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Peter Wolf Crier and Retribution Gospel Choir at the Cedar

5 Feb

February 3, 2011 – By JMM

In 2008, when I took my then six year-old son to see Speed Racer the movie, he sat transfixed staring at the screen for the entire 2+ hour run time. At the conclusion of the movie, he stood up and loudly proclaimed, “Wow! That’s not at all like the Speed Racer I know!” And, after spending an evening at The Cedar with Retribution Gospel Choir and Peter Wolf Crier, I left feeling somewhat the same way.

I knew nothing about Retribution Gospel Choir going in, but assumed that an opener for Peter Wolf Crier would be a folksy, artsy, singer-song-writer-ish outfit. Ha! Wrong! They’re a three piece rock-and-roll band; plain and simple. They’re also relentless. It was a non-stop assault by the drummer, Eric Pollard banging on his drums, bassist Steve Garrington banging away on his guitar, and lead singer Alan Sparhawk banging on his well-work Gibson while singing at the top of his lungs, usually in unison with Eric.

RGC didn’t pause at all between the first six, maybe eight, songs before they finally stopped to tune their guitars. At that point an audience member took it upon herself to advice the drummer to, “move the mic away from the cymbal, because that’s all I can hear”. To which he responded, “I guess I’ll just play louder”; which was, of course, the right answer. And he did. For me, though, it all played out very much the same song after song. Pounding drums, pounding bass, and screaming/soaring classic-rock vocals ultimately leading to a crushing crescendo – then a quick transition to the next song. Repeat. It was like they just got new instruments and said to themselves, “Let’s see how hard we can rock this shit”. And, to be fair, they rocked pretty damn hard. In the end, I felt like I’d been beaten into submission.

So, I was looking forward to a break, and then for Peter Wolf Crier to come out and bring things down a notch or two. Ha! Wrong again! Peter Pisano and Brian Moen took their seats and launched into the first song, a new one, with a ton of excitement and energy; Brian was practically bouncing off of his stool. As it would turn out, that was the only new song we’d hear for the night. “Hard As Nails” and a particularly emotional version of “Down, Down, Down” quickly followed before being joined on stage by Steve and Eric from RGC. The joint outfit only played one song together, a powerful  rendition of “Untitled 101”.

PWC continued to pour extra punch into the rest of their main set, with Brian continuing to literally bounce off his stool, and Peter standing up, turning around, and shaking his head after almost every song, as if everything was just too hot to handle. They might not have hit the same sheer volume as RGC, but their songs definitely worked even turned up to a level I didn’t necessarily think I’d ever see them go. I personally prefer PWC more stripped-down, like maybe the Electric Fetus in-store, or The Current’s in-studio sessions come to mind. But, just like when they played the Mainroom at First Avenue for the first time, they’ve proven they can turn it up just as well as they can bring it down.

As their main set came to an end, all three members of RGC joined them on stage for their main-set closer, a rousing cover of the Nick Drake song, “Place To Be”. This turned out to be a very, very appropriate ending. The guys were having a blast, and it’s a fantastic song. In fact, it was such a good end, that when PWC did come back up for an encore, Peter commented, “You shouldn’t have asked for an encore. You’re going to regret this shit.” Well, I don’t think anyone  regretted it, but they did play a bit more low-key for the one song encore with, “In Response”; and, that was it. So, fair to say that this wasn’t the Peter Wolf Crier I was expecting. But, I’ll take them any way I can get them.

Hard As Nails
Down, Down, Down
Untitled 101
For Now
You’re So High
Demo 01
Crutch & Crane
Saturday Night
Place To Be
In Response

Retribution Gospel Choir from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Peter Wolf Crier- “Down Down Down” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

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