Opener Gnarwhal was quite the sight to behold. Burly Chappy Hull (later filling in for Pile’s Matt Becker) on guitar paired with a shirtless, pantless, hot-dog-brief-wearing Tyler Coburn on drums blasting crunchy math-rock out into the venue and street. These kinds of bands are always fun at Three Links. Especially for me, since I have a soft spot for guitar/drums math rock ever since I made my own mixed attempt at the setup with a friend in high school. Gnarwhal was everything you could want in math rock: tastefully complex, tight, and above all—loud. Not so loud as to keep a small kid from rocking out on her doodle board, making for an entertaining addition.
Their set was honed and intense, with the exception of a shift in momentum brought about by a broken string apparently exhausting the reserves of Hull’s stage banter (his words). Hell, Coburn wasn’t even focused on his drumming most of the time, instead scoping out the perfect spot on his ride to get his desired bell-hit tone. I missed the first opener Red Like Heat, who were reportedly very good, but that was ultimately fine by me since Gnarwhal got me thoroughly riled up for Pile.
Pile had been previously described to me as “the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll band” and I had been instructed to fight the professor if I disagreed. After seeing them live, I might just agree.
I hadn’t checked out much before the show aside from a handful of tracks off their new album A Hairshirt of Purpose, but they’re one of those bands that made me regret not diving deeper into them before seeing them.
They restyle their rock within the larger framework of catchy riffs and classic solos, but when further examined there is a satisfying complexity within. The album—and thus most of what they played—seems split into the far reaches of high-intensity drive or really bumming malaise. Rick Maguire’s vocals really shine on these numbers, as he can really drive the pathos of reacting to a shitty situation in these numbers through his almost growling but still melodic lower register. Through the lower energy section of songs, his voice and almost lack of enunciation blended together into a growling drone punctuated by changes in guitar melody. He seemed to spend all his energy on the performance, leaving little stage banter beside commenting on how much he had enjoyed the previous leg of the tour and thus Texas… right before launching into the enigmatic new track “Texas.”
The band wrapped their set up uneventfully, exiting the stage while people milled about. That is, until a very late guest wandered in, got bummed about the fact that they just stopped playing, and immediately shouted for more. The crowd got behind it, and Pile concluded their set with a couple of older tracks—”The Jones and Rock and Roll Forever with the Customer in Mind“—to the crowd’s great approval.