Teenage Bottlerocket/PEARS - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Teenage Bottlerocket / PEARS

Live in Grand Rapids (2015)

live show

The Lippies opened the show on September 30th at The Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids. There was a pretty good crowd for a Wednesday night, and it was obvious that a lot of people were there to see the local favorites. In a little more than a year, the band has released an EP and a 7 inch, and built a pretty significant following. Singer Tonia Broucek had injured herself at a show the week before, and her mobility was limited by a plastic leg brace. (She sort of had to drag it behind her like a pirate with a wooden leg.) Fortunately, her voice suffered no ill effects. The band tore through five of the six songs from their debut EP as well as a couple of new ones. (Is it too much to hope for a Lippies LP this year?) Broucek stood in place with her hands by her side as she belted out  punk rock songs with a feminist bent. Her light-hearted between song banter was in stark contrast to her intense vocal delivery. The band seamlessly transitioned between the poppy and upbeat (“302”, “Take a Ride in My Hot Air Balloon”) and the more angry and vitriolic (“Beat it into Me”, “Sidewalk Talk”). Broucek also played a couple of solo songs, accompanying herself on the ukulele. It may seem like an odd contrast, but it works well to keep things interesting. The Lippies closed their half hour set with “Thelma and Louise”. Broucek performed the first verse alone before the rest of the guys came crashing in. While Broucek is the main focus, there’s no doubt that this band is a group effort. (Sorry the other three are mostly ignored.) I’m sure the GR quartet made converts of most of the people seeing them for the first time. You should definitely check out The Lippies.

Next up was PEARS, the New Orleans band that I’ve been hearing so many good things about. They have also only been around for a little more than a year, and this was my first time seeing them. I must admit, it was pretty intense. PEARS’ sound mixes pop-punk, hardcore and metal into a strange brew. The music can go from brutally fast with screamed vocals to poppy with sugary two part harmonies in the blink of an eye. The band is led by lead vocalist Zach Quinn and guitarist/backing vocalist Brian Pretus. The shirtless Quinn jumps around like he’s doing some kind of a brain-damaged karate routine. Between songs he hunches down in the center of the stage like an animal waiting to pounce, while Pretus talks (mumbles) to the audience. At one point, Quinn was moving through the crowd in a crouched position like an orangutan looking for a friend. (He might even remind you a bit of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.) The only song PEARS played that I knew was the Ramones’ classic “Judy is a Punk”. Their version managed to be both more melodic and more metallic than the original. While PEARS’ 30 minute set was certainly entertaining, I wasn’t sure what to make of their music. I picked up their 2014 LP Go to Prison at the show, and look forward to giving it a few spins.

Teenage Bottlerocket closed out the night with a rock solid 65 minute set of Ramones inspired punk rock. While I’ve always preferred Kody Templeman’s voice, Ray Carlisle is definitely the more charismatic of the two talented front men. He handled the crowd interaction and between song trash talking. It didn't even seem to bother him when people kept yelling Lillingtons' song titles at him. The two traded back and forth on lead vocal duties as they ripped through an impressive list of songs spanning all six of their LP’s. “They Call Me Steve”, “I Wanna Die” and “TV Set” from their 2015 album Tales From Wyoming easily blended with their older material. The audience danced happily while bassist Miguel Chen and drummer Brandon Carlisle kept their heads down and pounded away. Teenage Bottlerocket also displayed their jukebox like ability to mimic other bands. They played parts of Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, Rush’s “Spirit of Radio” and Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn”. They thrashed through an entire verse of the Metallica classic “Whiplash” before playing their own “Headbanger”. They also played the intro to Metallica’s “One” before announcing that they had one song left. Overall, it was a great show (the guys fromTBR even mentioned how cool the vibe was).It was a fun performance, and an excellent way to finish an otherwise uneventful hump day. All of the bands were great, and a good time was had by all. What more could you ask for?