Saturday: Archers of Loaf Find the Old Glory at Great American Music Hall

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Lee Markham
Archers of Loaf
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.

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Lee Markham

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.

Critic's Notebook:

Setlist: Trust that nearly every Archers song you wanted to hear was played, with the exception of "Toast."

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Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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5 comments
Booty Chesterfield
Booty Chesterfield

I went to Friday night's show and let me tell you, there were a lot happy fans there.  My favorite part of the evening was seeing the balding pit of middle-aged tech workers slowly start back up all the way from 1993!

jojo
jojo

I think it should read "my introduction to Bachmann was his later band, Crooked Fingers." Got the wrong Eric there.

Conan Neutron
Conan Neutron

Great American Music Hall is an all ages venue hoss. Or 6+ anyway. Also: fantastic omissions of the saturday night opening band (Philistines), or of the Friday night opener Hurry Up Shotgun. I know it doesn't fit the frame of "nostalgia only" for the story to mention current bands playing too.

That said: both shows were completely fantastic and everything I would have hoped for. I'm leery of nostalgia cash grabs... this had none of the feel of that at all. It just seemed... good.

Jake Swearingen
Jake Swearingen

You are very right, re: GAMH being all ages. Have fixed up accordingly.

Conan Neutron
Conan Neutron

heh, didn't meant to come off too pedantic. It's just something that's easily forgotten. The Kidz can indeed see shows at Great American, which is a great thing overall. Especially if some of them are seeing awesome bands like the Loaf for the first time.

And yes, I did feel rather douchey just saying "the Loaf".

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