Let's get this out of the way first. Since the 1990s, I have been a huge Polvo fan. It's been so long that I can't even remember how or why I got into them. I think I first started listening to them because they were on Merge Records, land of Superchunk, who so dominated my musical taste during that time. Yet, my enjoyment of Polvo expanded and transcended that initial interest. I don't know, but it's one of those things that just is. So, suffice to say, when I heard that Polvo were not reuniting but also playing The EARL, I was absolutely thrilled. Thrilled, I tell you.
Furthermore, I was happy that the first opening band was Atlanta's own The Liverhearts, who I also enjoy tremendously and whose mathematical musical precision would mesh well with Polvo. Anyway, when we first got to The EARL on that Friday night, it was clear things weren't running exactly on time. Yet, within short measure, The Liverhearts took the stage, albeit with one substitution from the familiar, long-running lineup. Instead of the usual bassist, another local musician, Brandon Arnold (The Preakness), stood in his place (I'm not sure if this was a one time only thing, or a permanent substitution). Likewise, as singer/guitarist Matt Weaver pointed out to the audience, The Liverhearts played pretty much the exact same set list that they've played numerous time over the last year or so.
Arnold watches Weaver address the crowd.
Nevertheless, The Liverhearts came off very strongly during their opening set. The music was remarkably tight, which is not surprising considering the recycled setlist. Weaver and drummer Matt Glagola thundered their way through the familiar songs while Arnold filled in quite admirably on what is an essential instrument in The Liverhearts' music. And even though I've heard all of these songs numerous times before, I still enjoyed it all. Looking around The EARL, at the folks whom I've never seen at a show in Atlanta, they seemed to like The Liverhearts too, so Iím hoping this band managed to make a few converts.
Weaver and Arnold in action.
Afterwards, the second opener began to load in. This was Highland Space, who from what I heard are friends and associates of Polvo. At the very least, Polvo bassist Steve Popson joined them for the last half of the set, which speaks to some sort of connection. Once Highland Space began to play, however, all Polvo (or Liverhearts) comparisons were inappropriate. Rather, this band played intricate, bluesy guitar rock. Yet, there was some sort of intensity and/or connection that was missing from their music. Sure, the guitarist really knew how to play in a technical sense, but I didn't feel enveloped by their songs. Even when Popson came out towards the end of the set, and the guitarist started to sing and things became more interesting, I felt that the Steve Miller-ish sound was mildly diverting, but I was just marking time until the headliner.
Highland Space are, in fact, sometimes called "The Space Cowboy".
But then, at last, Highland Space finished up and it was time for Polvo. As the band came on, it stuck me that we're all getting older (myself included) and some folks and music are aging better than others.
But, as the set began, it became apparent that Polvo are aging well. The music was loud and dead-on together (shocking in a band that ostensibly broke up 10 years ago).
Polvo in, well, polvic action.
The interplay between guitarists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski was tight and seemed more intricate than I remembered. Polvo even played some new songs, which meandered a bit but still invoked Polvo proto-math Indie rock style. This was definitely one of those sets were I just wanted to close my eyes, block out the world, and let the music just wash over me.
Bowie and Popson.
...and again, with poorer lighting and less singing.
And I did so, even though it meant that I wasn't quickly writing down song titles or notes on any little hits or misses that might have occurred whilst Polvo played. It was a set where I changed from reviewer back to fan and just bloody well enjoyed myself. And, as they finished, I couldn't believe that any time had really elapsed as I was so engrossed by the music.
Brylawski in action.
O.K., so I slacked off as a review while listening to Polvo. It was still the best show I saw in 2008, which, if you consider the number of great sets I heard, is saying something (go look back through our reviews, and you'll see what I mean). Sure, Highland Space was just a place marker, but The Liverhearts were solid as usual. But, in the end, this was all about getting a Polvo fix and, with the new songs in their catalogue, I'm kinda of hoping they play Atlanta again before 2018.