Seattle’s churning out some pretty decent musicians of late and delightful Bella Union are adding artist after great artist to their roster by the bucket load so Pearly Gate Music proves a perfect union between the label and the city of the moment.
The moniker of Zach Tillman, younger brother of Josh; the Fleet Foxes drummer and acclaimed solo artist, released his impressive self titled debut earlier this year on the label and last night played his first UK show at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell.
The Tillman brothers nature and nurture may have been akin but their musical stylings are so varied, as is their look – Zach doesn’t appear to have a trace of the beard and long hair of his elder – that we are kind of baffled they are related at all. Last night Pearly Gate Music proved they don’t need to rely on the name dropping of familial relations to create a stir in the music world.
Opening with the haunted troubadour vocals of “Golden Funeral” against the minimal reverb of electric guitars and brushed drums Tillman created a calm before the storm that was a surprisingly loud and brash effort from he and his two female cohorts who offered support on drums and bass.
Live the songs took on an entirely new life: an inversion of their recorded selves they either crawled further inside their closed shells or broke out of them completely. The once quiet and almost Fleet Foxes’ -esque “I Woke Up” became a thrashy guitar affair, a raucous extension of itself; given body from wonderful guitar solos and interludes, while predecessor “Gossamer Hair” was transcendent, with a hushed quality lacking on the album.
While the three were fantastic to watch and took a surprise turn from the Beach Boys Californian sunshine vibes of the recorded LP the vocals at times during these punk veerings were too lost amongst the vibrant contributions of the drummer who had, but two songs in, on “The Big Escape”, battered the hell out of her snare drum and had to borrow one from support band Treetop Flyers! “It’s like losing your date for prom”, Zach exclaimed.
Unfortunately, highly anticipated “Oh, What a Time!”, introduced as a song written as a joke about an imagined homosexual date with Jesus, lost its percussive drumming and Herman Dune-esque slant so much so that its witty lyricisms were drowned in drums while the vocals, even if you knew the words, could hardly be deciphered. It was during their take on Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” however that the vocals and guitar alike did screamingly come through in what began with Tillman’s distinctive and unaccompanied crooning that gave way to a ferocious, punk style rendition.
The ambition of Pearly Gate Music to not only create a consistently concise debut but completely turn it inside out in a live setting shows a band with staying power without doubt and their ability to keep us interested really seems to be as simple as turning up their amps, screaming the albums whispers and sighing its shouts. Oh what a time indeed.