shows in a half-hour of blissful shoegaze, 90s alt-rockisms and dreamy vocals that teeter on the verge of dissipating under their own airiness were it not for the grounding presence of Isa Holliday.
With the breadth of sounds that they cover within their short stint, from wistful dream-pop right through to weighty riff barrages delivered with all the immediacy of Helmet in their prime, they’re an easy band to love. Dizzy has an aloof, breezy charm that somehow works with the hefty low-end that’s stacked behind it and even if Drift might sound like a Loveless off-cut upon its opening, by laying on sludgy groove as thick as they do they take something that’s practically a cliché by now and make it wholly theirs and compellingly fresh.
As for Pelican, the Chicago quartet have been doing their own thing since day one, even if not everyone has always been on board with it. They’re the band that everyone likes to say that they dug on the caveat that only the old stuff was being discussed, completely missing out on a solid back catalogue with more than a few moments of genius. Incidentally, tonight is not for those people – almost their entire set consists of material from Forever Becoming and this year’s Nighttime Stories, and it sounds all the better for it.
Trevor de Brauw’s increasingly excitable stage presence as he mashes together topsy-turvy melodies and sonic avalanches with manic glee…
Midnight And Mescaline launches, not with fanfare but with relentless conviction, more a stream of triumphant riffage than it is a song in any traditional sense. Larry Herweg feels more reigned in and focused than he has in a long time, even his furious kick drum assault keeping in tight formation with his brother Bryan Herweg’s own low-end energy. In contrast to earlier works, there is a sense of immediacy that sells the performance, and the sometimes overblown flourishes seem like an effort from the band to double-down on this direction.
There are a few stabs at the more atmospheric compositions of old, as with Full Moon, Black Water’s intimate intro and ascendant sludge leanings but there’s still an emphasis on volume and power to round things out, as evinced by Trevor de Brauw’s increasingly excitable stage presence as he mashes together topsy-turvy melodies and sonic avalanches with manic glee. He’s a man who aims to always out-headbang the crowd by a ratio of two-to-one and while he’s not exactly making it look easy, he sure as hell doesn’t make it seem like a job.
Maybe that’s why Pelican are still going strong, though. It’s never been work to them; they’ve never really followed trends or stuck to a single sound and even if some didn’t always appreciate it, there has always been a large following who have. Many of this lot are here tonight and, in such good company, it’s impossible for Pelican not to deliver their A-game and for us to get swept along. As a sole throwback to early days in the form of Mammoth signs them off for the night, how could we ask for more?
Scribed by: Dave Bowes