Live review: Peter Wolf Crier, Retribution Gospel Choir @ the Hi-DiveBy Colin St. John | January 11th, 2011 | No Comments »
Two Minnesota bands provided for a sharp contrast at the Hi-Dive on a snowy Monday night. The headliner, Peter Wolf Crier, played songs from its debut, “Inter-Be,” with an impressive technical dexterity. Lead singer and guitarist Peter Pisano is a bit of a seated wizard on his throne, kicking pedals galore for loops and effects that make the two (Brian Moen handles the drums) sound, at their best, many pieces larger.
Pisano backs his vocals with his own and on tunes like “Hard as Nails,” the set’s crown, his three or four intertwining falsetto hums and chord layers surged together to form a resonant cacophony. Many songs were far more impressive live than on the folk-heavy, drowsy record if for no other reason than the spectacle of Pisano’s prowess. (The man is skilled in banter, too, taking a fairly humble course that’s fairly uncharted in indie-rock, going as far as to say he and Moen were blessed for the support of a town they had been to only “one other time” before.)
Peter Wolf Crier’s Apollo was met—and upstaged by—Alan Sparhawk’s Dionysus, Retribution Gospel Choir. Sparhawk, of Low, has a side project on his hands that is the yang to his yin. RGC counters Low’s lows of rumination and brooding with a brawny fever. The group’s latest, “2,” ups its eponymous debut with even more warbling exploration. At the Hi-Dive, the trio basked in extensive and chord-heavy interludes, pausing between songs less than the Grateful Dead on a brown acid trip. Sparhawk strumming from one pole to another led the affair while the big woolly mammoth of a drummer, Eric Pollard, attacked the drums with a bevy of fills. (Bassist Steve Garrington is no slouch, either, popping along.)
Retribution Gospel Choir has the rare ability to convincingly traverse the rock ‘n’ roll map: one minute that ‘60s psychedelia may be hitting you, then, it’s ‘80s powerpop evocative of Huey Lewis, then a dark alternative sway bent on Alice and Chains. (Sparkhawk even channeled Hendrix at one point, playing his axe with his chompers.) The intense and epic “Poor Man’s Daughter” was rocked to the hilt with punctuations of a combustible energy akin to Built to Spill or Neil Young and Crazy Horse. RGC, with the finale “Electric Guitar,” laid all of its cards on the table: this band is about a shredding ferocity and, also, fluctuation. The refrain went out, “What are you gonna do?” and while many in the audience may have had an answer to that question, there’s no way Retribution Gospel Choir did.
Colin St. John is a Denver writer and a new contributor to Reverb.