Purling Hiss at 7th Street Entry, 4/16/13
Photo By Michael Nelson
With Hollow Boys
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
April 16, 2013
Minneapolis music fans are a fickle lot. They turn out in droves for sold-out shows that turn out to be justified (Divine Fits, Tame Impala) and some that can't quite meet the hype (Alt-J, Wavves), yet on a Tuesday night in April, only about 15 people showed up for what very well might be one of the shows of the year. Philadelphia's Purling Hiss came out blazing straight from the start, and didn't really let up once, delivering a potent, guitar-driven 45-minute performance that clearly would have rocked a crowd of any size in this city, if only this city would have bothered showing up.
But no matter, those of us who were there were the lucky one who were able to witness the incendiary guitar work of Purling Hiss' frontman (and band mastermind) Mike Polizze, who consistently pulled off one blistering riff after another during the trio's breakneck set.
The Hiss (see, your nickname is catching on, War On Drugs' Adam Granduciel) are touring behind their excellent new record, Water On Mars, and the whirlwind 10-song set drew mainly from the new material, kicking off with a raucous take on the title track, which was preceded by a long, feedback-laden intro as the band kicked in a good five minutes before their announced start time. "Water On Mars" blended fluidly into a crunchy, nasty version of "Lolita," with Polizze flailing away urgently on guitar, continuously pushing the pace of bassist Kiel Everett and drummer Mike Sneeringer ever forward.
It seemed that Polizze delivered his lyrics -- which were buried deep beneath the blissful guitar squall he was generating anyway -- out of an annoying obligation to loosely adhere to the constraints of a pop song, tossing them off dismissively just so he could launch into yet another ferocious, mind-blowing guitar solo. Philadelphia currently has the market cornered on the dynamic guitar sound in modern music, with Polizze's old buddies (and current producer) War On Drugs and Kurt Vile all delivering spellbinding records and indelible local live performances as of late. And without question you can add Purling Hiss to that distinguished list, as their set compares favorably to the recent visits of both those celebrated artists.
After a rousing version of "Rat Race," Polizze asked the crowd how they were doing "on, what night is this? Tuesday, right?" He then went on to loosely quote Jimi Hendrix, explaining that "We're not really stoned, but we're beautiful." But the between song banter was really kept to a minimum as the band kept chugging along breathlessly, with the gritty, Nirvana-like poppiness of "Mercury Retrograde" fusing fitfully with the raw eruptions of guitar in "Run From the City," which gave way to the '60s psych-rock of "Mary Bumble Bee."
Photo By Michael Nelson
The current Philly indie sound coursed through "Don't Even Try It," which might serve as a bold word of warning to anyone outside the area to not even bother trying to match their distinctive sound and style. And there certainly must be something in the water in that city (or one hell of a guitar teacher who got to these kids early), because each and every solo Polizze pulled off was pure fire. There was a hint of a "Love Buzz" riff pulsing through the heart of "The Harrowing Wind," that was again driven along by Polizze's tempestuous guitar work, which rode energetically over Sneeringer and Everett's steady, insistent rhythm.
And, as good as the set was up to this point, no one was really quite prepared for the raw fury of what came next. "This is an old one coming up," Polizze announced innocently, before leading the band into the untamed core of "Almost Washed My Hair," which legitimately featured the best guitar solo that I've seen in years. Polizze repeatedly lost himself in the wild tempo of the track, returning to the mic for a cursory blast of lyrics as if to only steady himself and catch a moment of inspiration before launching into another raucous solo.
The band didn't even allow for the crowd to roar their appreciation afterward, as the feedback at the end of "Hair" churned seamlessly into set closer "Face Down," which forcefully ended the show with a shot, leaving us all a bit stunned at what we just witnessed while picking our collective jaws up off the Entry's grungy floor.
Personal Bias: I put in a review request for this show because I love what's going on in Philly at the moment, but I had no idea that the Hiss would end up topping both Kurt Vile and War On Drugs' stellar recent shows.
The Crowd: I feel like the 15 of us who were there should all get together for drinks when Purling Hiss eventually sells out the Mainroom sometime in the future.
Overheard In The Crowd: I'm pretty sure everyone in the audience said something along these lines at least once during the show -- "Holy shit! That was fucking amazing."
Random Notebook Dump: There may have only been a handful of us in the crowd, but a sure sign of an amazing show is when each person in the audience heads straight to the merch table after the gig is over to buy the band's records, tapes, and t-shirts. Purling Hiss made plenty of fans for life with this riotous performance.
Water On Mars
Run From The City
Mary Bumble Bee
Don't Even Try It
The Harrowing Wind
Almost Washed My Hair
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