MIRACLE FORTRESS, DAS RAD, SOUPCANS AND ALDEN PENNER as part of LONG WINTER at the Great Hall, Friday, January 9. Rating: NNNN
The days of the sprawling band collective seem to be over, if the January edition of Long Winter is any indication. Three members or less, it seems, and the more screaming feedback the better.
But first, three-piece Alden Penner delivered a waning and waxing set of jangle-pop low on the distortion spectrum. Penner, formerly of the Unicorns, employs a bright, clean guitar sound and fingerpicks deftly all over his fretboard while bass and drums join in intermittently. A rhythmic focus keeps things interesting, Penner’s voice is a bit ho-hum but never detracts, and songs are intricately crafted and delivered breezily.
The kids wanted to mosh, though, so mosh they did, whether the soundtrack was appropriate or not. It was appropriate downstairs at Blk Box, where Soupcans gave it their all. On record, their roiling noise punk takes on a nihilistic, menacing edge, but live, there’s a lot more light-heartedness, mostly due to singer Dave Evans’s twisted facial expressions, herky-jerky yelping weirdness and amicable banter.
Evans doesn’t use a pick, instead rapidly splaying and twisting his fingers all over his guitar strings to much squealing, bending and chaotic effect. And yet you never get the sense things are overly improvised or about to go off the rails. Thick fuzz bass adds Sabbath doom, and the songs, especially two brand-new ones, are to the point and hard-hitting. The three-piece never lost the large crowd's attention for even a second.
Das Rad, in the Conversation Room, where art installations and light projections dotted the walls and ceiling, gave off an elderstatespeople vibe, their sound piercingly loud and massive but also confidently controlled. Or maybe that’s just how they appeared in contrast to a room full of the loopiest teens on the planet, who swung between altered states of interpretive dancing, making out and violent body slamming.
The three-piece’s shoegaze-psych-rock has sultry sex appeal. It’s calm yet thunderous, surging noisily and ecstatically, and bringing to mind My Bloody Valentine as much as Hawkwind. Singer/guitarist Ireek Sofakia’s soft vocals added an enticing gauze of haze, and bassist/singer Allyn Norris crowd-surfed on his back at regular intervals.
Back in the main hall, Miracle Fortress’s Graham Van Pelt played mild and melodic electronic pop, aided by precise drumming and Van Pelt’s plaintive vocals. We’ve been waiting for a follow-up to 2011’s Was I The Wave for some time, and Van Pelt held us over in the fall with gentle single Let Me Be The 1 and the formation of the instrumental dance project Inside Touch. Unflashy and mild-mannered, the set delivered lots of melodic punch, and gave the crowd a reprieve from mosh pits.