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Although I’ve lived close to it for almost 6 years, this was my first visit to the venerable University of Pennsylvania frat house and venue that has hosted a wide array of bands over the years including The Walkmen, Vivian Girls and many others (their annual “Human BBQ” next month will features Screaming Females). The shows are held in the basement and the place is falling apart and completely covered in graffiti and artwork of all sorts from floor to ceiling. Fortunately, for such a dilapidated-looking venue, it managed to sound good in there as BELLS≥ (who played through their own gear as there was no sound system), the fantastic instrumental post-rock band (led by former Jawbox drummer Zach Barocas) who were just here last November opening for Office of Future Plans (the new band of J Robbins, also formerly of Jawbox) at Kung Fu Necktie, sounded fantastic in there. Their performance was just as powerful as last November’s, though this time it was expected, so the element of surprise wasn’t as strong. Still, it’s hard to find anything negative to say when consistently great performances are a given.
The band that played before BELLS≥ was a 2-piece from Massachussetts called Travels. Very much in the mold of lo-fi indie-pop two pieces of the early to mid ’90s and thankfully much quieter than the previous band (see below), they brought to mind The Spinanes as well as much of the early K catalog. Appropriately, one of the songs they played was a cover of Daniel Johnston‘s “The Sun Shines Down on Me” (the A-side of their new 7”). I enjoyed them as well.
I can’t say the same for the first band, which was HIRS. Another duo, this one was way more aggressive than any of the other acts on the bill. Featuring a wall of noise (all triggered by samplers and computers) louder than most grindcore bands and a completely unintelligible (literally; one couldn’t hear a single word he uttered) singer, it was disorienting, but left me wondering what the point was. The band I’ve seen before that they remind me most of was Health, but they were way more extreme. This may appeal to some reading this, but frankly it wasn’t my cup of tea. The best thing I can say about it is that it was mercifully short.
It should be noted that Trophy Wife played after BELLS≥ and also played with them the previous night in Morgantown, WV. We left before their set, so therefore I can’t review them here.
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