Wednesday, April 9, 2014

High Desert: Speedy Ortiz live

30 MARCH, 2014
Preamble: In the '90's...(echo...echo...echo...), when all were fawning on the latest sounds to come out of Seattle, it seemed like every third record I was buying came from the great state of Massachusetts. Not a surprise to me now to see, in the midst of a yearning for that decade, that Mass. is once again putting itself on the map, courtesy of, among others, Potty Mouth, California X, and our current subject: Speedy Ortiz. Hooking up with famed Fort Apache denizen Paul Q. Kolderie, the Pioneer Valley quartet has already amassed a tidy ouvre that pastes elliptical lyrics over a loud, brash, angular guitar attack.
Speedy Ortiz took a detour into the desert on the West Coast swing of a tour opening up for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, appearing at Pappy and Harriet's Roadhouse in Pioneertown, on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park. With a fiery 13 song set that covering their growing catalog, the band more than made their point. While served up at a shattering volume, the off-kilter structures kept one engaged, waiting for the next left turn, and besides the innate hooks, the key was rhythm section Darl Ferm and Mike Falcone. In an era of bludgeon, they actually swing, providing a deep and elastic bed for dueling guitarists Sadie Dupuis and Matt Robidoux. As the lyricist and focal point, Dupuis carries herself comfortably, providing quite the role model for her students trapped back on the East Coast. Throughout the set, all the North East references, from the Vermont setting of "Everything's Bigger" to the UConn hoops shout out left one feeling a bit homesick.
Opening with dual salvos from their latest EP, Real Hair, "American Horror" felt especially intimate in the low ceilinged roadhouse, but was merely the setup for the gut-punch of "Everything's Bigger", a regional allegory given, (for them), an almost classic rock treatment. Last year's single "Hexxy" was followed by a pair from their Sports EP, "Basketball" and "Curling". "No Below" was as close to a ballad as we were going to get, and the highest testimony is that any song that can induce cold chills in a small space packed with bodies is well worth noting. Proceedings moved to overdrive, as the band ran through the guts of their  recent full-length, Major Arcana, running "Caspar, 1995" into a full-throttle "Tiger Tank", (or "Tiger Tinkle", depending on whom you would ask...), giving way to the sonic detonation known as "Mark VI", which, in the closing melee, found Robidoux jamming the mic stand between the wires of his instrument, then waving his new Frankenstein contraption around for bonus feedback. The scary part is this is a band only beginning to hit its stride, already brimming with confidence, and ready to take on the world on their terms.

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