Pelican, Clouds, Your Black Star August 19, 2007 Marquis Theater
Better Than: The spiciest hot wings you ever ate.
First to the stage was Louisville’s Your Black Star, a power trio that seemed to have an instrumental thing going at first, but a promising lead on some psychedelic and noisy prog rock soon turned to a short set of alt-rock confusion. The other opener, the Boston quartet Clouds, made things quite a bit more interesting. Clouds mixes thrash, punk, and classic rock into an unpredictable, throwback style that takes you on a condensed history lesson of underground heavy rock and milks something new from that synthesis.
For their headlining set, Pelican opened with the first two tracks off its new album, City of Echoes, “Bliss in Concrete” and “City of Echoes.” The post-metal, post-rock instrumental four-piece sticks to a formula that works, generally sticking to the framework of album they're touring to support. After all, why mess around; the explosive Chicago outfit makes albums meant to flow in a particular direction so sticking to the blueprint for its live show only makes sense.
It wasn’t until four songs into the set that Pelican really lit a fire under the crowd’s ass. The second after guitarist Trevor de Brauw introduced “Lost in the Headlights,” things erupted, as that combustible, thick wall of sound Pelican can so gracefully craft cast an atmospheric spell on the crowd. Suddenly, things got as perfect at a show as they could, producing one of those moments where audience and band get psychically in tune via the raw intensity you hope for every time you see a band play live.
And by the time the twisty riffs lead into “Dead Between the Walls,” the heaviest, most-thoroughly tuned-down track to grace City of Echoes, the tension in the room was palpable. Halfway into the five-plus frenetic minutes the song lasts, you could see a sea of people stuck thrusting their necks back and forth to the magical sludge rock that was unearthed.
This dream-like perfection came and went however: not every song can split your head open and leave you with a smile. But encoring with a new version of “Pink Mammoth,” a re-working from the band’s 2003 self-titled debut, Pelican was certain not to leave anybody complaining about a lack of furiously heavy stuff. In fact, the ear-splitting thunder Pelican doled out in generous portions taught me a lesson I hadn’t received in many years — wear earplugs. Then again, what’s a little ringing in the ears for being able to feel the music deep in your throat? It’s a fair trade. – Mike Thomas
Personal Bias: I'm an absolute sucker for instrumental rock/metal, and Pelican is one of the first bands to turn me on to what has become my new favorite genre of music.
Random Detail: In the middle of their set, Clouds launched into a full-on dub-metal interlude with enough insane thrash and reverb to make Ted Nugent squint.
By the Way: Some of the other notable instrumental bands doing it right right now are: Explosions in the Sky, 65DaysofStatic, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes.