Monday, October 12, 2009
Polvo was one of those bands I really enjoyed listening to some years ago while I was exploring indie rock for the first time in my mid-late teens. But I never had an opportunity to see them live. A product of the thriving early-mid 90's Chapel Hill, NC scene, Polvo always had a unique sound: sprawling, psychedelic and laid-back, but with more than a hint of indie slacker aesthetic, experimental guitar interplay and pop sensibility thrown in for good measure.
At long last I righted the wrong of not having seen this very solid quartet. After a nearly ten year absence, Polvo first reunited to perform in 2008 at All Tomorrow's Parties, and like so many other bands have leveraged the reunion to begin recording and touring together anew. Given the competence of their performance, both of new material and re-worked older songs, I definitely would encourage both those who are familiar with the band and the uninitiated to check them out when they head your way next.
Friday night at Slim's, for a focused hour and a half or so, Polvo primarily combined older songs from their Merge Records output with material from their Touch and Go years, with which I'm honestly not as familiar, in their inimitable style. Yes, it is a bit "Sonic Youth-y" as I overheard one concert goer explain to his friend, but there is also a real 70's classic rock element at work here as well, not to mention an Eastern influence which flavors the guitar based compositions and improvisation. While I enjoyed both guitarists' contributions, leader Ash Bowie's songs and riffage really stood out. As did drummer Brian Quast's efforts, especially on some particularly complex and jazz inspired fill-ins. Sparse vocals, usually buried fairly low in the mix, along with some seriously extended jamming, highlight the fact that Polvo is at their most comfortable when they are rocking out, exploring the balance of consonance, dissonance, distortion, bent notes and vibrato at their own leisurely, mid-tempo pace.