Polvo / Trans Am / Tramps / January 10, 1998

This enjoyable sold-out show placed prog-rock in a semi-thematic multigenerational metamorphosis. Tickets went fast as word spread that Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Polvo may be playing their final New York date as a band. Even ex-Cop Shoot Cop Firewater leader Tod A, in search of a ticket, didn’t attempt to get inside the packed 23rsd Street club.

In support of the recent album, Shapes, Polvo started their enthralling, if sometimes problematic, set with a few skewed inside-out Blues riffs stylistically described in song as “Rock Post-Rock.” Throughout, a one-hour-plus gig, guitarists Dave Brylawski and Ashley Bowie struggled to keep their sporadic, nearly inconsequential vocals above the impressive instrumentation.

Perhaps one early epic-length eruption temporarily lost focus, but beyond that, Polvo gained composure with each distended piece. An inverted version of “Purple Haze” rampaged into The Who’s Tommy underture, “Sparks,” tempting a sinister Brylawski to comment ‘classic rock will be all over the radio in two years. I’m sure.’

On the implosive “Enemy Insects,” guitars surged while Steve Popson’s rattling bass shook the foundation, giving this evening its high watermark. For an encore, Polvo came full circle with a medley of commingled classic Led Zeppelin, Yes, and Jimi Hendrix riffs. Sure, everything didn’t go Polvo’s way, but they took chances and proved their appreciation for Baby Boomer album-oriented rock matched their assertive, gutsy approach to original post-Gen X progressions.

Exceptional DC trio, Trans Am, proved to be perfect openers, deconstructing rock-Jazz excursions that seemingly broke down the sophisticated, kaleidoscopic experimentations of Soft Machine and king Crimson. Multi-instrumentalists Nathan Means and Phil Manley curried wiry, syncopated electrodes from stacked keyboards, cranked out dual buzzsaw bass clusters, and scattered a few guitar textures atop web-like instrumental passages.

Climaxing in a shuttered noise-rock rumbler, Trans Am splashed resourceful feedback and syncopated rhythms into a tense convulsion. At the closing, guest Chapel Hill guitarist Grant Tennille came onstage with the boys to shake up a sly quasi-blues Zeppelin medley centered around “The Song Remains The Same.”

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