A review of any show by Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers (APTBS) should probably be done in all CAPS, if only to better explain just the INSANE VOLUME the band utilizes. ABTPS’ self-described total sonic annihilation isn’t intermittent either; it’s that way for THE WHOLE SHOW.
“You wouldn’t find Hitler playing music this loud,” is how one Irish reviewer described an APTBS show. Based on opening act Overcasters’ most recent performances, you might have figured their set would feature slower, more deliberate, drone-y, neo-psychedelia at the Bluebird Theater on Friday. Instead, with the debut of new material from the beginning of their performance, they rocked through their entire set. Already excellent earlier material was re-interpreted and improved. A new, muscular swagger, driven by the band’s monster rhythm section (Erin Tidwell on drums and Todd Spriggs on bass) had the songs swinging, and sounding more soulful, more fun than in the past. If you haven’t heard the band in a while, you get another chance to hear the new material this Saturday at the Westword Music Showcase.
Having seen APTBS before, I knew what was coming. As compelling as their live performances may be, performing with amp levels set to puree eardrums often washes over the band’s finer qualities found on their studio efforts. Yeah, live and studio performances are apples and oranges, but a little dynamic range here and there would be appreciated. Remarkably, the sound at the Bluebird was excellent throughout the evening, no matter what APTBS threw at the audience. With that small complaint out of the way, it should be noted that the half-filled Bluebird crowd stayed with APTBS through the entire set.
Like Overcasters, APTBS finds new ways to improve their performances seemingly every time they play. The onslaught by Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals), Dion Lunadon (bass) and Jay Space (drums) was accompanied by a remarkable light show and so much fog that people driving by the Bluebird after the show asked if the theater was on fire. No, but the band was.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.