A Welcome Homecoming: Port O’Brien, Geographer, Golden Gram, 11/5 @ Bottom of the Hill
November 9, 2009
Written by John Shea
Photos by: Charlie Homo
It’s been a long seven weeks for Port O’Brien. They’ve been on tour all over the country, had their van broken into, and had some equipment stolen. Well, they are finally back in town and you could tell how glad they are to be home.
“Golden Gram” LeBron got up first and gave us a tasty treat as the crowd began filling the venue. As is the case with most early crowds, people seemed a bit more preoccupied with catching up and getting a beer than listening to the first act. Gram played mostly songs off his 2009 record Master of None(Cedar Fever), and even though the crowd was chatty, his voice has that uncanny ability to cut through the din, so anybody who wanted to had no problems making him out. Songs like “Mad is Sad” and “Diddle-Oh” were definite favorites.
While it seems like a growing fad to have a cellist in your indie band, one act that is definitely setting the trend (rather than following) is Bay Bridged favorite, Geographer. Their music is a unique mix of the dreamy and personal, never overly uptempo but remaining entirely danceable (a rare quality indeed). Frontman Mike Deni rotates between guitar and keys while Nate Blaz absolutely rocks the electric cello. There was even some cool live sampling and looping going on in some songs, while drummer Brian Ostreicher played both traditional drums and triggered samples on a drum machine. The overall effect of all the electronic and traditional instruments is something that really has to be heard to be understood. “Kites”, a recent release on 7″ vinyl (Tricycle Records) was great, and I’m looking forward to their new album, Animal Shapes, which they told us will be dropping at the end of February.
The crowd cheered as Port O’Brien took the stage. Lead singer Van Pierszalowski explained how good it was to be back in what he called “the best place in the world,” and friends and strangers alike applauded what was surely a very popular opinion. As the band launched into the first song of the set, “Fisherman’s Son,” the energy level immediately shot through the roof. Everyone on stage was rocking out and jumping around while Van howled into the mic. The sound coming off the small stage at Bottom of the Hill threatened to blow the roof off the joint, but no one seemed to give it a second notice; everybody was just too busy having a good time.
As the set wore on, we were treated to a group of songs from the brand new album Threadbare(TBD Records). It was great to hear all the new songs live for the first time, and it seems like the band is really growing into a cohesive unit, as there were a lot of times when everyone on stage was screaming into a mic. The songs have a definite groove to them too. While the last album seemed to stem from the solitary life of fishing in Alaska, the new stuff seems more rooted in familiarity and a collective identity.
These guys really know how to have a good time as well. Van lead the audience through a rendition of Crazy Town’s “Butterfly”, which was a staggering failure…Either no one really knew the words or no one cared to own up to it. Either way, it was quickly forgotten. Finally, for the coup de grace, the box opened up, the pots and pans came out, and the people jumped on stage to join the band in “I Woke Up Today,” a rollicking singalong that had everyone in the place screaming at the top of their lungs.