Plenty of indie acts in 2015 are borrowing from their '90s predecessors, and that dynamic was on full display at the Ottobar last night when Creepoid and Wing Dam opened for Swirlies, the Boston "chimp rock" band sonically aligned with shoegaze that is marking its 25th anniversary on this tour.
The show was a progressive study in bands dedicated to the sounds of the '90s psychedelia. Swirlies, Creepoid—sadly not a Freakazoid! tribute act—and locals Wing Dam all had guitars, and they played them loud and at varying levels of sounding like your usual guitars. Though Creepoid and Wing Dam both bore resemblance to the psychedelic guitar from the '90s, tonight was not a night of the students surpassing the masters.
Baltimore's Wing Dam is 2015's answer to Stone Temple Pilots. The guitars turn all the way up to sludge, the tempos are always leaden—don't you dare wish you could dance!—and the lyrics all lead to a chorus that seems to be, "Hey." What's going on, Wing Dam? Your use of Weezer's "Blue Album" chug and power pop-esque vocals are intriguing choices. Austin Tally's playful dancing on stage and Sara Autrey's dedication to stage banter hint at a sense of humor that doesn't seem to make it into the music. The tunes are catchy but predictable, bordering on boring. The guitar licks and codas are promising, but they never seem to fulfill their promise. The future's looking up, though: STP sold 13.3 million copies.
After Wing Dam came somewhere's Creepoid, who combined caterwauling guitar freak-outs that sounded like people screaming with both poppier and punker touches. However, the most notable thing about Creepoid, other than its Jonny Greenwood look-alike guitarist, was its fog machine. It had one. It filled all of Ottobar with mist. Sometimes it looked kinda cool with the lights. Through the fog, Creepoid reminded your dedicated reviewer during its quieter moments of Pure X—Austin, Texas guitar heroes of tragically little renown. When Creepoid rocked hard and fog machined harder, its rave-ups once or twice creeped too near the worst of effects-laden pop-punk tunes instead of the Dinosaur Jr. guitar heroics it aspired to.
Headliners Swirlies are a band of gear-head legend. Their dedicated devotees were rewarded with the return of original member Seana Carmody for the first time since 2001, and an accompanying focus on the group's beloved earliest releases followed. 'Two Girls Kissing' and 'In Harmony New Found Freedom' from 1996's "They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons" and 'Bell' and 'Jeremy Parker' from Swirlies debut "Blonder Tongue Audio Baton" were all heavy hitters. (Un)fortunately, the proggy aspects of the band's strange rhythmic changes, weird noises, and so, so much tuning, demand too much from all but the die-hards. The group maintained a cheerful, casual demeanor throughout, aware and apologetic for the strange pacing the tuning placed on a rock audience. Sound collage, comedic letter readings, and fan interaction tried to paper over the cracks. However, a strength of Swirlies' music is in their ear for a riff tied to a beat, and to have all momentum frustrated by the realities of those riffs' creation in odd tunings is, well, frustrating. As their set went on, the crowd thinned out. Those who stayed heard impressively accurate performances of their favorite songs—immaculately constructed and insanely detailed.