Thursday, June 17, 2010

Concert review: Pocahaunted, Quilt, Wallcreeper

Pocahaunted, Quilt, Wallcreeper
Tuesday June 8, 2010 at T.T. The Bear's Place (Boston, MA)
with Leigh

I had never been to T.T. The Bear's Place. In fact, despite telling most people I meet that I grew up “near Boston”, I had never been to a concert at a Boston rock club/bar. To be fair, I only tell people “near Boston” because most people from outside of New England don't know where Worcester is (let alone how to pronounce it) and I did go to an O.A.R. Concert in the city back in college. Regardless, I was glad to have an opportunity to see another city's indie rock scene, even if it was just a tiny slice and only for one show. I was also glad to see Pocahaunted in the paint-smeared-and-extravagantly-dressed flesh. I had purchased their LP Make It Real after hearing about them via up-and-coming band Best Coast (whose lead singer/guitarist used to be in Pocahaunted) and then checking out some tracks on (R.I.P.). It's become one of those albums that I put on when I just feel like sitting in my recliner and spacing out for a little while, which is good to do from time to time. There's something equally cliché and effective about lighting some soothing incense and listening to droning guitars and drums and chanting, or as one of their record labels, Not Not Fun, puts it: “a 40-minute-ish collage of basement body music, garage dub damage, outsider funkadelic sprawl, voodoo rhythm workouts, duo femme soul vocal dynamics, dripping gold sweat, and dream fulfillment.” I say one of their record labels, because their discography is massive, with a swath of CDs, cassettes, and LPs to their name under a variety of member lineups. If you're new to them, start with Make It Real and, if you like it, work backwards.

We arrived at TT The Bear's in Central Square around 9:30 after noshing down the street at Cambridge's River Gods restaurant, a great vegetarian/vegan friendly spot with a good beer selection, to boot. The first opener, Wallcreeper was wrapping up their set and we caught the end of one song and then one more. Between sets, I played the game “pick 3 bands that the opener sounds like/reminds me of so I can remember them later” (which I usually play in my head) with Leigh and she said Creed right away, and that pretty much killed the game. They didn't really sound too much like them, but the one singer's voice remind us of Creed's singer and I couldn't get that out of my head. Mostly, they had a gloomy, bass-heavy guitar rock sound with duo male vocalists. Nothing fancy or awe-inspiring but perfect local, show-opening fare.

The next act was Quilt, a local three-piece with a male guitarist, a female drummer, and a female who played a few instruments (guitar, banjo, and possibly keyboards but I can't remember). The guy kept his back to the audience for most of the set and did some slow head- and body-bobbing moves while he played. The drummer, with what seemed like a stripped-down drumkit, played with lots of bass drum and not much fancy fill but that was great and fit in nicely with the simply spacious and ethereal sound of the group at large. She also sang into a headset-style microphone, something I have never seen at a show; most singing drummers just stand their mics to the side and swing a long arm right in front of their face, but I guess this method frees up some elbow space or something. The third member played guitar most of the time and sang along with the drummer, and for the last two songs whipped out a banjo to add some extra twang to their melodies. Overall, it was a great style and I really enjoyed their songs: laidback psychedelic melodies with some twangy acoustic edges; soothing, atmospheric voices; and almost ritualistically rhythmic drum thumps. It's a mesmerizing whirl of basic, lo-fi sound and techniques that somehow sounds way ahead of its time, almost timeless. I bought a 7” from them after the show and am itching to listen to it (my vinyl player is back in Pittsburgh...). They were also selling homemade t-shirts, with quilted patterns sewn on to solid-colored tees. Check out their MySpace page and listen to the songs (I particularly like “Pick 'n Save”). That page also includes a funny list of what the acronym QUILT could possibly stand for; my favorite: Qdoba Understands I Love Tacos.

Pocahaunted was a perfect follower for Quilt: from the quiet, unassuming and simplistically beautiful to the loud, ornate and resplendently gorgeous. Their live show is much more than just music: between sets they spent many minutes draping all manner of cloth and shimmery material from the ceiling and overhead pipes (and electrical cords, I couldn't help noticing—eek!), sometimes by tieing a teddy bear to one end of a sheet and tossing him over a pipe to the other side. The band members themselves (at least the three females, anyway) were wearing shiny sequined shirts, colorful headbands, and smeared facepaint. Throughout the performance, the main female singer was bouncing around the left side of the stage, clapping and shouting and chanting into her microphone, and then telling Boston-related anecdotes to a small section of the audience between songs. Behind her was the male guitarist, who really played some great melodies and guitar lines that form the backbone of their songs, but I couldn't quite see him from our vantage point, and it seemed like he wanted to stay out of the spotlight anyway. The female keyboardist was on the right side, filling the melodic spectrum with vocals and keyboard riffs and sometimes abandoning her post to dance towards the middle of the stage and sing and clap. The female bassist was front and center the whole time, slamming some impressive bass riffs and genuinely making love to her microphone stand, with both body and voice. The male drummer was at the back of the stage keeping the whole operation moving forward, playing with great rhythm and cramming it with plenty of cymbals and other drum effects. The whole effect is quite literally entrancing. Some audience members were hop/dancing around in front of the stage, but I found myself just staring at the band and watching them create this all-encompassing sheet of sound, slipping into their sonic sea.

They ended their set somewhat abruptly, with a lot of guitar reverb, and the by-now-shirtless drummer walked offstage last. About half of the crowd dispersed, but the rest kept some heartfelt applause going for at least a whole minute. I saw the band members in the sidestage room glancing out and looking at each other and then deciding to walk back out for another song. The place had been pretty much empty when we got there at 9:30, and people filtered in one or two at a time the whole night until it was just about full by the end of the show proper, but now only half of that crowd was still there and they decided to go ahead with the encore anyway. Kudos to you, Pocahaunted! I whipped out my phone to take some video, thinking that I only had a little bit of battery left so I might as well put it to use; I ended up getting the whole 8 minute long finale song on video, which you can check out below! It's tough to see anything in the dark room, and the sound quality is pretty shitty, but you can hopefully get a good sense of the veritable wall-of-sound effect they create.

MySpace page
Live in Boston, winter 2009
"Christopher Walken" talks about their bassist

Short review, a photo, and two mp3s
Short bio from the Boston Phoenix
Another blurb from the Phoenix, with an mp3
Article from the Boston Globe about an underground show featuring the band

MySpace page with 2 live tracks and 2 album versions of songs from Make It Real
Live performance @ Synchronicity Place, Los Angeles (watch this one for sure, you can actually see all 5 band members at once with no obstructions; well, you can see their silhouettes)
Live song @ Les Voûtes in Paris on June 26th, 2009 (lots of dancing in this one!)
"Ashes is White" music video
Interview with former members Amanda Brown and Bethany Cosentino

Random fact of the day: the current Pocahaunted bassist is named Diva Dompe and her father is Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins!


  1. I was at this show, and yes, I was one of the dorks dancing near the stage. It was pretty awesome. Pocahaunted is a band I've wanted to see live since I started listening to them a few years ago, but they never, ever fucking came to the east coast. Sure, they'd embark on European tours, but in America they ALWAYS stayed between California and the midwest. Naturally, when I found out they were finally coming to Cambridge I ordered a ticket months in advance. They definitely didn't disappoint. One of the most energetic (and sexiest) bands I've had the pleasure of seeing live. I still kinda wish I had the opportunity to see Pocahaunted when it was just Amanda and Bethany, but the "Make it Real" material actually seems more suitable for a concert setting.

  2. Sweet! How did you find this blog tho? I should have joined the dancing throng but my girlfriend and I had staked out a nice spot behind the wall divide thingy that was perfect for viewing/leaning/holding drinks. Which reminds me: that was certainly the first time I'd had "Gloucester-made gin" (or at least gin advertised as such) and it was solid. And yeah "make it real" material was perfect for live shows. I have a link somewhere of bethany's pre-poca acoustic material on MySpace; will share when I rediscover.

  3. Found that link.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thanks for the link! Those songs are pretty adorable and should be included as bonus tracks on the next Best Coast album.

    Sorry it took me over a month to respond, I forgot I even commented on your review, haha. Anyway, I stumbled upon your blog while googling reviews of Pocahaunted shows (I'm borderline obsessed with them in case you couldn't tell). You seem to be the only person on the internet to write about their Cambridge gig, which is highly commendable.

  6. Yeah they have a nice innocent vibe to them, totally different but similar to her Besty Coasty stuff.

    You may or may not have seen this already:

    If not, sorry to be the bearer of bad news :-(

  7. Yeah, I saw that. It pretty much ruined my week, for realz. I mean, I know they haven't given up music altogether; they have a million solo/side projects going on. It's just, like... Amanda essentially reinvented Pocahaunted with "Make it Real." I'd have liked to see at least a few more albums that expanded on their new sound.

    Oh well. I guess I should be grateful that I got to see them live.