In March of this year, post-punk legends Wire threw a fantastic party in London with the introduction of DRILL, a festival they curated featuring the band themselves and a legion of sounds all without a doubt influenced by this stalwart band. The end of the festival coincided with the release Wire's 13th studio album Change Becomes Us, one of our favorites this year at KEXP. Now, Wire bring DRILL across the water to Seattle for a second incarnation. As with DRILL: London, the festival makes up three nights of incredible music with a wide variety of sounds, all culminating in Saturday night's Wire show at Neumos featuring the PinkFlag Orchestra along with Seattle's own Chastity Belt and San Francisco shoegaze band Vestals.
Kicking things off Thursday night, Wire and friends went downstairs to Barboza for a good time in a small room. Opening DRILL: Seattle was a short and very sweet set from Wire, followed by a set from Seattle synth pop singer Pillar Point. Finally, the night ended with a stellar set from drone doom band Earth, kicking Wire's festival off to a great start.
Wire opened up DRILL: Seattle with a bang. Supposedly, the 30 minute throw-down set in Barboza was "very different" than the one they'll be playing Saturday night upstairs at Neumos, but different definitely didn't mean just passable. Opening with Pink Flag classic "12 X U" and bursting right into Snakedrill cut "Advantage in Height", old fans were hooked immediately. The loud and the fast and the brilliant were all in play perfectly on the small stage. But Wire have a stellar catalog beginning to end and they know it, so following up with "23 Years Too Late" from the 2007 third Read & Burn was no surprise. It was a dream set for the loud and longing Wire fan. They played "Two People In A Room". They played "I Don't Understand" from the first Read & Burn. It was a fantastic sampler for their full set Saturday night. Wrapping the short set up with classic "Boiling Boy", Wire declared the festival open and departed the stage. What a way to open a festival!
Seattle artist Pillar Point made some great strides this year in signing to Polyvinyl Records and releasing a super strong 7" with "Diamond Mine"/"Dreamin'. In both, Ray Davies excellently blends heavy drums and boundless airy synth layers to make for an exotic and danceable set. It's evident that the band is putting together something divine for a full length. Their set was full of crowd-pleasers top to bottom. Davies and his band had great energy and the bass-heavy tunes sounded fantastic. Setting up the stage for Earth, Pillar Point bid farewell to a room full of new fans.
At this point, Dylan Carlson is a mystical Seattle legend. He and his band Earth have tread dark waters back and forth across the post-rock and drone metal soundscapes, at some points accessible and at others, not so much. But the lore behind Earth has never faded, and even in the stagnant red light of the Barboza, the energy of mystery and spirituality in the band onstage never once left the room. "You guys are lucky - this is one of only three Earth shows this year", Carlson laughed. He and his band have been working on new material, with a new album hopefully due out June of 2014. In the first half of the decade, Earth put out two excellent LPs in both halves of the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light series. Here and now, Earth's sound remains an atmosphere in and of itself.
Earth's opening cut was quintessential. "Badger" is a new song they've been toying around with for the last year, dialing in for the new record. A slow guitar lead opens the song, seeing Carlson tug out a sweet and somber wandering melody as the bass and drums slowly slide into the groove. Behind him, Adrienne plays the drumset like a fairy. The slow drive of the song lets her move slowly between each cymbal and each tom like a spirit dance. All the while, Karl drives the song forward with a strong bass lead. The energy builds and breaks so organically it's crazy. This continues for the rest of Earth's set - a wonderful way to open DRILL: Seattle. Tonight, celebrating one of Seattle's own treasures, Wire has given us a treat for Day 1 of their festival.
The last time Southern troubadour Bill Callahan came to Seattle, he played a quiet, solemn show at the Triple Door. And on Wednesday night at his sold out show at Neumos? He was dare I say, peppy? Or at least as "peppy" as the Songwriter Formerly Known as Smog can get.