Ought – Live at Secret Project Robot Art Experiment – 10/2/15 (Pictorial Review)
by Steven Spoerl
Pile, LVL UP, and Ought have been shown no shortage of love on this site in the past so when it was announced that all three would be sharing a bill, plans were made accordingly. All three showed up in some way or another over the spread of the various best-of lists that this site ran at the end of 2014 and all three have released strong new material since the start of this year. More importantly than any of that, though, is the fact that all three are renowned live acts.
Before his October 2 performance, I’d never seen Rick Maguire (Pile’s guitarist/vocalist) perform without his main vehicle and had only heard whispering of what that experience entailed. While the set I got was just Rick performing solo, it was in a different, more expansive, capacity. Maguire’s recently introduced a looping pedal to his solo shows and wields that freedom to maximum effect, without ever losing the innate ability to completely command the attention of a room. Pulling from several patches of Pile’s discography and showcasing a tight-knit control over all aspects of his musicality, Maguire tapped into something transfixing, rendering most of the audience speechless.
LVL UP took the stage shortly after Maguire ambled off, intent on testing out some new material. Capitalizing on the overall moodiness of their Three Songs 7″, they pushed even further into territory that seemed increasingly concerned with dynamics (and atmospherics). While old standbys still rang effectively (something that’s especially true for “Soft Power”), it was the new material that prompted the most intrigue. Darker, heavier, and more freewheeling than anything in the band’s discography, their set operated at a tantalizing glimpse of their next release, which promises to be nothing less than fascinating.
After LVL UP’s final static-laced, feedback-heavy noise freakout, there was an almost maddening break of 40 minutes before Ought took the stage, generating more than a little restlessness among the crowd. Any pent-up negative feelings had all but dissipated by the time Ought’s wheels had started running. While it did take the band about a song or two to really click, they were locked into something fierce before too long.
Building energy and momentum as their hour-long set progressed, the members of the band each got increasingly more aggressive with their presence, slowly building the audience to a heightened pitch that was egged on by “Beautiful Blue Sky” before being cracked wide open into complete madness with “Today More Than Any Other Day”. At that point, the audience had morphed their dancing into a chaotic swirl of bodies that saw a large portion of the people positioned towards the front pushed over the lip of the stage at one point (to his credit, Ought’s guitarist/vocalist– Tim Darcy– did issue a concerned, seamless, mid-vocal “calm down now”, without ever breaking from the trappings of the song).
By that point it was a madhouse of energy that saw the sold-out Secret Project Robot Art Experiment (Secret Project Robot, alternately) feeding into the mutual frenzy created and sustained by audience and band. Then about an hour after they started, the band closed their main set with a vicious, explosive, extended take on More Than Any Day highlight “Gemini” that saw them drag out the song’s staccato bursts to a strangely hypnotic effect.
Naturally, the crowd pleaded for an encore and likely got even more than they bargained for with an especially fiery rendition of “New Calm, Pt. 2” that loosed Darcy free from the restrictions of his guitar strap when a friend tapped in, allowing him to completely lose his mind on stage while the fresh burst of energy from the substitute guitarist elevated the song to ridiculous heights. It was a perfect closer to a night defined by nervous energy, injecting the proceedings with a shot of adrenaline that sparked an already energized crowd to liberate themselves from any remaining inhibitions while simultaneously reinforcing Ought’s position as one of today’s more exciting live prospects. Buy tickets if the tour comes to a nearby town, this is something everyone deserves to experience.
Scan through an extensive photo gallery of the show here.