Pianos Become the Teeth Record Release Show at Ottobar

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, January 29, 2012

It’s amazing how time flies. To me, it still seems like yesterday that Pianos Become the Teeth were a fairly new post hardcore/screamo band in the local scene that was always the opening act for some really cool tours. But they’ve quickly managed to make a name for themselves and attract nationwide attention thanks to two full length albums, the most recent of which is 2011’s The Lack Long After. A few weeks back Pianos Become the Teeth made a return to their hometown of Baltimore to do a sold out record release show, and they brought along several of the groups they are friends with. While record releases can be hit or miss, depending on whether a band just brings along a bunch of their local friends, Pianos brought a bunch of touring acts and the result was a very fun, jam packed night.

It didn’t take long before the show had sold out, and I was pleased to see that plenty of people had turned out to watch all of the bands rather than purposefully coming late and only seeing the headliner. The first act of the night was pop punk group Captain, We’re Sinking who is from Pennsylvania. While these guys were one of the bands on the bill that I was completely unfamiliar with they were a name I had seen thrown around by fans of the genre. After a few songs, it was clear that Captain, We’re Sinking wasn’t straying far from the traditional pop punk template but they did have material that seemed well written and had the crowd’s attention. Compared to other bands of this type, these guys settled on a mid-tempo groove with the occasional fast part that allows them to have a sound that is melodic with just the right burst of energy. The vocals weren’t really my cup of tea, as I’m not one for slightly whiny pop punk singing anymore but I will admit that the energy level was there and none of the members ever went out of pitch so they were still enjoyable to watch. While this isn’t necessarily the type of music I’d seek out at home, these guys gave a fun performance that I wouldn’t mind seeing again in a live setting.

Local act Holy Tongues was the next band to perform. I first talked about the group when I saw them open for Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, and noted that their mixture of post punk, hardcore, and alternative rock was an interesting mixture but the crowd wasn’t sure what to make of them. This time around it definitely seemed as though the band was in their element, as not only was their set even stronger than before but the crowd response was a vast improvement and almost everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy the performance. For those that haven’t heard Holy Tongues before, they mix atmospheric melodies with clean singing and the occasional scream or rough guitar riff. I hadn’t thought of this when I saw them before, but their sound reminds me a bit of more recent alternative rock/progressive rock bands such as Dead Letter Circus mixed with just a dash of hardcore, and while this mix takes some getting used to initially the group is able to impress. They have only performed a handful of times so far, but it is clear that they keep getting stronger and this time the vocal arrangements were stronger and matched the intensity of the always changing instrumentals. Hopefully these guys are just getting started and we’ll hear more from them as time moves forward.

After the alternative rock and post punk leanings of Holy Tongues, it was time for a return to pop punk with Hostage Calm. This is another band that at times goes for the traditional fast paced melodic riffs that fans of the genre have become so familiar with, but these guys have managed to find ways to make themselves distinguishable by writing songs that have numerous tempo changes and some atmospheric melodic leads. Like Captain, We’re Sinking, Hostage Calm was immediately noteworthy because of the amount of energy that they brought to their performance as all of the members were jumping around the stage and doing their best to get the crowd involved. Even though by the end of their set I did find that some of the songs had started to sound a little too similar to each other, I didn’t find myself becoming bored and enjoyed the group’s entire set. The little bits of variation that Hostage Calm has in their songs really help though, as just when you feel that the instrumentals are repeating themselves too often a melodic lead pops up that refocuses your attention. I’ve become a little jaded towards this genre in recent years, but this is a group I can get behind and recommend to concert goers that want a fun performance to watch.

Balance and Composure was up next, and they’re yet another band that I knew a little about but hadn’t listened to just yet. It seemed as though this show would be the perfect opportunity to do so, and as they took the stage I was immediately blown away. The group begins their performances with “Void” which is also the first track on their newest album Separation and it is a perfect way to set the mood for the rest of their performance. What really stuck with me for the entirety of the band’s set was how much texture and atmosphere their songs had. I realize these two words are qualities I often use to describe groups, but it really fits for Balance and Composure as their songs take elements of the indie rock and pop rock templates and layer soaring melodies over top of them. This really comes out in a live setting, and whoever was running the soundboards at Ottobar this night ensured that the audience truly felt these songs come alive. Additionally, even though the instrumentals were given the opportunity to wash over the crowd the vocals were still completely audible and their mix of mellow singing with the occasional burst of screaming was a great match for the instrumentals. Hopefully it won’t be long until Balance and Composure makes it back to the Baltimore/DC area, but in the meantime it looks as though I need to seek out their recorded material.

Tigers Jaw is another band that seems to have blown up in popularity while I wasn’t paying attention. I remember getting the group’s debut full length a few years back for review and finding the catchy riffs and combination of male and female vocals to be absolutely charming but didn’t find many people that had heard of them. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the crowd was not only into them but a significant portion of them were singing along the words to every single song. The band is primarily an indie rock band, but their songs often have hints of punk and a few other genres at times. While it had been a little while since I had listened to Tigers Jaw, I heard a lot of songs that I recognized as the group still seems to play a decent amount of material from their self-titled album. The songs all translate well live as the instrumentals gain additional energy and the vocalists don’t ever miss a note when performing. It seems as though keyboardist Brianna Collins is given a bit more time in the spotlight these days, as some of the newer songs give her some opportunity to do some lead vocals and this is certainly a good thing considering that she has a beautiful voice. This may have been Pianos Become the Teeth headlining show, but Tigers Jaw really stole the show for me and were the highlight of the evening.

Finally Pianos Become the Teeth was ready to take the stage, and they played a wide variety of songs that spanned all of their recorded output. Considering I have only seen these guys open shows before and never headline this had to be the best I’ve ever heard them sound. Ottobar’s sound is sometimes hit or miss depending on the band but on this particular night it was spot on, allowing the group to be loud and in your face while still allowing each individual element to be audible. Like some of their peers, Pianos Become the Teeth is able to combine emotional screaming with a mixture of heavy hitting hardcore riffs and melodies but over the past few years they have really started to create a sound of their own. The melodic and harsh aspects work in tandem rather than against each other, allowing the instrumentals to attain almost post rock levels of atmosphere at times. Over the years I’ve noticed the band has given an increased focus to drummer David Haik, and this is most evident when they perform material from The Lack Long After as the drum beats and fills become increasingly more complicated and are a major focal point of the material. It was great to see the band sound their best and have just about every member of the crowd absolutely eating their set up. If these guys have already reached the point where they can sell out hometown shows and deliver a stellar performance with each set then I’m convinced the only direction they’re headed in is up, as that is exactly what occurred on this evening. And kudos to the band for getting a great lineup to support them, as it made the night even more fun.

Links:

Pianos Become the Teeth- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pianos-Become-The-Teeth/143317977380
Tigers Jaw- http://www.facebook.com/tigersjaw
Balance and Composure- http://www.balanceandcomposure.com/
Hostage Calm- http://www.hostagecalm.net/
Holy Tongues- http://holytongues.bandcamp.com/
Captain, We’re Sinking- http://www.facebook.com/captainweresinking

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