New Hampshire trio Comma were tapped to open this solid pairing of Sargent House math-rock acts Tera Melos and This Town Needs Guns. No offense to the guys, but it seemed like a bit of a coup—the band fit in fine, with some finger-tapping and time signature-changing tendencies, and the music was occasionally cool, but flat, indistinct vocals and largely innocuous musical ideas made the set relatively uninteresting. Their initial momentum was stalled by a broken bass string, so that probably didn't help matters.
I was fortunate enough to see TTNG (then-still "properly" referred to as This Town Needs Guns) tour the U.S. on their last album, Animals, when they still had original vocalist Stuart Smith. One of the draws to that era of the band was that in spite of how technical and clinical the band seemed to approach their song and style, Smith could still sound desperate, heartbroken and/or totally forlorn at certain times. Replacement Henry Tremain just doesn't deliver that same sort of grippingly sad emotion; but that's not to say he's a bad singer. Not at all, really. He's great, and it just transforms TTNG into a band with far more playfulness and easygoing mannerisms. While I do miss Smith's anguish, Tremain fronts this iteration of the band with a modest confidence and affable demeanor. (He also occasionally rocked the six-string bass during this set, adding another complex layer to the band's already frenetic sound.) If anyone was bitter or had reservations about this lineup of the band, they weren't vocal about it, as the crowd was basically in TTNG's collective palm for all 43 minutes while the band navigated through a set comprised of four of the first five tracks from their latest record, 126.96.36.199.0, one from the preceding 7" single, and two from the beloved Animals. It was a very no-bullshit set, with playful exchanges between the band and audience here and there. They announced "Havoc in the Forum" as their final song, but seemed to be informed by the venue that they had time for another not long after they finished it. So they played "Baboon" as well, much to the delight of a very warm and receptive crowd. They also mentioned they had another U.S. tour already in the works for later this year.
Set list (9:49-10:32):
Adventure, Stamina & Anger
I'll Take the Minute Snake
Havoc in the Forum
It was tight competition for Tera Melos as a result. A decent number of people left the venue after TTNG, but it didn't seem like a total rock-block: TM ripped through 70 minutes of caustic, noisy, mathy rock, stopping at midnight on the dot. While their new album, X'ed Out, seems to dial down a ton of their chaos in favor of laid-back, Dinosaur Jr.-style indie/alt-rock jams (the few I've heard from it, anyway), their set here blistered with the sort of experimental fervor they've otherwise made their name on, drawing out noise and feedback and pseudo-proggy noodling at given opportunities. And also, they still love The Simpsons, with parodic mock-ups of characters from the show in their artwork and merch designs. They even had a Bart Simpson doll on stage with "X"'ed-out eyes (as well as a stuffed man with a hot dog for a head and Freddy Krueger body). They seemed like good ol' regular dudes but with borderline-obsessive cultural interests and quirky habits (like their bassist sticking a sweaty pick to his forehead during "Trident Tail"). Other songs played included "Tropic Lame", "Slimed," "The Skin Surf" (which fake-closed the set, igniting the first real push-pit of the night, as well as some stage dives) and a 15-minute-long, single-instrumental-song encore which was self-explanatorily ridiculous, and also involved vocalist/guitarist Nick Reinhart throwing hot dog man on his shoulders to join the party. At times exhaustingly abrasive and challenging, but ultimately fairly rewarding. It was a nice game of threes for a weeknight.