(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Concert review: Peace with Team Spirit and Twin Peaks

3 June 2013 (Larimer Lounge, Denver CO)
After meeting the guys from Team Spirit at South By Southwest (read the interview) and catching two of their sets, I was excited to see them again. I wasn't familiar with Peace before the show, but I listened to a couple of songs online and liked the polished post-punk sound.

My only regret for the show was that the crowd was awfully sparse. They made up for it with enthusiasm, especially a couple of guys that drove up from Texas.

The first thing to keep straight is that there are at least two bands out there called Twin Peaks. The heavy pop version hails from Chicago. This show featured Denver's indie-rocking four-piece. They were a good fit for this show. Their embrace of noisy, classic rock drive and close-formation guitar riffs warmed up our ears for Team Spirit's twin guitar attack, while the heady new wave jams occasionally drifted towards an art rock feel, foreshadowing Peace's set.

027 TwinPeaks While quite good, their studio work doesn't begin to represent their live sound. On stage, the cathartic clash of guitars dominates the mix, showing some fairly heavy influences. Additionally, their drummer gets a freer range to explore some inspired syncopation. I was impressed with how fluidly they surfed between hard-hitting classic rock and trippier, layered wanderings.

Front man Addison Friesen conveys intensity and focus during the songs and a looser self-deprecation between songs. Actually, the whole band came across as fairly earnest without any affected naïveté.As the final song built to a peak, the whole band radiated a simple happiness. The band's stage presence was relatively static until the big ending; then, Friesen flopped onto his back in front of the drum kit, still wringing waves of noise from his guitar.

Team Spirit's EP and associated videos offer a good sense of the band's irreverent attitude and musical mindset, but can't quite encompass the wild exuberance of their live show. In constant motion, front man Ayad Al Adhamy would fall back from the mike, then hunch forward over his guitar. All of his movements were played large, as if he was on a grander stage. Every time I've seen the band, Al Adhamy has found one big gesture to serve as a climax, like crowd-surfing as while singing. At this show, he kicked some beers out of the way and came out into the audience as one lucky fan played human mic-stand.

The other three guys may have shown a little more restraint, but they were hardly wallflowers. Bass player Toby Pettigrew held to a Zen calm when he was just playing, but he confronted the mic during his backing vocals. Tightly coiled, he pounded out a staccato punch of notes. Guitarist Cosmo DiGuilio's casual confidence reminded me of Johnny Ramone as he swapped between ringing guitar riffs and a rapid-fire downstroke rhythm.

Team Spirit's songs are best described as pop-infused garage rock, played with an emphasis on classic rock era twinned guitars. Playing live, they amped up the songs with punk bravado and barely constrained thrash. They kept the crowd on edge as they whipsawed from rhythm shred to perfectly aligned guitar passages. Mike Addesso's drumming pushed the extremes, supporting the changes with his own shifts between flashy cymbal/tom work and syncopated phrasing that echoed the guitars.

Team Spirit continues to be one of my favorite bands to see live. I'm looking forward to watching the band grow into their potential, with longer set lists and bigger crowds to inspire them. The band is already working on extending their set list. They pulled out a couple of new tunes and talked about their recent recording sessions.

Birmingham band Peace has already garnered a ridiculous level of hype from the British press, with The Guardian suggesting that they're the future of Indie and gushing write-ups from NME. Trend-spotting press here, like Filter, have also climbed on board. The band's debut release, In Love, satisfied expectation without triggering a backlash, so they're on track to tackle the rest of the world with a club-level tour of the U.S.

As I mentioned, I had listened to a couple tracks before the show. "Wraith" reminded me a bit of the Arctic Monkeys' danceable indie rock with a funkier guitar riff. "1998", their cover of Binary Finary's trance classic, reinvented the robotic beat as a Pink Floyd space jam. The divide between these two songs suggested a diverse set. Peace delivered on that promise, with bandleader Harry Koisser giving many of the songs a psychedelic edge, his stereo guitar mix mutated with heady echoes and other effects. In contrast, the band's rhythm section anchored most the songs with a steady, driving beat.

Peace had a chameleon-like sound, appropriating bits of U2, the Cure, as well as The Stone Roses and a host of other retro Britpop bands. The set list meshed well, but kept the audience engaged with a shifting palette of styles. Their live version of "1998" emphasized the Pink Floyd "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" bassline and the processed sound of Koisser's guitar took on a keyboard role. Drummer Dominic Boyce was phenomenal, taking the beat into jazz experimentation with prog-style bombast. Rattling echoes, guitar ululation, and the enveloping throb of bass made this a peak moment in the show. The rumbling bass set up the transition to the next track, "Toxic", which had an early Radiohead sound.

After the thrashing playfulness of Team Spirit, Peace's stage presence did seem a bit mild mannered, but both bands found noisy islands of catharsis that made the Larimer Lounge feel like a full concert hall.

More photos on my Flickr.

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