How dark is too dark? Apparently the stage at the Croc was a touch too dim for Bronze Fawn to start their set, as Steve Becker called out for a little more light before they could begin. I’d think this band could play these songs in their sleep, as well rehearsed as they sounded onstage Tuesday night. Seriously, everyone needs to get behind Bronze Fawn; I truly think they’re one of Seattle’s best local acts right now. Opener “Buried For Millennia” began with a light shimmering of cymbals and a discrete guitar keen. Pure beauty. Singular echoey notes and plodding drum provided a nice buildup to the mini guitar wall that followed. The cathartic and tribal drumming by Jim Acquavella took center stage and all I could think was “This is the sound that heaven would make” (Unsurprisingly, I would write similar notes during the Mono show later this week). “Not Too Tropical” was more easygoing, with nice bass lines and good guitar presence. Great big sound therapeutically filled both my body and brain. Obviously the crowd loved the creative orchestrations, evidenced by big whooping appreciation at the close.
This was closely followed by “Lumber” a slightly sweeter, uplifting song filled with interesting segues and progressions. Standard grungy madness later broke down to an old-school jazzy Tortoise feel. “The Case of the Irish Elk” began heavy as shit, full of good fuzz. Sounds were oozing out of Bryce Shoemaker’s guitar like feelers on some freaked out, brightly colored alien insect (No, I wasn’t on drugs). A mid-score heavy onslaught broke back into an urgent guitar howl that held us all hostage in musical purgatory for a few moments until finally the band broke free and let us all have it, with a great speedy scream on guitar, bass charging, drums crashing like waves on rock. This music could erode stone. The final track in the (too) short set was “On the Eve of Falconry” which began with pastoral lines, therapeutic even when the drums broke open and guitar took over. Becker’s bass dominated on the midstream tempo switch with tick-tocky drums keeping pace. Finally the whole ensemble went a little crazy, a final blinder that brought on a nice crowd freakout with solid, old-school classic distortion. Then I stuck my hand in gum.
Blinking my way out of my hypnotic state, I noticed that the small Tuesday crowd had slightly embiggened for Polvo. That, and the fact that it was a total sausage fest. Seriously, there are some bands that appeal mostly to dudes, and I think Polvo is definitely one of those bands. After a lengthy setup, Polvo broke out “Colonial Arms”, a rare track with deep bass lines and heavy, yet spindly guitar. For as crunchy and squeal-y as it was, the overall song was quite polished and well-played, to huge audience appreciation. This was followed by Cor-Crane Secret‘s “Vibracobra” containing guitar work you could really sink your teeth into. Great vocals and punchy guitar, the whole song was really well-suited for the Crocodile’s atmosphere that night. The first song played off of the new album In Prism was “Right the Relation” and didn’t disappoint; Serious squall, post-grunge guitar stylings, that song really gets in your fillings. Polvo finished up with a nice outro with big ol’ drums. Over the buzz of the crowd, Ash Bowie thanked us for coming out on a Tuesday. I think Polvo fans would come out even if their grandmother was being buried that day.
Really, it’s as though Polvo has never stopped being Polvo, they’ve just all been in different places for the past 12 years. They seem as comfortable performing their new material as they do with the old, and the two generations of work seem to blend pretty well. The rest of the set was a mixture of both the old and new, songs like crowd favorite “Fast Canoe” with amazing instrumentation and a fantastic ending on drums and my own personal favorite, “Enemy Insects”. Hot damn that song was perfect, with anticipatory tension and absolute ear splitting psychosis. I felt fulfilled. This is the stuff that draws blood to my inner organs, people. Newer tracks included another couple that I like a lot, the very heavy and punchy “The Pedlar” and set closer “Beggars Bowl” in which fan boys began crowding past me to get a look at the pedal setup (DC Brick, MIXR, Microvibe, Heavy Drive). The whole band was completely engaged, yet super cool on “Beggars Bowl.” The entire song was simply amazing in it’s sheer and utter madness: Screaming guitar work as dirty as it gets, nice slides on bass, insane drumming and a simple breakdown to intense solitary guitar notes. Then all four band members just rocked the shit out of it. You could actually feel the music expanding and contracting. Actual headbanging was occurring in the audience. Seriously.
By the encore, the crowd and band alike both seemed exhausted. We were finished off with a couple of old, old, old tracks: “Every Holy Shroud” (in which Bowie kicked his Heavy Drive pedal across the stage to the entire band’s amusement) and finally “Bat Radar”. When it was all over, I got the set list from a kid who’d come down from Victoria BC just to see Polvo. As far as I’m concerned, that show was just for him.
For all you crazies, here’s the complete set list (as written) w. album titles:
1) Colonial Arms (Why Do You Think They Call It Pop? compilation, 1994)
2) Vibracobra (Cor-Crane Secret, 1992)
3) Right the Relation (In Prism, 2009)
4) Solitary Set (Celebrate The New Dark Age, 1994)
5) Fast Canoe (Exploded Drawing, 1996)
6) Title Track (This Eclipse EP, 1995)
7) *City Birds (In Prism)
8) The Pedlar (In Prism)
9) Enemy Insects (Shapes, 1997)
10) Beggar’s Bowl (In Prism)
*Everyone swears that “Feather of Forgiveness” was played, and the Canadian kid thought that it may have replaced “City Birds” in this set…
Encore not written:
Encore1) Every Holy Shroud (Celebrate The New Dark Age)
Encore2) Bat Radar (This Eclipse)