Summer Concert Series: Marriages and Creepoid
Nestled in the heart of Allston, Massachusetts is a little rock club/bar called Great Scott. Situated at the intersection of Harvard and Commonwealth Avenues, it is a tiny venue that attracts local color and the sort of acts who have enough recognition to put together a tour but not quite the support to fill out one of the slightly larger foundational venues of Boston like the Middle East downstairs or the Paradise Rock Club or the Sinclair. For less than a cost of a movie, you can spend a few hours basking in the glow of some excellent up and coming bands.
Such was the case last night, when Great Scott hosted Marriages, Creepoid and Sneeze. Sneeze is a local Boston band, sort of a post-grunge Nirvana-y melange played by people who look like they were born after Cobain died. The music is solid enough, just a tad unspectacular. It makes for a perfectly acceptable way to spend a half hour, though I’m not entirely sure I would go out of my way to seek them out on their own.
That sentiment does not apply to Philadelphia outfit Creepoid. The four piece band of drums, bass and two guitarists showed the polish of a group with multiple records and tours under their belt, and they made their presence known instantly. As the first crescendo of sound built from the speakers to the soaring chorus of their first song, a light illuminated the bass drum, with the words ARE YOU KIND in spraypainted stencil on the drumhead (there is a not-very-good picture of it at the top of this article). It was a simple, effective and ingenious piece of stage presence that served to punctuate the waves of distorted tremolo that ebbed and flowed like the tide. The vibe was steady and dreamlike, with elements of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, coming together with intertwined male and female vocals to inject some beauty into the dirge. Sometimes they would pull back into the sort of ballad you would hear played in the prom episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They end their 35 or so minute set with an extended noisy freakout, one that builds only to recede only to build again, crashing against the rocks like an overused wave metaphor. To say they impressed would be an understatement; this is the sort of performance that will make me pay attention moving forward, and they next time they find themselves in Boston, I will make sure I am there.
As an aside, I talked to the drummer, Pat, after their set to compliment him on the aesthetics of his illuminated bass drum head, as well as discussing his giant hi-hat cymbals (which, in fact, were just two 20” rides on a hi-hat stand) and hailing from the Philadelphia area. Super nice guy, cementing my decision to buy all of their records after the show.
I came to the show because of Marriages; they’re a band I discovered when they opened for black metal/shoegaze outfit Deafheaven at TT The Bear’s Place over in Cambridge (a club that, sadly, closed its doors a scant few days ago on July 25 after 40 years in operation) back in 2013. Sometimes I take a chance on checking out an opening band’s sound prior to the show, and in the case of Marriages (who had only released the six song EP Kitsune by then), I was quickly entranced by their sophisticated, layered approach to shoegazing post-rock, and their set that night did not disappoint. They took some time off as lead singer Emma Ruth Rundle released a solo record, the excellent Some Heavy Ocean, but came back with a vengeance earlier this year with the release of Salome, their first full length record. A more discrete album of songs than the 24 minutes of unbroken sound that was Kitsune, Salome still retains the ethereal charms of their earlier work while pushing Rundle’s vocals more to the front of the mix. It’s probably the best album I’ve heard this year, though to be fair I do not listen to as much new music as I probably should.
The three piece outfit opened with the first three songs from Kitsune before transitioning to the newer material via one of my personal favorites, the roiling “Southern Eye.” It’s impressive just how much sound they generate from Rundle’s vocals and guitar, Gregory Burns’ bass and keyboards and Andrew Clinco’s drums, but they fill the space with ease. The Kitsune medley comes off especially well here, and the new tracks from Salome transfer excellently to the live setting.
Unfortunately, things took a bit of a turn during “Skin,” the most high profile track from Salome. A gentleman right at the front of the stage was getting overzealous with his cell phone camera, to the point that he was shining a high power LED flash right in Rundle’s face from about two feet away. She was understandably distressed by this, but to her credit she continued to play the song, though she stepped away from the mic and played the majority of the song as an instrumental. There was a tension in the air for the last few songs (the title track from Salome and the closing number from Kitsune, “Part the Dark Again”). They were professional and played the songs well, but you could tell the whole situation affected them. I hope this experience doesn’t color their overall opinion of the Boston music scene, because everyone else in Great Scott who had an understanding of live music etiquette had a great time.
It’s a shame that cell phones have become as omnipresent at live shows as they have since the advent of Youtube and smartphones that can take 1080p video. I’ve never been one to use my phone all that often during gigs, and when I decided to take a picture of Creepoid’s drum set (I really dug it, if you couldn’t tell), I was mortified to find that I had accidentally had the flash settings on and immediately turned it off to take the picture without potentially blinding the performers on stage. There was a time when going to a live gig was all about being in the moment, the understanding that this was a singular event in time that could never be repeated or reproduced. No one seems to think of it that way anymore, talking loudly during quiet songs and watching the show through their tiny cell phone screens, blocking the view of those around them who just came to watch a band they like play music for an hour. It’s a double edged sword, as the trove of live performances available on Youtube can be a hell of a way to live vicariously through a band who might not have come by your neck of the woods, but the cost of doing business is too great to the people who spend their time and hard-earned money to go to the show in person, and especially the artists who devote their lives to the craft.
The good news is that one idiot did not manage to ruin the show, even though he sure tried his best to. Once Rundle asked him not to use his flash anymore after wrapping up “Skin,” the phone went away, never to come back. It was a small blip that marred an otherwise wonderful night of music in Allston. Two great bands, one I knew previously and one I had never heard of, plied their craft on the boards of Great Scott, and for a few hours they were all that mattered. That’s the beauty of live music.