Concert Reviews

Pierced Arrows at hi-dive, 4/21/12


As the last notes of "The Wait" ended, they blended into the Toody Cole's familiar bass pulse that introduced Pierced Arrows' epic, and much beloved, "Paranoia." Fred Cole tapped the Bigsby on his Guild Polara to modulate the feedback before heading into one of the band's most harrowing and exhilarating numbers. At the end, the Coles and drummer Kelly Halliburton came together in a series of crashes to end the show proper with a heady intensity.

But it's not like the band had any low points in its set. Beginning with "The Guns of Thunder," Pierced Arrows set the bar high with incredible energy and presence with songs that cannot be pigeonholed into any genre less broad than rock and roll. Toody's sinuous, driving bass seemed to set the pace. Halliburton displayed an adaptive, free flowing, frenetic-yet-expressive drumming that established a textural backdrop that never sat in the background.

Fred Cole's slashing chords, melodic underpinnings and a consistent yet seemingly constantly evolving set of progressions established a stripped down yet haunting aesthetic. For a rock band that has shed most adornment, Pierced Arrows has also created a completely unique sound in an era when that is a rare thing indeed.

"Caroline" and "Hills on Fire" featured Toody on lead vocals and her steely soulfulness as a singer was moving. Both she and Fred shook with the force of emotion that was part performance but mostly it felt like both were feeling the core of those emotions all over again with songs dealing with the a combination of the highest and lowest points in a person's life -- those moments of being overcome by intense love or being charged up out of the pits of desolation by the sheer force of desperate energy. The two came together especially powerfully on the stirring "This Is The Day."

After "Paranoia" ended, the crowd definitely wanted more and we got it. So Pierced Arrows treated us to two Dead Moon classics starting with "It's OK" and ending on a particularly raucous "54/40." Fred smiled because he knew they had put on an excellent show and because people definitely went off during the whole show even when the band struck a tender note in its seventeen-song set. The show started off with The Geniuses. While the guys had warned us about "a short set, and then GOOD bands" on its Facebook page, but perish the thought.

After all, this band included guys from bands like Boss 302 and Orangu-Tones. Rich Groskopf teased a bit of Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" but the music that came after was more like the kind of hybrid of garage rock, rockabilly and punk that you'd expect from a band with this pedigree.

Groskopf of course sang with his signature, deep, crooning warble but so did Garrett Brittenham in a clean and cutting tone. But Kurt Ohlen stood out strongly on a couple of songs with an authoritative and soulfully low tone. When the three worked together vocally on songs it really brought out their individual strengths in a way that you don't see much.

It was a bit amusing when Brittenham told us that "Don't Talk To Strangers" was written by "people who sing much better than us." Sure, it's the Beau Brummels, but The Geniuses far from butchered it.

Review continues on Page 2

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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