My First Show Review
PURLING HISS, w/ Teen Daad, The Sapwoods: 3/24/2014 @ The Mill (Iowa City, IA)
Good to be back at The Mill. The background music was solid all night. I need to remember my earplugs next time.
Right before The Sapwoods started their performance, I was recognized by David Suchan, their talented lead guitarist. So much for anonymity! David mentioned a new album the band’s just finishing up. His band recently went through some personnel changes and they’re now a quintet (he and rhythm guitarist / lead singer Justin Swafford have added a new bassist, drummer and keyboardist for their rhythm section).
The Sapwoods played the most varied set of the three bands and kept my attention throughout. I found myself enjoying most of their songs. The band utilized a good two-guitar attack for most the material. The one song they did mention the name of (“Lightning”) was a highlight: It starts off with a cool intro beat and sorta reminded me of a sped-up version of The Buzzcocks’ “Why Can’t I Touch It?”.
While most of their songs contained catchy verses and bridges, sometimes the choruses seemed weak. One song towards the end of the set seemed like a hodge-podge of “What’s Up?” (yes, the 4 Non-Blondes Song) for the verses, a bland chorus and a Television-esque guitar solo bridge…the parts just didn’t seem to mesh. The keyboardist playing acoustic guitar for the country-ish song worked really well, but I thought the lead guitar maybe should either sit out at times or come up with more variations to his part. The drummer is energetic and the bass player needs to give him attention.
Overall, I’m impressed by this group and am looking forward to hearing their new album when it’s released.
Teen Daad played next. Before coming to the show, I checked out a video for their song, “Have a Bite” (great moment in the video at the 57 second mark…Nutella in the beard!). The band is a trio (guitar/bass/drums) and they have a new EP available for free download. Their bass player is tall.
The first song sounded like the guitar was a little out-of-tune, and I wondered if it might’ve been tuned prior to slapping the capo on. The first couple songs (“Safe” and “Boy Voices”) also sounded pretty similar, both using the same chord progressions (the tonic falling to the submediant, if my notes are correct), so they may want to space those songs apart more for future setlists.
Aside from this and the Harlem cover, the rest of their set was pretty enjoyable: A good and appropriately-timed (under two minutes) non-distorted / non-screaming punk song (sort of a Cloud Nothings thing going on here?), a nice pop song, a ballad called “Jane” (I bet the lyrics are interesting) and the bendy-chord closer (it reminded me a bit of something Clap Your Hands Say Yeah might’ve done).
The guitarist had attitude and good banter on his side. When his guitar and amp started producing feedback after the end of their set, he eventually stopped it, then turned to the audience and coolly said, “Gotcha”. Overall, I enjoyed this group. I think they’re pretty new still and I hope they keep going.
Purling Hiss was the headliner (trio consisting of guitar/bass/drums). I believe they’re from the Philadelphia area. The guitarist was playing through some powerful old Ampeg amp and four 12″ speakers. This is the band I really wished I had my earplugs for!
The guitarist knew some great riffs and occasionally broke out the distorted wah. The music quickly reminded me of Dinosaur Jr. The guitarist wore flannel, the bassist wore a denim jacket. This was the only band of the night where I saw the bassist interact with / turn towards the drummer…they were a solid rhythm section. This is also the only time I can remember a drummer not having a floor tom (if any drum is missing, it’s usually a rack tom), but it didn’t seem to hurt the songs.
While all of these guys are excellent musicians, I did notice some weak song structures under the surface (three of their six songs utilized either tonic to subdominant progressions, or vice versa). One of the songs towards the end of the set also had the drummer not using his snare while the guitarist continued to loudly play solos through the sections…while it was a unique technique, I’m not sure it worked.
Anyway, the band makes one heck of a racket reminiscent of the sludgiest grunge bands of the ’80s and ’90s. It looks like they have an album out on the Drag City label.