Pacific Pride, Weed Diamond, Green Typewriters
What it was like: Making the most of a menu of three or four chords.
The stark sounds of Pacific Pride's CD release show at the hi-dive on Friday seemed especially fitting this weekend. Following the sumptuousness and excess of the Thanksgiving holiday, all three bands offered fitting relief from the feeling of overindulgence, with sets marked by sparse chords, minimalistic instrumentation and straightforward lyrics. The simplicity worked for the headliners, as well as for supporting acts Weed Diamond and Green Typewriters. Each ensemble offered their own unique combination of bare elements -- Pacific Pride served up falsetto lyrics and finger-picked chunks of electric guitar chords; Weed Diamond doled out purposeful, hypnotic backbeats; and Blue Typewriters' set rode on the emotional power of Gioja Lacy's plaintive vocals. But even with these nuanced differences, a common theme was clear: None of the sets included any fancy frills or unnecessary ornamentation. Instead, it was direct and unapologetic club rock, distorted anthems characterized by simple structures and emotive delivery.
Weed Diamond kicked the night off and its blending of plodding beats, pained vocals and sonic experimentation helped set the tone for the rest of the evening. With no bass and two heavily distorted guitars bearing sharp, cutting tones, frontman Tim Perry and the rest of the band offered up a set that ranged from the basics of pop to the fringe of experimentation. Extended stretches of distorted-tinged instrumentation lacked any recognizable form or scheme, while other tunes, with their four-chord patterns, recalled the straightforward structures of vintage '60s pop. Overall, Weed Diamond's combination of pure noise and basic pop worked well, considering the setting and the supporting bands.
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Green Typewriters offered another take on the appeal of poppy simplicity. The duo of Gioja and Jared Lacy tackled a range of instruments, each alternating between keyboards, guitar, drums and electronic percussion. For all the range of instruments, however, the basic aesthetic of the band's set remained fairly constant. Gioja Lacy's pleading and determined vocals and simple keyboard lines found backing in Jared Lacy's straightforward rhythmic lines on the guitar or the drums. While Jared occasionally backed Gioja for the vocals on songs like "Losing My Mind," his real role came in supporting instrumentation, however simple. While the group showed some rough edges in its performance, a basic charm came through. Some minor issues with the mikes and some pre-recorded rhythm lines notwithstanding, Gioja conveyed an affecting amount of emotion in her earnest coos and her uncomplicated keyboard lines.
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As the headliners, Pacific Pride ramped up cues set by both of the opening acts. Fusing the pummeling cadences of lo-fi indie rock from the '70s and '80s with emotive falsetto straight from a vintage space rock disc, the group offered a rare blending of the frantic and the susceptible in one package. Drummer James Barone laid battering beats in 2/4 time as a canvass for Paul Garcia's finger-picked clusters of distorted guitar chords and flurried melodies.
As the group premiered tunes from its new, self-titled release, the guys managed to strike an odd and unlikely balance. Even in the context of the dizzying, rapid-fire beats and heavy spates of distorted solos, Garcia managed to evoke moments of subtlety and emotion in his vocals and his guitar playing. The simplicity of some of the songs helped to maintain this delicate balance. While the band favored some unorthodox chord phrasings spelled out high on the guitar necks, the basic song structures stuck to well-worn formulas.
Still, the subtlety was all in the voicing. Garcia and the rest of the band made familiar patterns seem novel with innovative forms and the sheer emotion contained in the delivery. Pacific Pride, like the two bands before it, made the most of a simplistic approach. Instead of wallowing in the confines of three chords, the players made the tight format seem expansive and expressive.
Personal Bias: My ear perked up when the drummers in both Pacific Pride and Weed Diamond opted for mallets in lieu of drum sticks. In both cases, the shift lent for a more grandiose and expansive sound.
Random Detail: The stage for Pacific Pride's set included old television set bearing the band's name, as well as random images and message. "2012" marked one of the screens.
By The Way: According to James Barone, Pacific Pride's name comes from a commercial fuel station, and not any loyalty to the west coast.