After reviewing and playing Stagnant Pools on Two Gregs One Podcast Episode 5 (as well as spinning a track on an episode of the weekly Punknews Podcast) I became quite curious to see these young brothers bring the rock live. Somehow the Bloomington duo got picked up by Polyvinyl without me having ever seen them. Odd. It was time to head two blocks to the Bishop Bar to rectify the situation!
Opener was locals Mike Adams at His Honest Weight. Townies and other fans of midwest rock know him from the long-running band Husband & Wife. Adams started this as a true “solo” project a year or so ago but has since expanded it to feature members of other Bloomington powerhouses Morrow and Alexander the Great, as well as a couple H&W members. While H&W is known for well-arranged and thoughtful indie rock–taking an almost Death Cab approach–Honest Weight go for more of a Weezer vibe. But it’s good Weezer, with a dash of Pedro the Lion. Donning polos, khakis and staff name badges for their company (i.e., the band), they started with a ballsy opener that was merely bass and snaps. It never exploded into full-on rock like I thought it would, but the strength of Adam’s vocal line was enough to make it great. Adams embraces his "I just swallowed Rivers Cuomo" dorky schtick, pulling off cheesy-fun frontman moves better than the now-elderly Rivers ever did. At one point, he pulled a comb from his pocket and cooly ran it through his dad mop. Nice. They brought it down once mid-set for a pretty ballad buoyed by reverby keys. That cut recalled his main band, but besides that and the opening tune, they kept it rockin’ with big chords and a heavy synth presence.
Stagnant Pools' Bryan and Doug Enas set up, after which Bryan let his guitar boomerang pedals make noise for a bit, a trick he employed often as between-song filler throughout the night. They performed their debut album Temporary Room (released last week) front-to-back and successfully recreated the hazy wall of guitar textures drenching the entirety of the album. Highlights included "Maze of Graves" and "Consistency," though on the latter it seemed he had to alter the chorus vocal line, not getting as low as on the album cut. Doug provided solid backing, though he did seem visibly winded pretty often. Luckily, mid album cut "Stun" brought things down to a simple beat with mallets and gave him a second wind. This song had more effect live than on record, where the drums are reduced to gentle thuds.
Despite being extremely loud, Stagnant Pools’ style tends to blend into the background on disc. Live this problem was mostly avoided, with songs like “Dead Sailor” seeming more rocking in it’s even-more-uptempo live setting, and “Frozen” seeming more dancey than on the album where the disco beat couldn’t cut through the guitars. The small but dedicated crowd remaining at the end of the night demanded more than the album provided, so they did an impromptu encore of a new tune that is yet to be titled. Go figure: it’s more fuzzy goodness, but still needs some fine tuning.
Overall, it was a fun night with a nice mix of pop rock and shoegaze, tied together with the baritone stylings of the two singers. I will be looking more into Mike Adams At His Honest Weight (possibly for a future Two Gregs) and will look forward to Stagnant Pools expanding their sound on their next releases.