The avant-garage punk legends Pere Ubu came to the West Village’s deluxe basement venue (Le) Poisson Rouge before embarking on a short tour of Italy later this year. It was a rare chance to catch this essential and archetypal experimental rock band that has always been sorely overlooked commercially but often revered by a very serious group of fans and fellow musicians that zealously adore this intensely creative outfit. This is a band that was at the forefront of the abstract absurdist wing of the emerging punk scene of the mid 70’s, growing up through the Cleveland, Ohio rock scene just ahead of many of their contemporaries like Talking Heads, Television, The Feelies, and The Fall. Despite their lack of commercial notoriety, this is the sort of band that could (and did) pack in a huge crowd of devoted fans into a big basement venue like this, and the anticipation of what was to come was seriously palpable.
Opening the show was a couple of my very favorite local Brooklyn bands, both of whom are known for high-octane performances, booming-volumes, and extremely animated performances. First up was A Deer A Horse, the menacingly thumping power trio of dueling frontwomen guitarist Rebecca Satellite and bassist Angela Phillips as well as drummer Dylan Teggart. They have a thunderous sound that echoes of metal grinding, while often ripping the rough sonic veil with raw crashing power like punk pioneers of the 70’s & 80’s, as well as constructing an interplay of extremely complex, progressive rhythms. They recently released a new single “Cold Shoulder” off an upcoming album, and it shows more than ever that this is not a band to be ignored or underestimated. Also, they will be releasing another single “Double Wide” from Custom Made Music in time for their Fall tour, and it already sounds as fierce as all hell.
Next was riotous ruckus rockers Stuyedeyed, who lifted the show off with an adrenaline needle pounded straight into the heart. Lead singer Nelson Hernandez-Espinal is the perfect wild rock frontman, as he bounds and jumps around the stage with wild abandon, as well as proving a very charismatic and humorous personality who bonds quickly with an audience. The band’s high-voltage performance is batshit crazy fun while still giving you lots of seriously vigorous grooves and some serious subject matter as well to grab onto as it carries you away at light speed. There are elements of psych, rockabilly, space punk, Latino music, and classic rock that they meld together at molten hot temperatures with volcanic effect. They also have some new material to share on the horizon, and I can’t wait to soak it in.
From their very beginnings, Pere Ubu were known for a stream of consciousness lyricism and music made of strange readymade-type found-around sound effects and erratic and bizarre beats, but even though they did move into somewhat more groove-based sounds in the 80’s, commercial success always seemed to evade them. They have also gone through a number of breakups, often reemerging after a number of years with more and more new members to add new zests of life to their musical misfit chemistry. By this point, the only original member of the Pere Ubu is, of course, the lead singer and lead weirdo David Thomas, but this show also featured a surprise return of bassist Tony Maimone, who was in the band from the mid-70’s all the way up through the early 90’s, and who is also Brooklyn music scene staple who has also worked with the likes of Bob Mould, Frank Black, The Mekons, They Might Be Giants, and Jon Langford to name a few, and will be replacing his 90’s replacement Michele Temple, who was formerly the longest serving member of the band, and was still on hand this night, but will apparently be unable to out on this upcoming tour. Also on hand was synth man, theremin player, and generally crazy sound guy Robert Wheeler and drummer Steve Mehlman, both of whom who have been in the ranks since the mid 90’s.
The show featured lots of bizarre and hilarious banter by Thomas, who is a man who clearly has an infinite number of crazy stories to tell. The set featured lots off their album from last year, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo album, but also spilled in some other serious deep cuts into their extensive catalogue. The ending of the show was an intense crescendo, as their “non-encore” (as they never really left the stage, but instead plowed through to avoid the LPR’s tough curfew, as it switches over to a dance club at night), where they played a cover of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” the crashing track “Sonic Reducer” from Thomas’ earlier band Rocket From the Tombs, a song that has been covered by everybody in rock it seems, but especially made popular by Pearl Jam, and then (either as a tribute or a rebuke of that cover) they cranked out a smidgen of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before blowing into the arty dissonance of their classic “Final Solution.” It was an amazing show, and anyone who likes truly artistic rock should catch David Thomas and his fellow architects of anarchy for an awestriking good time.
Article: Dean Keim