Saturday: Archers of Loaf Find the Old Glory at Great American Music Hall
Sept. 3, 2011
Great American Music Hall
Better than: Considering how few mid-'90s indie rock gods haven't done a reunion tour, album re-issues are either a victory lap or a re-introduction. Merge's re-release of Archers of Loaf's Icky Mettle seems to have done both. The crowd at Saturday's reunion show skewed older, but there was a surprising number younger fans -- including more than a few that had the alarming aura of being born in the '90s. Time is cruel.
Of course, it helps that Eric Bachmann, unlike some other college rock icons (looking at you, Stephen Malkmus) has spent most of the past decade continuing to make great art, both with Crooked Fingers and on his own stunning solo album. Like many in the audience, my introduction to Johnson was his later band Crooked Fingers, and then working backwards into Archers of Loaf.
Onstage Saturday, bassist Matt Gentling, drummer Mark Price, and Loaf guitarist Eric Johnson, (responsible for much of the angular barbs that make Icky Mettle and Vee Vee such towering classics), all had the loose holy-shit-this-is-great glee of those away from a crowd for a long time.
Bachmann gave the sense being miserably large. With a hulking frame that seems better suited for a pro wrestler than an arch troubadour, Bachmann's massive mitts seemed almost too large for his guitar. Years of plumbing folkier depths with Crooked Fingers and his solo work seem to have calmed him, but the old energy was still there, with Bachmann whispering the opening of "You and Me" before ripping into the screaming chorus. Songs like "Nostalgia" take on an added level of ironic edge played 15 years later, and "Lowest Part is Free" still slices through its central guitar line with the authority of band kids who absolutely own their instruments.
The Archers of Loaf reunion sprang out of nowhere earlier this year -- a surprise show in January 2011 was the first indicator they were planning anything. Compared the bluntly capitalistic reasoning behind reunion tours from the Pixies or Pavement, it felt like there was still meat on the bone here. Even if the reunion was for the cash, oh well. We still want to buy.
Setlist: Trust that nearly every Archers song you wanted to hear was played, with the exception of "Toast."