When a show has a killer lineup, it’s not hard to be equally excited for every band. I feel extremely lucky to catch one or two awesome bands in one night–but three? That is a rare treat, indeed. Thursday night at Subterranean was that kind of show with Chicago’s own Melkbelly kicking things off for the night in support of their latest release, Nothing Valley, followed up by Speedy Ortiz.
Each band is stellar in their own right, but what made the night’s lineup so great was both their similarities and their differences. It’s easy to hear the jazz and noise rock elements with all three bands, but they all brought their own distinct sound that they’re known for. In the case of Tera Melos, it’s hard to avoid terms such as “math rock” and “prog rock” while listening to one of their albums.
Upon first listen, the Sacramento-based group definitely has many of the elements associated with said genres. The hyper-technical guitar riffs, funky bass, and rapid fire snare beats undoubtedly point to influences of prog and math rock. But their robot-like precision and quirky songwriting pushes it beyond the obvious labels.
Trash Generator, this year’s follow up to 2013’s X’ed Out, takes it up a notch and is a clear example of taking core elements of a genre and building it up into something more. “Warpless Run” in particular borrows more from punk and thrash elements with blast beats and heavy riffs that would make even the most staunch metalheads proud. Little interjections like this are a very pleasant surprise in an era of easily recycled musical tropes.
Given that it was a 17+ show, much of the crowd had thinned out by the time Tera Melos took the stage. Most of the audience seemed to be older, long-time fans that posted up right at the front, but I opted to take in everything from farther back in the room. They started their set on a mellower, melodic note before transitioning to a more upbeat vibe with “Weird Circles” from their previous full-length release. They had an electric vibe about them without physically going all out and thrashing around wildly, letting the energy of the music speak for itself.
Overall, they delivered a tight and polished set, demonstrating how they’ve expanded within their own sound. Newer tracks like “Trash Generator” and “Don’t Say I Don’t Know” epitomize their collective growth as a band with effortless transitions that take you around sharp corners right before abruptly shifting gears to something amazing and unexpected–something definitely far from “Tom Sawyer.”