Shows, shows, shows.
Piedmonster, The Olive Tree; Dec. 29, 2005, 500 W. Marshall St.
This show was held at Olive Tree guitarist Wolfgang Daniel's house, in his basement. I know the Olive Tree practice there, but this was the first show I've heard about that happened there. It was a decent show space--though there isn't as much room for the crowd as there is at 9 North Boulevard, there was still plenty of room for everyone who attended to fit in and stand in a position where they could see the bands.
The Olive Tree played first, and were playing when I arrived, but I got there pretty early into their set, and I'm glad I did. This summer, the Olive Tree had a major lineup change when they replaced their original drummer, a guy named Scott, with Chris Lauderdale (also of the local hip-hop group Swordplay). Soon after, they added Kyle Pederson on second guitar, and wrote a whole new set of songs. The new stuff is far better than I remember their old material being; where before, the Olive Tree resembled nothing so much as Saetia, their new songs are far from their previous chaotic/screamo sound. Wolfgang has always been good at writing melodic, single-note parts on guitar, and Mike Cool's basslines are as inventive as ever, but Kyle's presence is instrumental in their new, improved sound. A lot of times, he just sticks to the root chord structures of the songs, but this has the effect of pulling the disparate elements of what Wolfgang and Mike are doing together, helping the songs cohere instead of seeming like a bunch of barely connected parts. Chris Lauderdale is also leaps and bounds beyond his predecessor; perhaps his hip-hop work has something to do with it, because it seems like he has an instinctive feel for the natural rhythms of the songs, something that Scott lacked. In fact, it was precisely this lack that used to be the Olive Tree's downfall. Now, with Kyle grounding the riffs and Chris adding a rhythmic backbone that was never there before, the strengths the Olive Tree always had as a band are emphasized, and their weak points to a great extent erased. Those who may have seen these guys before and not been impressed owe it to themselves to check them out with their new lineup. You won't be disappointed.
Piedmonster was the only other band on the bill. They were on tour, and sort of from North Carolina, but apparently these days some members of the band live as far away as Portland, Oregon, and as a result they're only able to be active during breaks from school. They didn't seem at all rusty or out-of-practice, though, and their music was quite enjoyable. Piedmonster feature five members, almost all of whom sing, and almost all of whom play more than one instrument. The drummer was the only member of the band who did the same thing on every song. There were two members, a guy and a girl, who mainly just sang (the girl would sometimes play tambourine or trumpet, but this was rare), a guy who switched between guitar and bass depending on the song, and another guy who played bass at times and keyboards at others, who sang more often than either of the members who mostly just sang. This seemed kind of weird to me, because I'm generally in favor of people justifying their presence in bands, which as far as I'm concerned isn't happening when the bass player is singing lead while two people who's only job is to sing are relegated to backup vocals. Whatever, though, if the arrangement works for them then I guess it's fine.
Piedmonster's music reminded me of a lot of that whole disco-punk thing that's going on right now in the scene, but where most of that stuff drives me crazy, I really liked them. The difference, for me, was that these were sincere, idealistic punk kids playing their songs on secondhand instruments while wearing goofy costumes and singing about issues from their daily lives. Most of the dance-punk stuff that's so big these days seems to me to be coming from a position of role-playing, where bands are trying to recreate elements of the postpunk early 80s scene through period clothes and kitschy lyrics full of empty cultural signifiers. This is a far cry from Piedmonster, who's most memorable song was one in which the girl singer took lead vocals and sang about figuring out that a supposed punk activist boy that she had a crush on was actually just as sexist as the typical mainstream fratboy. The song's lyrics revolved around the lyric "All along you were just a misogynist/I hope you fall off your bike and eat shit." It's the kind of experience that is all too common in the scene, one that we could all relate to having, or watching friends of ours go through, but it was presented in a manner that both told it like it was and kept it lighthearted--and of course, was set to really catchy music that you couldn't help but dance to. Indeed, everyone in the basement was dancing and smiling throughout Piedmonster's set; it was fun for all involved, even when the band's fog machine made things a bit too hazy. I'd go see them again anytime.
OK, just one today. Sorry. More later.