Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pelican -- opening for Thrice and Circa Survive [Worcester Palladium, 5/10/2008]

I go to a lot of weird lengths to see shows. I've flown to Germany to go to festivals, driven the 93 corridor at rush hour to see local bands in a jumped-up practice space practically in Rhode Island, braved rain, snow, and cratered roadways, parked illegally, nearly got frostbite walking around in a kutte in the dead of winter, suffered joint injuries attempting to get pits going and smoke inhalation from just standing in the wrong place, dumped, in aggregate, hundreds if not thousands on merch, and more still on camping and festivalgoing equipment that was just unusable by the end. I've put up with crummy venues, incompetent soundment, larcenous beer prices, and the occasional band flakeout; many others certainly do and give and accomodate as much and a lot more, but I am not some part-time rager who sees only their favorite bands in their most choice environments -- and as such it should carry at least a little weight when I say that this was just about the most onerous experience I've had to go through for a band -- thankfully, Pelican delivered an awesome set that made it absolutely worthwhile.

The odd form of the title should indicate that this was not a normal show; instead of headlining, as they did when I saw them at the Middle East back in July, Pelican on this round was playing support to Thrice's tour, which saw them kind of oddly fit to the bill. When I expressed back then that I'd rather see them playing a bigger venue, this was not really what I had in mind: a limited set time and an indie-rock audience. Nevertheless, I bundled myself out to Worcester for this gig, because Pelican, live, is cheap at any price, and not having heard anything from the other bands, there was at least the chance that they wouldn't be terrible.

I rolled up to the venue just before doors, and was kind of dumbfounded to see a lineup stretching nearly as far down as it had at Metalfest (on Friday). Apparently the headliners were kind of big, which would be good for Pelican in that they'll get their material into more ears -- even if it's bad for me in that I won't be able to get right up to the front, because the crowd was to all appearances overwhelmingly underage, so they'd be camping the rail instead of hanging around in the bar. This did turn out to be exactly the case, but despite the lineup I was able to get rail even after picking up a shirt and some CDs (Lair of the Minotaur and Tusk, I already own Pelican's entire catalog). What followed was a stressful 45 minutes as I stood and waited and managed to avoid killing anyone in the surrounding crowd.

Hopefully, I merely had the bad fortune to be stuck in with several of the few annoying people in the audience; if this is not the case, I foresee doom for both people who actually like the headliners and for any future efforts to ameliorate my scene xenophobia. This was far from a metal crowd, and while it was interesting to observe how normal people react to a show, I'd much rather have been standing around with fewer children and gits. In this case, though, the burden was to be bourne, thanks to the payoff coming.

Pelican [7/7]
At the gong, Pelican came out swinging; the crunch of their opener immediately suggested Mastodon, and while they amply displayed their melodic chops over the course of the set, they also hit with power throughout, delivering a dominating sound despite a few hiccups from the PA. Too often metal is criticized for lacking subtlety, but what Pelican demonstrated in this set was that there is another side to the coin: that subtlety and artistry are given contrast and shading when they can be delivered alongside and blended with pure volume and visceral punch. The set was fairly short, covering two songs each from City of Echoes and ...Fire In Our Throats..., but as expected, impeccably delivered and drawing a fairly good crowd reaction. Having seen them in this building on this kind of bill, I've seen the error of my ways: next time, it's in Boston, headlining, or nothing; in several places the downstairs of the Middle East would have literally detonated, but the crowd here did nothing, starting not even the barest hint of a pit. I should have kicked things off instead of complaining, of course, but I was without my knee brace, and it's difficult to say whether I could have accomplished anything, even with all working joints, other than getting ejected.

Following their set, I went back up top and picked up the Pink Mammoth EP -- vinyl records down front are a wasted investment -- then found a wall to lean against waiting for the next band to go on. Despite my suspicions that the rest of this bill was going to be crummy -- or at least not to my taste -- I was determined to give them a shot to prove me wrong. If Circa Survive was any good, I'd stick around, then give Thrice the same shot.

Unfortunately, no, Circa Survive were not any good. They do some good works, but their music utterly failed to make any kind of positive impression; it brought me back to the basement of the radio station, exploring random indie rock at dumb o'clock in the morning while some Anthrax or Bathory side was spinning on the air, and the same wonderment that people can listen to this stuff and actually get into it. The world is full of all kinds of people, I guess, but this hall was presently full of one less metalhead, as I hit the doors to get back home at a more reasonable hour and to burden myself with less time spent listening to music I don't like. In the end, this was a good show; I got good music from Pelican, and I got home early. Sure, it could have been better, and it sucks that I had to miss Cinco de Dudo to go to it, but I'm happy with my decision.

No comments: