Archers of Loaf at the 400 Bar, 8/25/12
Photo by Erik Hess
Archers of Loaf
400 Bar, Minneapolis
Saturday, August 25, 2012
"We're planning on lip-synching this entire set, we're just having some trouble with the playback," joked Archers of Loaf's bassist Matt Gentling from the stage at the 400 Bar on Saturday night, as a technical glitch reared its head before the band had even played a note. The tension and anticipation had been building in the room for a good half hour or so and Gentling's comment seemed to instantly put everyone at ease -- not the least of which were his three bandmates who all cracked smiles and began the set with the bone-crushing "Audiowhore" from 1994's Vs. the Greatest of All Time EP.
The set was off to a sprint right out of the gate and they kept it going with a fantastic version of "Harnessed in Slums" from their 1995 masterpiece Vee Vee, which is arguably their best (and best-known) song. It's a song that should be near the top of the list in regard to '90s anthems, but as it stands likely isn't even an honorable mention in most circles -- a damn shame. Watching AoL's set unfold was like getting a Louisville Slugger to the head, but having sense knocked into you instead. Of all the weirdo, pseudo-slacker bands that made it big some two decades ago, the Archers somehow got swept to the wayside more often than not and it's hard to put a finger on exactly why that might have been. The fact that their songs have, overall, aged infinitely better than the vast majority of their contemporaries will have to serve as their ultimate reward in the end.
Photo by Erik Hess
By roughly the set's fourth song, it started to become almost unbearably hot inside the club -- it must have been upwards of 90 degrees with tropical humidity -- and sweat was visibly pouring off of Gentling and lead singer/guitarist Eric Bachmann (and most of the people in the crowd). "It's hotter than a cat's ass in here!" Gentling -- who jumped and dove around the stage for the entire set -- mused after finishing up a spot-on version of "Plumb Line" a few songs later. By this time he and the rest of the band had soaked through their shirts.
The heat wasn't the only issue either. There were times, especially during the noisier songs, like "Plumb Line," "What Did You Expect?" and a few others, when Bachmann's voice was completely drowned out. It could have been one of a plethora of possible culprits (bad mic, problem with the soundboard, Bachmann's great but not necessarily commanding voice) or a mix of a few, but it dragged the set down just a bit, as AoL's ultra-obtuse, often outright strange lyrics are part and parcel of their appeal.
They wound the set down with "Web in Front" from their 1993 debut Icky Mettle. It was still just as oddly affecting as it was 19 years ago when it served as most peoples' first exposure to them. The seven-minute-plus "White Trash Heroes," the last track from 1998's album of the same name, followed. "White Trash Heroes," with it's dark synth line and Bachmann's haunted vocals, is equally as affecting but in a different way, as it ultimately served as a long goodbye from Archers of Loaf and echoed what was to come from Bachmann's next (and still current) project, Crooked Fingers.
The Archers came back out for a three-song encore a few minutes after exiting the stage and offered up "Dead Red Eyes," a version of "Fabricoh" that was nothing short of astonishing and the sad, contemplative "Slow Worm," a song that seems hand-stitched to end an encore if there ever was one. Like all bands that eventually break up, we'll never have another Archers of Loaf and watching them exit the stage in the sweltering 400 Bar, likely never to return, was both melancholy and invigorating all at once.
Critic's Bias: I discovered Archers of Loaf due to "Web in Front" being featured the Mallrats soundtrack. They lost me a year later with All the Nations Airports and I had abandoned them by the time White Trash Heroes arrived in 1998. I didn't get back into them until a few months ago and looking back, I can't really explain my dislike of their last two albums in any sort of legitimate manner at all, as I now greatly enjoy them both.
The Crowd: Almost entirely guys in their mid-30s. Archers of Loaf was a band that appealed almost solely to guys for some reason and the fact there were any women in the crowd at all was a coup in itself.
Random Notebook Dump: This show makes me miss them more than I thought it would.
Random Tidbit: There was a woman in her late-20s that stood up against the stage dancing, applauding and singing along to every word for the entire set. She was as sweaty and red-faced as the band was by the end of the show.
Harnessed in Slums
Lowest Part is Free
Mutes in the Steeple
Smoking Pot in the Hot City
You and Me
Greatest of All Time
Form and File
What Did You Expect?
Web in Front
White Trash Heroes
Dead Red Eyes
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