Report: Reading Rainbow/Eternal Summers Live

 

 

 

September 15 at the
Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass., it was a post-punk buffet par
excellence.

 

Live Photos & Text by Jennifer Kelly

Lots of bands these days are splicing intense post-punk
propulsion with sweet, female-sung pop melodies, interjecting a wistful
tunefulness into their bristle-y volleys of eighth-note strumming, slathering
explosions of drums with twee harmonies. Two that are pretty good at this game
– Philadelphia’s Reading Rainbow and Roanoke’s Eternal Summers
– made the trip to Western Mass last week for a double bill that was as
abrasive as it was soothing, sometimes right at the same time.

 

 

 

Eternal Summers started the night off, singer/guitarist
Nicole Yun in a black, turtle-necked mini-skirt, drummer Daniel Cundiff wearing
his allegiance to Brooklyn’s Kanine on his
back in the form of one of the label’s tee-shirts. A new bass player, first name
Jonathan (last unknown) filled out this duo’s road sound, wearing hipster
horn-rims and an I Love Lucy shirt.

 

The band plays jittery concoctions of guitar and drums, Yun
sawing up and down on her guitar at blur speed, as she sings in a high, very
feminine voice that leaps and swoops and gulps and yelps, recalling
Sleater-Kinney and Deerhoof, the Slits and the B 52s. Cundiff surrounds her
with unmitigating rhythm, pummeling fast, hard multi-tonal cadences on tom and
cymbal, snare and cymbal, tom and tom. The band’s melodies have a tendency to
fly off in unexpected directions, skittering upwards in oddly shaped intervals.
Cundiff grounds them in very steady beats, whacking the kick drum hard on the
fours, driving them forward in a haze of bludgeoning bursts.  The frenzy breaks, from time to time, for
sounds that spill out in limpid pools of haze, the drums slow and heavy, the
vocals stretched into dream-like clouds of tone. At one point, Cundiff takes
the mic in a driving, kraut-like, new-wave tinged entry that sounds completely
different from the rest of the set.

 

I come to the show woefully ignorant of Eternal Summers’
catalogue, but even committed fans might have trouble recognizing some of the
material. About halfway through Yun announces that the band has been trying out
some new songs. “We’re a little bit free tonight…a little bit interpretive,”
she says. Indeed.

 

 

The band I’m really psyched to see, though, is Reading
Rainbow, whose Hozac debut Prism Eyes was a late 2010 favorite of mine, for the way that it injected shadowy
minor-key harmonies into the pulsing, jittering post-punk formula. Elsewhere I
wrote “There’s a slow song hidden within every fast one here, a choral elegy
spliced into even the peppiest banger. Here’s what happens when you shine punk
rock through a prism and it breaks into a million different colors.”

 

Reading Rainbow formed around the husband and wife duo of
Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia, though they have added a second guitarist
recently – that’s Al Creedon with the big board full of pedals – to fill out
the live sound. Everton is the band’s drummer and, with Garcia, one of two
primary vocalists. Garcia, tall and bespectacled, plays the other guitar and
sings.

 

You recognize immediately, when the band starts playing,
that their live show will be a little louder, a little more abrasive and a
little heavier on the guitar effects than Prism
Eyes
. The first several minutes of the set, in fact, are pure guitar/amp
manipulation, as Garcia and Creedon weave tones with their dual electrics. Then
the haze clears, the beat kicks in and Everton and Garcia link their voices in
those heartbreaking sustained harmonies.

 

 

 

 

The singing is a bit rougher and more aggressive than one
the record, with Everton putting a bit of a shout into her parts, and yet she
and Garcia find a shivery groove as they match up in drifting, dreaming modal
melodies that splinter into parts. There’s a keening, country-style croon in
the high notes that I haven’t heard before, and a Spectorish Wall of Sound
element going in the instrumental accompaniment. They sing “I See Light”
together beautifully, drawing the slow tones out over a rackety big beat, then
pick it up a bit for the “oh-oh-oh” embellished punkish-ness (very
Sleater-Kinney) of “White Noise”. There’s a new song called “Missing You”, full
of vocal swoops and dives and big cymbal crashes. “Always On My Mind” performs
its superlative Pylon-channeling trick, while “Animals Take Control” is as
dreamy, drifty, beautiful as a foggy morning.

 

Through it all Creedon plays difficult riffs that employ
many different pedals, his long bangs flopping over his forehead as he bangs at
and on his guitar. Everton’s part is simpler, relying on booming kick drum
downbeats and perky snare upbeats, yet it can’t be easy to do even that amount
of drumming while remaining in those shade-y, drawn out harmonies with Garcia,
even in the fast songs, even in pummeling, pulse-racing “Wasting Time,”
everybody’s favorite from Prism Eyes.

 

The two bands are close friends, and you can spot Yun and
her bass player grooving in the front rows of Reading Rainbow’s set. (Everton
and Garcia were, similarly, up and dancing for the Eternal Summer set). All in
all, a good night, if you like jagged songs draped with gauzy harmonies and
glowing faintly under the stage lights.

 

 

 

 

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