In no particular order we present to you the ten greatest shows we played in 2010.
-bunny’s a swine
Guthries (w/ Graph and AmPm)
(Graph plays rock music at Guthries while BiAS gets way too into it)
The first BiAS tour was in October 2009 and we were incredibly eager to get back on the road within about three weeks of coming back. So when we proposed to Graph that we should really go on tour together they suggested that we possibly try a smaller tour first in case it turned out that we hated each other too much. They set up a great weekend for us that included a hysterically bizarre gig at Brandeis College with Born Ruffians and a mediocre show at Church in Boston. But the highlight was Saturday night in (of all places) Lewiston, Maine at this bar/burrito place/only game in town called “(She Doesn’t Like) Guthries.” I really have no idea what it means.
We played with AmPm (back when they were called that but now they’re called Mail the Horse) and it was the second time I had seen them. I fell completely in love with that band at that show. I have very fond memories of them killing it, getting to sing the beginning of Nuages with Graph, and some of my favorite Ry banter ever: “Emerson, you’re not funny, Candace, you can’t sing and Hess, you should go take piano lessons at the community college.”
We drove like an hour away to Brendan from AmPm’s house and stayed up until dawn (aka the point at which his roommates finally asked us to shut up and go to sleep). The next morning (aka two hours later) they made us a giant breakfast. We spent the rest of the day laying on the sidewalk in Dover in the sun (it was just starting to be warm enough to spend time outside without a jacket on), drinking PBRs. It was a simple quiet afternoon of being hung over, completely sleep deprived, watching Wacky Babies and taking a nap while listening to the Buddha Box.
The Hen House
(“Nobody Wants You Here (Sober)” at the Hen House)
From time to time I like to think of BiAS as a punk band. It’s a stretch, I know… We sent Nothing Bad Will Happen to the classic DIY punk mag Maximum Rock N Roll, for a review and their quote said it all; “Don’t think this belongs here, nothing even remotely punk about this…” But there was a time when Punk had no sonic definition, it referred to a certain spirit. For me Punk has always been anything that was different, anything that was unashamed to simply be what it was without trying to fit into any box. Even by that definition, at best, we have only brief moments of being Punk, but every once in a while we get a gig that let’s us at least play the part for a minute.
These shows almost always occur in basements or vacant outbuildings (see Dukes write up of the Slaughter House show). I’ve been going to shows like this since I was in my early teen years, and they haven’t really changed all that much. The Hen House is a basement space in Alston, MA. Kal Marx had asked us to join the bill and when we found out we’d be playing with 2 of our Boston favorites, PILE and Fat History Month (best band name of 2010), there was really no turning it down.
STORY: no convenient parking, nobody knows what’s going on, no one is in charge, everyone is drunk, one band is totally bummed and refusing to play, the best place to pee is in the neighbors yard. Fat History Month had racked up a $50 towing charge on their way to the show and as we arrived, Sean, the vox and Guitar of the 2 piece was orchestrating, what he called a “Telethon” to raise the money back. This involved a series of phone calls that were at once, sarcastic, desperate and hilarious trying to convince his friends to show up and donate. We have a pretty solid population of friends and fans in Bean Town and they came out in full force. I felt like it was our party and all the kids groping each other and vomiting in the corners were like artwork or caterers.
The good company made it easy to get drunk. By the time our set rolled around I felt pretty confident that none of us were in a good playing capacity, but upon a quick glance through the basement, no one else was in much capacity to tell the difference or give a shit. Situations like this can be really freeing in a way, and as a result we played one of our better sets in recent memory; fast, energetic, fun and loud. But the real prize at these kinda shows is the audience. They don’t want to buy any records and they will probably forget about us by morning; all they want to do is give into sound and move with the crowd, slam into each other and bounce off the walls. They scream like wild at the end of every song; desperate for more. It’s a reaction that’s hard to come by in yer average club, bar or art space, and it’s something that makes all the other bullshit shows seem worth it. We feed off their energy and they take ours and multiply it by the number of people in the room, things start to compound like that and before you know it you’ve got an explosive night of rock on your hands!
PILE rounded out the night with a set that started around 2am to a still packed room. These guys are like celebrities out there! The basement blew up as soon as they hit the first chord. I had forgotten that mosh pits even existed, but there it was. I found myself right in the middle of the chaos, a place I haven’t been in years, because it’s been that long since I’ve been really moved by a live act. If you don’t wanna shake around and slam into somebody during a PILE set you’re probably not hearing it right.
All our goals and aspirations for the band aside, these are the kind of nights that make it all worthwhile. Despite all the dirt, spit, broken glass and urine, that sense of shared energy is what I always imagined it felt like to be a rock star. It becomes unclear whether we are there for the benefit of the crowd or if they are there for us. The sad thing about these shows is that they end very suddenly. Everyone is wasted, and exhausted from dancing, or whatever. They stumble out to the streets, and if we’re lucky remember our name and google us in the morning. I woke up the next afternoon around 2, feeling quite sore, quite old but quite satisfied.
Bookmill with Pile, Shitty News and Bidet Bros
(Beautiful flier for this show made by the super talented and wonderful Eben Kling who made our t-shirt art as well.)
The Bookmill is one of those super special places out in western Massachusetts that makes living here really incredible. A used bookstore inside a large old mill that sits on the banks of a beautiful river, the Bookmill occasionally opens one of its upstairs rooms for rock shows. We had only played there once before (I think) but we were really excited to be back. And as is almost always the case with the best shows that we play, the lineup was stellar. We were joined that night by the now-defunct-but-unbelievable garage band Shitty News, the folksy bluesy strumfest of the Bidet Brothers and an acoustic set by Rick from the band Pile.
I think the Bidet Brothers opened the set and they had brought in at least three television sets, displaying feeds from multiple camcorders set up all over the room. At their core, the Bidet Brothers are Dan, Jamie and Lucas Horgan — one of the most talented trios of brothers I have ever met. They played a set of haunting songs that were both simple and beautiful and were joined by dear friends on Aaron Kimmel on bass, Justin Pierce and Tim Doust on synths.
Shitty News killed it. I am still grieving the loss of this band. I feel increasingly frustrated lately when I hear people describe music as “garage rock” (this term has become almost as irrelevant to me as the phrase “indie rock”), especially because to me 9 times out of 10 they are not talking about the kind of music that Shitty News played. It was bluesy, it was heavy, and it was sparse, too. They had these great mirroring melodies and were writing some of the the most creative and somehow still classic rock songs I have heard in a long time. Sadly no one video taped their set that night, but here they are playing my favorite of their songs . I also love this one.
We were then treated to the second acoustic set by Pile that we got to see this year and a lot of people who had come out to the Kitchen Show he had played with us were back with many of their friends in tow. He had made quiet an impression on the town. Rick was great, of course, and completely won over the room. We kept our enthusiastic sing-alongs a bit more in check there than we did in the comfort of our kitchen, but the room was just as enamored.
I think BiAS closed out the night, and I remember it being a fine set and all but really what made this show so special was being able to share it with such talented folks at such a special place.
Amherst College with MiniBoone and AmPm
(MiniBoone rocks like they are in an arena in a small room at Amherst College)
We’ve played very few colleges and never quite know what to expect when we get there. So when we arrived to a party that was generous with the PBRs and had a decent crowd of enthusiastic kids, we were pretty pleased. It was really exciting to be playing with MiniBoone again and Amherst is the alma matter of one of the MiniBs. AmPm had hiked pretty far to come down for the show and we hadn’t seen them since the morning of Wacky Babies.
If this evening was marked by anything for me I would say that thing was enthusiasm. And maybe it was just enthusiasm on our part (it’s hard to remember), but we were ecstatic. MiniBoone’s set was as energetic as ever and by now we knew every note, beat and lyric in every song which we punctuated our enthusiasm for by banging on tambourines and dancing like maniacs. After some begging (read: chanting “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!”) we managed to convince them to play their stellar cover of “Dancing in the Dark.” They were a hard set to follow, but we did and I am fairly certain it was a pretty damn good one. There were quite a few kids there. AmPm closed out the night and though there wasn’t the crowd they deserved in the room, they still played a stellar set. We were pretty psyched on them, too and I think maybe overdoing it with our percussive support…if I remember correctly we destroyed Alex’s floor tom head. All three bands then crashed out at Lasell and had breakfast in the morning at Miss Flo’s.
Plough & Stars, Cambridge MA (w/ BANDITAS)
The Plough and Stars is a charming hole in the wall on the outskirts of Harvard square that we were lucky enough to play this year. Our first Boston show in months, we arrived a bit late and were greeted by dozens of friends old and new that had come out to see us. You Can Be A Wesley kids were there, Justin from Bedfellows, and a bunch of other familiar faces. It was really quite something. Although a bit rushed to set up and play first, a very sober BiAS eased into a killer set, highlighted by song requests from the audience and the debut of a new song we had written and now recently titled, “nobody wants you here (sober)”. We played short and sweet to our friends and fans—the place being so small the crowd was literally on top of us while we played. It was a very country set (Winter Song [Spring Version], Lets have an Argument, Unrested) and the crowd loved it. Fit in quite nicely with the badass Banditas set which closed the show. I will admit the PBR tall-boys were flowing freely for bands—same as the shots of scotch at Plough & Stars, so old dusty dukes (that’s me) definitely rode the Hamtown trolley all the way back to Western Mass that night! (*editor’s note: dukes wasn’t driving that night…we like safety with our hamtrain)
Super Secret Kitchen Show with Pile
(Pile performs “The Moon” in the kitchen)
We first met Pile quite randomly in Atlanta on our first tour and they have been our biggest band crush ever since. Even after having spent some time on the road with them this summer, I’ve never seen a PILE set that didn’t floor me. That said; it’s been Rick’s solo acoustic sets that have impressed me the most. We organized an invitation only show in our kitchen mostly as an excuse to get Rick a show in town. We spent weeks working on an all acoustic set, which included a handful of new songs. It was also the first time I bought a keg.
The promise of music and booze filled the kitchen quickly with about two dozen of our favorite faces. Dukes, Candace and I were quite comfortably drunk, and either in spite of that fact or because of it, we pulled together a pretty decent set. The acoustic numbers give us a chance to play with some of our softer, more melodic, tendencies. Our live sets are at their best when they are driven by unprocessed energy, but the acoustic sets are much more thoughtful, they kinda make me feel like a real musician for 20 minutes or so. It’s very easy, when in front of an audience, to fall into your own space, become hyper-focused, maybe play your own part perfectly well, but never pay any attention to the rest of the stage, or anyone watching it for that matter. There’s an intimacy to playing acoustic (especially in your own space) that eliminates this tendency.
Intimacy is a very powerful tool in music and Rick, whether he knows it or not, plays very well on that concept. There is a brilliant imperfection to his songwriting; each song hides something unexpected or, better yet, something awkward. His voice flails, rises to a point where it seems unsafe, your palms get sweaty; what if he falls? But then, suddenly he’s back, soft and restrained. The handful of us who already knew his songs from numerous repeats of Jerk Routine and Demonstrations and along ungraciously loud, trying to keep up as best we could. Rick is of a rare breed who can completely fuck up his set, be out of tune, play bad chords and even forget lyrics to large portions of his songs and still keep an audience completely engrossed. There is a feeling of honesty to his music that makes you feel as if we’re all in it together.
I got up the next morning, still part drunk to drug my ass to work. A few hours later, I ran into our friend Ashley, quite obviously hung over from her attendance at the kitchen set. I don’t think she even said hello to me before she started going on about Rick as if she had seen something alarming, possibly important.
All good music is personal, but there are sadly few moments in which it gets shared that way. Unfortunately nobody is getting anywhere playing gigs in our kitchen.
The Slaughterhouse, Ithaca NY (w/ MINIBOONE)
(Photo of the outside of Slaughterhouse featuring the many things that Emerson swore would impale him.)
After a 5 hour beautiful and scenic drive to Ithaca NY, past the busy downtown full of students and coffee shops, to the rural outskirts of town, we found ourselves at one of the most interesting shows spaces of the year. Imagine a giant farmhouse full of dusty old furniture and weirdos. The house, creepy by itself, had an old slaughterhouse out-building (which was the show space) in the backyard surrounded by a handful of dead chickens and an almost unrecognizable rotting deer carcass hanging from a tree, a large pile of old rusty bikes, and countless rusty and sharp metal objects that Emerson kept swearing he’d “kill himself on”, accidentally of course, at some point during the evening.
Not long after we arrived a grill was fired up and it was all you could eat hot dogs and too-rare-to-eat burgers, a bonfire was built, and a free keg of Youngling Lager appeared. This was a good old fashioned punk rock show—folks there ate up our set—dancing and thrashing around, and after we played, MINIBOONE really killed it that night. About 70 or so wanderers–trannies–pirates–students–hipsters and punks—made up the crowd and the partying and drinking continued long after the bands stopped playing. We eventually followed MINIBOONE and their party animal pal “Sharky” around downtown Ithaca, hopping from party to party, till we were too tired, too drunk, and it was too late to continue. To round out a pretty unconventional day and night, Sharky offered us a place to sleep in the attic of the giant old Victorian House he lived in. Behind an old bed frame and a dusty Twister game that Sharky calmly moved aside was a 3ft by 3ft hole in the attic wall that we had to crawl through to get to a furnished and warm space to sleep. It was some serious underground railroad type shit. Oh what a night. We drove home the next day, which i think was Easter Sunday. All in all, nice work Ithaca.
I don’t really like driving and on tour I try to avoid it, but I gotta do my part… A long stretch though Kentucky seemed like and easy out, so I volunteered to take the wheel behind our bullshit grease powered van-saster. We were headed to Kingbee, the heart of Bourbon Country (and the rumors are true, it’s a dry county!). With each passing mile it became more likely that we were driving to a murder site and not a rock show. I’m pretty sure I bgan forming a diamond in my asshole the moment I turned a corner into one of the most beautiful vistas any of us had ever seen and realized I had to negotiate it’s sharp, cliff-side curves in a 12 passenger van with a trailer full of useless veggie oil.
We were in legit rural Kentucky, which is beautiful in a very complicated kind of way, and being held hostage by technology. Our trusty GPS system (turning a blind eye to logic as machines are want to do) had picked the most mathematically efficient route to our destination, and for nearly an hour I maneuvered our six thoroughly worn tires through hills and farmland on winding roads wide enough for only our vehicle. After passing the address, and giving the wheel to Ry, the only one of us capable of turning the van and trailer around, we arrived at the spot; a dingy and vacant house. The only signs of life were countless kittens, who immediately stormed the van.
We were over an hour late, so Candace got on the phone with our contact to tell him we were at the place, or so we thought… “Are there a bunch of empty beer cans?” he asked. There were dozens, flattened and covering the dirt drive way. “That’s the place! Be there in ten…” Our host, who was barely in his twenties, was out hunting for pot, which never materialized.
There were close neighbors, but this place was rural… RURAL! Not to mention Rustic. Our host borrowed the place from his grandmother, who seemed to let him do whatever with it. Beside the beer can driveway, there was a large mound of curious garbage in the front yard, two rotting cars on the side and, for some reason, an active electric fence covering the back, and… did I mention the kittens? Inside was pure filth. Had any of us wanted a shower, the only way to get one would have been standing in the blackened bathtub, under a large whole in the roof during that night’s heavy rain. We quite quickly regretted not stopping at one of the many liquor stores we passed on our way into Bourbon Country. Fortunately I had a 3 liter box of wine stashed away in the food box for just such an emergency… It went devastatingly fast.
We were all quite out of place, but for any free-thinking kid into music for a 70 mile radius, we were the place. I mean shit, there’s nothing to do out there! By 9 or 10pm the place was crawling with kids looking to see something different or just looking to spend a night out. They snuck in, concealing 4 or 5, hard-fought, Budweisers in cellophane bags; beers most likely acquired from bootleggers operating from the basements of local Baptist churches, as one girl told me. Incidentally, none of them shared their bounty with the bands. But, they were an involved and very enthusiastic audience. I see our music as being very simple and it was awesome to play it for kids who saw it as being totally different. After playing one of our newest songs, Nobody Wants You Here Sober, our host boldly exclaimed; “I’ve never heard anything like that before!” He would later confess, he was tripping pretty hard on mushrooms at the time.
Well, if they saw us as mind-blowing, you can only imagine how Graph went over. Raw power meets pure slops. The floor was starting to rot out under the soiled carpet and every beat from Andy sent a humbling wave through the room. He was particularly flammable that night, at one point I thought he might actually explode. He was dazed and exhausted after the set and rushed outside for some water and fresh air. The rain was just starting to pick up and he was literally steaming in the cool night air.
The show devolved into a rather standard house party. Graph and us found ourselves, quite happily, watching some VHS classics in the houses only furnished room. Some hot dogs were being grilled in the kitchen. They were of a particularly poor quality, the kind where you get crunch bits of bone or nose or whatever mixed in with all the fat and chemicals. When I went in for seconds I asked the kid cooking them if he was concerned with all the smoke created from grilling indoors, to which he responded; “aint my house.”
I awoke the next morning to 2 kittens dueling it out on the cool end of my pillow. We did a thorough sweep of the van to make sure none of the furry little bastards had snuck in, though I think we all kinda hoped one had. My last memory of the place was watching 5 kittens and their mother(?) going bonkers in the branches of a nearby tree. Our favorite kitten, who we had named Radar, was quite proudly the last one standing after all his siblings had tumbled to the ground and their mother had lost interest in frolicking. All the way to Atlanta I kept imagining one of them would suddenly pop out from under a seat or behind a drum case. It never happened, but one of those disease ridden little fuckers would have made for a nice souvenir.
It took a while for us to figure out what was going on with the drums because I guess the conversation that had occurred before the show about who was bringing the drumkit was something along the lines of Drummie One saying to Drummie Two “if you bring the literals, i’ll bring the actuals.” But once the going got it got real good. The Maples were lovely…dark and sweet songs that were made all the more awesome by Will’s voice which was incredible. But he really blew us out of the water when he delivered a stunning cover of “Moosecow” that completed reinterpreted the anthematic salute to being in a rock band into a sad tale of, well…maybe our lives, who knows. It was beautiful and haunting and also pretty funny all at the same time.
MtH joined The Maples on stage for the final two tracks and then launched into their own set by starting with Silver Queen Serenade which has got to be the sleeper greatest hit on the album. It is actually the perfect opening song for any set they do because it lulls the audience in and then slaps them in the face. Their set was phenomenal. They won every single person in that room over in a heartbeat. And then they did their own version of “Moosecow.” The covering of this song officially, at that moment, became what we like to refer to as STORY.
Graph followed them up and what else can I really say about them that I haven’t said a thousand fucking times. They were great. Obvious. What really pushed it over the edge, though, was their fakeout cover of Moosecow which was actually a cover of MtH’s “Come Back.” I think we are all kicking ourselves for not having a recording of it. It was stellar. And watching Graph do covers of straight up pop songs is one of my new favorite things.
We closed the night with a shorter set and then had every single band join us on stage for what Emerson termed “putting the box in the basement.” The 12 (was it 12?) person version of “Moosecow” ensued and ended in yet another destroying of the drum kit, giant pile of bodies and instruments in the center of the stage, Emerson banging his guitar into the floor and Ry stage diving repeatedly into Scott’s arms until they pulled up the houselights.
Ms. Flo’s breakfast became story. We came up with a new marketing strategy. I think Thanksgiving was the following week. Tour then ended for real and we haven’t played with Graph since.