Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: MN

PUP – Live at 7th St. Entry – 6/3/16 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Last Friday night, Minneapolis’ famed 7th St. Entry played host to a powerful bill that included three bands who have earned coverage on this site: Charly Bliss, Rozwell Kid, and PUP. The three and a half hour drive out to catch the show had been a foregone conclusion since its announcement and a large part of that decision had been the involvement of Charly Bliss, who opened the show. Ever since the band topped this site’s list for EP’s in 2014 with their best-of-decade contender, Soft Serve, they’ve been covered and endorsed relentlessly in these pages. One of the most unavoidable factors in ensuring that heavy focus was their overpowering strength as a live act.

Over the past several years, the band’s been meticulously tweaking their stage show and seeing their dedication paying a steadily increasing number of dividends. They’re an extremely dynamic act making exceptionally well-crafted basement pop that comes with a serious bite, despite the immediate sugary high that it so frequently induces. Guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks is (understandably) the focal point of their live show, operating as a bundle of joyous squeals that can’t be contained for longer than a few seconds at a time.

All of the band feeds off of her example and put their heart into the kind of showmanship that clearly underlines that they have a legitimate love for playing music. No one’s overshadowed and everyone seems like they’re continuously out to prove something that they couldn’t accomplish with just a music-related degree (something that’s been acquired by all four members). A handful of recognizable favorites were brought out into the set — including recent single “Ruby” — but the real power was derived from a trio of brand-new tunes.

The band’s been sitting on a collection of songs for well over a year that’s more than enough to constitute a great album (an album that they hope to have out sometime in the relatively near future) so to see them confidently surging ahead with even more material is a great sign that the various delays in release haven’t left them deterred. On the contrary, those delays seem to have set something off in the band that makes them even more eager to obliterate the slowly-forming expectations surrounding their eventual debut. After yet another set that was constantly on the crest of perfection, the question no longer rests with whether or not the band will have their breakout moment, the question is when that moment will come.

Playing in the wake of such an explosive act can be a daunting task but Rozwell Kid seemed more than up to the challenge (and have had a long history playing intimidating bills) and they stuck to their formula: conjure up some propulsion by blending recognizable recent influences with over-the-top stage theatrics that go back a little further, all the while maintaining ear-shattering volume. While the constant mugging, windmills, rock poses, and general mugging from the band’s bassist and lead guitarist could be slightly off-putting at times, the other half of the band kept things relatively grounded to create a weirdly compelling contrast effect.

Every bit of the band’s theatrical gimmickry was balanced out, at one point or the other, by something that felt more genuine than showy from one of the band’s less complacent members. At times, the physicality of the theatrics largely overshadowed the band’s music, which veered from Guitar Hero-aping classic rock stompers to numbers that felt more indebted to a surprisingly unexplored space between late-era Replacements and early-era Weezer. Even with all of the additional Rock God 101 bells and whistles, Rozwell Kid never inspired active boredom and wound up being a very strong connecting bridge between the spiked-punch rush of Charly Bliss and the no-holds-barred chaos that PUP was about to set off.

The fourth article that ever ran on Heartbreaking Bravery — and the very first album review — centered on PUP’s self-titled record, immediately after it was released in Canada. The band had just recently changed their name from Topanga, put out a music video that would begin a shocking dominance in that format, and weren’t anywhere close to breaking through stateside (that would come well over a year later). In the time that followed those events, I tried and failed to see the band on multiple occasions. A perfect combination of circumstances positioned me at the lip of the Entry’s stage, anxiously anticipating what would become one of the most formidable displays of angst-powered aggression I’ve ever witnessed.

PUP, the band’s official debut full-length, impressed a whole lot of people and led to an ever-expanding cast of die-hard fans. This year’s outstanding The Dream Is Over didn’t just aid that trend, it increased its velocity tenfold. One of the best punk records in years, the record played a large role in selling out the Entry and packing it to the brim with a cast of characters (that ranged an impressive spectrum), who seemed hell-bent on throwing down. All it took was the intro of “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” to get things started.

Literally less than thirty seconds into PUP’s set, the entire main floor of 7th St. Entry became a thriving pit of chaos, unchecked aggression, and intense camaraderie. Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Stefan Babcock would later reveal to me that in those moments, the crowd established his ideal for an audience: rowdy to the point of violence but never crossing the threshold into a territory that made its participants afraid. That mode never ceased for what was over an hour of blistering anthems about self-doubt, self-loathing, anger, regret, fear, and loss.

In the first five minutes alone, Babcock asked if the audience was alright on three separate occasions, unable to suppress a grin as the audience grew increasingly out of control. After “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” bled into “DVP”, just as it does on the record (easily 2016’s best moment of sequencing on record), I was forced up onto the stage, clinging to a PA for dear life while attempting to maintain enough balance to shoot/film the show. Not long after, the show was stopped so that an audience member could look for their glasses. A “very busted” pair made their way up to the stage but turned out to belong to an entirely separate owner. Later, a single show made its way up to the stage and the show was stopped once more. Glasses: repeat.

A handful of songs into their set, Babcock could sense that the crowd’s insane levels of aggression weren’t going to wane and instructed everyone on the rules of a “Canadian mosh pit”, which mostly just amounts to apologizing to anyone you touch. It was the first of two Canadian-themed jokes of the night, with an endearing crack later on about how “no one wants to hear four white Canadians cover Prince”, following a very sincere expression of gratitude over being able to play in a space that was The Purple One’s de facto home.

Immediately after that announcement, PUP hit the highlight of the night in a searing, volatile run through “Old Wounds” that saw Babcock leaping into a stage dive while still screaming his brains out. Unsurprisingly, “Old Wounds” wound up amplifying the audience’s energy, allowing both band and audience to feed off each other in a state of total symbiosis. Each propelled the other forward to the point of near-exhaustion, loving every single moment of collision that the relationship generated on either side.

Every shout-a-long became a scream-a-long and every riff, snare hit, and Cheshire Cat grin took on additional meaning as the band ripped through what’s already an astonishing arsenal of songs only two full-lengths into their career: “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”, “DVP”, “Dark Days”, “Lionheart”, “Familiar Patterns”, “Old Wounds”, “Factories”, “Yukon”, “Mabu”, “Guilt Trip”, and “Reservoir” all earned particularly strong reactions, while the audience used brief moments of the songs that came between to re-position, reset, and resume their wild-eyed thrashing.

“Reservoir”, the band’s final song, left everyone scrambling for extra breaths as they screamed, writhed on the stage, flung themselves off the rafters of the Entry’s ceiling into crowd-surfing the mosh pit, or — in the case of one fan — laid flat on the stage, screaming into a microphone that Babcock brought down to his level so that they could share in one of the evening’s final defining moments. As they screamed into the mic together, the communal aesthetic of the night solidified even further and the barrier separating band from artist was temporarily lifted so that everyone could truly be in it together.

Through the whole ordeal, like Charly Bliss at the start of the night, PUP wore their feelings with pride; no moment in the show looked like anything less than a moment that meant something to the band on a very real, personal level. After the smoke from the scintillating run through “Reservoir” cleared, the band would lean over the lip of the stage to embrace the battered front lines, shake their hands, give them high-fives, and mouth “thanks” repeatedly.  Babcock would express this throughout the night in repeated asides of affectionate expletives and stunned exclamations, gazing out over the crowd like the band had found a new home that they never wanted to leave.

Watch live videos from each of the bands sets below (including some very shaky PUP captures) and underneath the embed, view an extensive photo gallery of the show. Enjoy.

Watch This: Vol. 29

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Another few days have come and gone since a feature-less Sunday. This time, for the first time in a while, technical issues weren’t the cause of the brief delay in posting; I’m currently going through an exhaustive- and exhausting- training that’s consuming most of my time. A lot of content has been organized during this brief interim and will be posted over the weekend.]

During the compilation of the 29th installment of Watch This it became clear that we currently live in an extraordinary time for music. Image is becoming less of an issue, creating on synthesizers, loops, decays, and manipulations are considered organic, and raw talent is being earnestly celebrated. It’s something that allows this feature, and this installment, to be diverse. Without that opportunity for diversity, anything can run the risk of being inclusive. While there is a definite focal point of music that gets emphasized here, this feature allows for a broader range than usual in terms of style just for the sake of showcasing incredible live music. It’s an open-door policy and was inspired by similar policies that help keep great art vital. So, read a book, watch a film, attend a showcase, or Watch This- but, above all else, do everything possible to ensure great art continues to get made.

1. Gap Dream – Shine Your Light (Jam in the Van)

There were a lot of memorable music videos released in 2013 and, even with that considered, “Shine Your Light” still manages to stand out. Whether it was the concept, how well the music and imagery played into each other, or something else entirely- is up for discussion. As much impact as that video had, it seems the same can be said of the song. Jam in the Van made their usual stop at Burgerama and had Gap Dream climb in to deliver a knockout performance of “Shine Your Light” and a few others that are worth watching.

2. Pink Mink – Campbell’s Soup Kids (Radio K)

Pink Mink has been making their gloriously weird powerpop-indebted lo-fi punk for a few years now and have only managed to grow fiercer because of it. Here, they take to the Radio K studios to unleash “Campbell’s Soup Kids” on anyone who’ll listen. It’s a great performance from one of Minneapolis’ longer-standing bands. While the space restriction does make everything come off as just a touch too stunted, make sure to see this band live whenever possible; they were one of the small font highlights of the one-and-done SoundTown Festival back in 201 and have become even sharper over the past three years.

3. The London Souls – The Sound (Jam in the Van)

Jam in the Van strikes again. This time, they’ve brought The London Souls along for the ride. That The London Souls were scooped up at the New Orleans Jazz Fest for this showcase shouldn’t come as a surprise; just listen to the drums. What does come as a surprise? How satisfying this band’s live performance winds up being by taking a slightly off-kilter approach to a genre mix that would usually just result in a reserve-for-fairs situation. Everyone’s on top of their game here, lending this performance an unusual amount of impact.

4. Mansions – If You’re Leaving (Little Elephant)

Little Elephant continues its exception streak of outstanding sessions. Only a few weeks after Ovlov monopolized this series, Mansions seem poised to do the same. All of the hallmarks from their Vol. 27 entry are still present; a gnarled-to-hell bass tone, a strong sense of dynamics, and a fascinating structure. Genres collide and everything just explodes forward. It’s astonishing. Don’t be surprised if they wind up making a few more appearances in this series as it goes on.

5. Kishi Bashi – Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It! (WNYC)

Perfect Pussy. Tenement. Swearin’. Technicolor Teeth. These are the only artists I’ve ever broken the narrative rule of Heartbreaking Bravery for. Add Kishi Bashi to the list. Ever since seeing the nearly inhuman performances on KEXP and for the Cardinal Sessions, I’ve been certain of one thing: Kaoru Ishibashi, the man at the center of Kishi Bashi, is a genius. There’s really no other way to explain or phrase this. Easily one of the most commanding and obscenely talented solo performers I’ve ever encountered, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to feature him in this series. In this respect, WNYC has delivered emphatically. Unbelievably, since those jaw-dropping solo performances, Ishibashi has managed to wrangle a supporting cast around him that manages to complement his project perfectly while still managing to stand out on their own (take note of the stuttered, shuffling drums and the absolutely killer distorted banjo tone just past the bridge). We’re all lucky to be alive to witness this kind of artistry.

Perfect Pussy at 7th St. Entry – 3/30/14 (Live Review)

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First of all, deepest apologies for the delay in content. It’s been an incredibly busy week and there hasn’t been much time to post anything between driving over 1,300 miles, prepping all of the content that came out of that trip, and the crippling side effects of getting a total of nine hours sleep over four days’ time. There was a reason for all of that insanity and the reason, for anyone even remotely familiar with this site, won’t come as a surprise.

It had only been two short months since the last time the coverage of Perfect Pussy’s incendiary Chicago set, which was something that played a definite factor in the decision to drive from central Wisconsin to Minneapolis to Chicago over three days to see them play two more sets. While there will be more to come on the second Chicago show, this piece will be devoted to their Minneapolis stop at the legendary 7th St. Entry, which more than lived up to its reputation.

Not only was the drive down much more pleasant than the potentially life-threatening Chicago trip back in January but there was actually time to spare before the opening acts, ensuring both time to settle in and the ability to see all three bands on a characteristically impressive bill. First up were local stalwarts The Miami Dolphins. All wiry nerve and frenetic energy, the quartet ripped through one of the most memorably spastic sets there’s been in quite some times. Seamlessly transitioning between a shrill metallic dissonance falling somewhere between Shellac and Sonic Youth at their most aggressive, the completely left-field work of The Minutemen at their strangest, and moments of both staggering heaviness and genuinely bouncy surf-inflected powerpop sounds like a mess on paper. Luckily, the written word doesn’t dictate motion. The Miami Dolphins’ set managed to be unpredictably thrilling and left a deep impression- they control their future by the sheer virtue of fearless originality. There’s not many things in music that are more commendable than pulling that feat off.

A set as jumpy and insanely bug-eyed as The Miami Dolphins’ one, especially when used in the opening slot, has multiple benefits- one of them being that it can cover a wide range as a set-up for the ensuing act. Condominium‘s abrasive hardcore noise somehow seemed to dovetail quite nicely with their preceding act despite occupying two very different ends of the hardcore spectrum. Their unifying ground may have come via what seems to be a distinctly unique debt to the readily apparent influence of Steve Albini but the level of intensity both brought to their live sets wound up being what pushed them into a comfortable coexistence (and wound up heightening the expectations for Perfect Pussy’s set). They played as loud as possible and approached frightening with their militaristic precision but really seemed to live for the moments of pure noise (usually generated by guitarist Greg Stiffler’s penchant for maximum-impact feedback sections). More than anything, they obliterated any lingering doubts (if their were any to begin with) that their Sub Pop signing and subsequent release was a fluke.  Last Sunday their set seemed to indicate that they were far from done. Expect to be hearing about them quite a bit more in the coming years.

After two incredibly loud sets (neither lacking in the intensity department), the stage had been set and the bar had been raised. Perfect Pussy came out, sans vocal amp, set up and looked downright tranquil for a few moments to the point where it became an effectively eerie calm-before-the-storm situation, all members looking down at their feet or out at the void that exists pasts the blinding stage lights. Meredith Graves, one of the most seductively intimidating and forceful performers on the face of the planet, paced silently.  Then, it happened. Drummer Garrett Koloski counted the band in and they took off with enough velocity to send the crowd into immediate hysterics. All of the band poured every inch of themselves into their near-twenty minute set (a marathon by their past standards) and absolutely tore through the majority of Say Yes to Love while also making sure I have lost all desire for feeling wasn’t completely neglected either.

Both the band and the audience fed off of each other in another strong example of the most supportive symbiotic relationships imaginable, reaching a fever pitch during the band’s last stretch that kicked off with the back half of the unbelievably gorgeous-turned-unbelievably fierce “Interference Fits” (a highlight even without an introduction containing a dedication worth eternal gratitude for).  Shaun Sutkus’ body shook violently, as if he was possessed, guitarist Ray McAndrew couldn’t stop thrashing around even during the very few song breaks that the band allows, and bassist Greg Ambler seemed to be everywhere at once. At several points, being on the stage looked about as risky as being in the center of the audience. That potential danger seemed second nature to everyone between those four walls, though, as it was nearly impossible to find anyone in 7th St. Entry without a massive grin on their face.

Feeding into that relentless energy and making Perfect Pussy’s set even more memorable was the fact that it sounded incredible (seriously, major props to whoever was behind the soundboard, bands that loud and chaotic are not easy to mix- especially when the singer’s notorious for wanting to drown the vocals in swells of interference and pure feedback). Actually hearing Graves yell things like “Ain’t that a big drag?!” over the staggering wall of noise her bandmates conjure up around her was nearly as cathartic on its own as the presentation as a composite whole. There were times where it really was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Photographers staked out their ground early only to be swallowed up in the chaos surrounding them, beer was spilled on just about everyone, converts were made and the band was onstage, doing what they love, clearly having the time of their lives, unafraid to show their adoration for anyone in the audience reacting to something they created.

By the time Sutkus’ epilogue showcase had finally run itself into silence, McAndrew, Ambler, Koloski, and Graves had all exited the stage, visibly exhausted but still feeling the overwhelming excitement that comes with being at the center of a groundswell. They may have their detractors, they may also have the accompanying anxieties of being a band that’s incredibly visible so early on, and they may very well have escalating levels of doubt- but one thing’s for sure- they put on one hell of a show. All fingers crossed that this thing they’re at the center of lasts as long as it possibly can- and that they get every ounce of enjoyment out of it as humanly possible. They deserve it.

Photographs below.

 

 



 

Mutts and Buffalo Moon Release Music Videos, Get People Dancing

This week saw two of the Upper Midwest’s best fringe bands release music videos, both of which include dancing. First came Chicago, IL band Mutts’ DIY slacker-goofball video for “Pickpocket”, which was an incredibly welcome and lighthearted affair following their absolutely stunning music video for “Prizefighter”. Both “Pickpocket” and “Prizefighter” were taken from the band’s extraordinary career high-point, 2013’s Object Permanence.

After Mutts unleashed “Pickpocket” on the world, Minneapolis, MN band Buffalo Moon unveiled the impressive music video for the first single (and title track) from their upcoming Machista. Buffalo Moon have been relatively quiet since the release of 2011’s Selva Surreal, playing a handful of dates whenever (and wherever) they could manage. Like Mutts in their most recent acoustic form, Buffalo Moon have frequently flirted with the basement punk scene. While both are capable of delivering full-blown post-punk (look at Mutts’ first three full-lengths for proof and check either band out live), it’s always nice to have some variety. Both Buffalo Moon and Mutts are continuing to deliver in full. Watch the videos for “Pickpocket” and “Machista” below.