Speedy Ortiz/Lemuria/Ovlov - Live in Allston (Cover Artwork)

Speedy Ortiz / Lemuria / Ovlov

Live in Allston (2014)

live show

Krill have weird melodies, but they never seem weird-for-weirdness's-sake: they have a logic, and they draw the listener into it. Krill can groove too, ad on December 19, 2014 at the Great Scott in Allston, they were the only band to get people moving.
I'm a fan of Krill on record, but the live show was a revelation. They're a lot woolier, generating an amazing amount of noise for a trio, not least because of Jonah Furman's approach to bass playing, which incorporates chords and harmonics. His vocal dynamics knocked me out, too -- literally whisper-to-scream, but mostly in an uneasy upper register tone that put me in mind of Pere Ubu's David Thomas. He ground out "Infinite Power"'s closing repetitions of "if you want to feel like a failure" with almost as much scary intensity as Ian Curtis barking "I put my trust in you" at the end of Still's live version of "A Means to an End." The opener and the headliner are in a dead heat for best set of the night, as far as I'm concerned.

Next, Two-Inch Astronaut took the stage. I thought Two-inch Astronaut's crunchy tone, dissonant chords and sharp dynamics would remind me of the Jawbox/Burning Airlines axis of DC punk no matter what, but lead Astronaut Sam Rosenberg's voice sounded enough like J. Robbins that it was hard for me to hear other influences on their recorded output. Live, there was more cock-rock swagger than I expected. For instance, Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" got mentioned in the stage banter multiple times, and they even almost started to play it once.

Ovlov are one of those bands that borrow bits from multiple subgenres, but don't fit too neatly in any one of them. They're too fast for doom metal, too discordant for grunge, but more hook-oriented than anything you'd typically call noise rock. Live, one tune sounded maybe a little too much like Sonic Youth and/or J Mascis jamming on Nirvana's "In Bloom." During the set I found myself standing next to a couple of dudes who were even older than I am. They talk like jaded journo types and it's clear they were there for Speedy and didn't know the other bands. They seemed to think Ovlov was too loud, and they were surprised that the band sounded good. It is loud- I think it's actually this band that did the structural damage that would plague Lemuria's set. Also, It did sound good. But frontman Hartlett's self-conscious uber-slacker stage demeanor puts me off. At one point he asks us to all drink to "being worthless pieces of shit." Sorry, no.

Lemuria were the tipping-point band for getting me out to this gig, so it pained me to report that their mix suffered live, even though sound is pretty great for the rest of the night. Lemuria definitely had the lowest stage volume, which usually makes it easier to get a good sound, but the mix was mostly vocals and drums, with the guitar and bass only coming through when Alex laid off the cymbals for a few measures. The vocals were indistinct despite being upfront, which made the (excellent) lyrics hard to make out. Their set was also a bit shortened by tiles falling off the ceiling onto their merch table. Despite this, it was evident how tight and passionate they were, and their pop chops won over the old dudes. Not being able to hear the songs that well emphasizes how many of them have vocal parts structured like conversations: Sheena typically starts out, Alex responds, Max joins in, and a harmonious conclusion is reached.

If you read an interview or two with Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis, she'll probably mention that they like to write songs they won't get bored playing on tours. This manifests itself as songs where the last few notes don't predict the note coming next the way they usually do. Dupuis and Devin McKnight's guitar lines diverge and converge unpredictably and sometimes the songs have such a feeling of freewheeling improv that it seems like a minor miracle when the band stops on a dime. One of the reasons they might be a great band instead of just a very good one is that despite all this, the tunes are frequently catchy, even earwormy.

On the third night of their residency, they promised no repeats, but this show was when they can't quite live up to that. The crowd is treated to a few oddities -- including what Dupuis claimed is a Cardigans cover, although it sounded about as much like Napalm Death as like the Cardigans. Itwas definitely fun to hear Speedy Ortiz tackle songs they don't play often and claim they don't know well: no tentativeness, they jumped in full-throttle, and if someone played a wrong note, it was done with enough conviction to sound like the right one. But it was also hard not to notice that some of these tunes dipped into the same bag of tricks as their better known songs without being quite as strong. I don't think anyone was too disappointed when Speedy revisits couple of their standouts to close their set.

One thing seemed weird to me, though. I think Speedy Ortiz handpicked the bills for their residency, and most of these bands have shared labels, split releases, and guested on one another's albums. But there was much less of a sense of camaraderie on stage than I expected. No one was rude or anything, but it was more "Thanks to Speedy, and all the other bands" than, "Give it up one more time for Two Inch!" It winded up feeling a bit more like five separate sets than a cohesive event.