@elisonjackson Sam Perduta solo starting things off. @witch_hair_band and @pollutedchoir to followPosted by The State House on Thursday.
An eclectic billing of hometown electric guitar-adjacent acts took the stage at the still fresh-faced State House to celebrate the release of headliner Polluter’s new record, The Tree That Owned Itself. As a thank you to the crowd, each attendee received a ticket to a free digital download of a cross-genre session that explores the far reaches of artsy jazz punk.
Kicking the night off on Thursday was a solo set by Ellison Jackson frontman Sam Perduta. His set of tender homages was a fireplace to warm the evening’s hands by. The cozy tone of his off-brand ‘60s semi-hollow guitar crackled with just a touch natural drive and his emotive plucking punctuated lyrical yarns that unfurled around imagery timeless and familiar. Perduta concluded his set with harmonic accompaniment by an unspecified, white be-dungareed Daniel (no relation), whose seeming shyness belied a full and resounding voice. Their articulate harmonies brought to a close a comfortable set of folk-rock ruminations.
Following Perduta’s calm-before-the-storm balladry were local capital-R rockers Witch Hair. With a sound harkening back to a host of classic indie and alternative acts and with a dash of ‘70s hard rock for good measure, the band — Ashley Kenney on bass and vocals, Tom Connolly on drums, and Joe Russo on guitar and vocals — brought the audience a nuanced nostalgia replete with cross-stage knee-slides and heroic guitar poses. Witch Hair had a dark broodiness to its sound and harmonies that recalled a lot of Sonic Youth’s more melodic work, a comparison further accentuated by heavily distorted strumming, dirty, slightly askew leads and thumping drums that carried the weight of the melodies. Witch Hair had a well-honed confidence on stage, backed with the tightness to justify the pomp. It made for an eminently enjoyable show.
The evening’s capstone performance belonged to art rockers Polluter, which played through the entirety of its new album. The newest release finds Polluter — composed of Roland Regos, Josh Jablonski, Ben Brown, Jason Sirianni, Jeff Brown and Ryan White — playing to its strengths, creating a generally more cohesive sound than on previous albums.
Polluter is by its nature a bit of a melting pot, but that pot has spent enough time on the burner that the heterogeneous sounds diffuse into a recognizable sound that lives somewhere between the hyperactive zig zag of legendary weirdos like John Zorn and Frank Zappa and the progressive propulsion of Nation of Ulysses or any number of late Reagan-era Dischord bands.
Any band that uses non-traditional rock ‘n’ roll instrumentation tends to be pigeonholed as such and discussed almost exclusively on those terms, but in recent years saxophones have started showing up in the line-ups a lot of more experimentally minded bands. The trend seems to be to rely on them more as auxiliary percussion than melodic instruments, but Polluter managed to successfully incorporate both potentials. The band was, at turns, jazzy, soulful and proggy. Polluter’s set provided a fitting end to a night that spanned the vast breadth of rock music.