Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt: Glitter and Actually Good Songs
Most Likely To: be remembered fondly for the right reasons by some, the wrong ones by most.
‘I Love You. I Love You. I Love You And I’m In Love With You. Have An Awesome Day! Have The Best Day Of Your Life!’ This, more or less, says more about The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt than I probably could. Good thing it also happens to be the title of their Luka Bop debut. Bad thing that it, much like the entirety of what the band themselves seems to be striving for, may very well end up being obscured by the very people who are steadily prepping Terror Pigeon for a career as the next blogtastrophe (and all the thrilling peaks and valleys that accompany such a thing).
Let me put this into context. On 3/30/10 I caught their performance at The Loft at UCSD here in sunny San Diego. Sometime in early ’08, possibly ’07, I saw them for the first time at any given double in the Old at SUNY Purchase. I hadn’t seen or spoken to Neil (man behind the Bird) in about as much time and when he appeared at my doorstep two or so days prior to the San Diego date, I was comforted to see how little he and the accompanying Pigeons (some known to me, some new to me) had changed. They were still the same people that had both charmed and welcomed me into the beautiful/miserable mess that the whole Terror Pigeon expo was when I first encountered them thousands of miles away and lifetimes worth of experience ago.
In the time between these two points, I had heard rumors of their success. As disconnected as I was from anything “relevant” at the time, I had no real way of verifying these rumors, but there was a buzz and I could only assume that if that buzz was loud enough to reach the ears of someone locked down 18-20 hours a day at a Naval base in Illinois, the reality of this buzz must be exponentially bigger than I realized. In the weeks and months prior to their arrival at my little corner of San Diego, I had made great strides to plug myself back in and as such came to realize that my assumptions made back in Illinois were correct; Terror Pigeon was some shit, man! I was worried. I was afraid that the purity and exuberant joy that I knew in their person and art back in New York would be tainted, sullied by the growth of their own machine. But I was wrong.
It was like I had just seen them yesterday. Prefaced some twenty-two hours prior by the arrival of tourmates The Shakes, I was already thirty-six beers deep (over a twenty-four hour period, mind you – I’m not THAT bad…) and fresh off another day of defending the shit out of freedom when the knock came. I opened my door and welcomed into my home some old friends. Neil, Jesse, and newcomers Dan and lady-who’s-name-I-can’t-remember-and-I’m-so-sorry-about-that stood in a collective shamble. I welcomed them in and allowed them to get settled. We talked, cooked, caught up – all the things that become appropriate when friends are reclaimed. It was one of the times that I cherish most simply because it was one of the times that reestablishes the connection between who I am and why I am doing what it is that I am doing.
The point that I am trying to get across is that the people in question, Terror Pigeon namely, are as simple and good as anything or anyone you may come across. Far from the lone troubador stereotype, even farther from the Deacon-esque joke many are sure to want to make, Terror Pigeon come from somewhere only nominally connected to what moves our collective RSS feeds. This is why it is such a shame to tell you, reader dearest, that the particular show which I attended (and, I fear, most Terror Pigeon shows from here-to-perpetual) was an ultimately sad affair. This has nothing to do with the band. This has everything to do with the people who go to see them.
The performance itself was a brilliantly executed marriage of carnival-savvy and art that actually feels emergent. Terror Pigeon is a spectacle in both form and act – from the first note, a veritable playhouse exists complete with inflatable snowmen, happy-go-lucky versions of the tall men from Daft Punk’s “Around The World” video, Hulk hands, glitter, hugs and lights almost too dazzling to be home made (they are- Neil’s lightboard is an impressive exercise in what must be sheer luck – how the fuck has he not electrocuted himself to death yet?) But do not mistake the spectacle for being the bulk of the draw. This is spectacle, no question about that, but it is not without substance.
“There are those that could dismiss what we do as being all show, but I’ve never looked at it that way. I’m proud of the songs that I’ve written – I think they’re great songs and stand on their own as much as recorded pieces of music as parts of a live performance.” -Neil Fridd
This is not bullshit. The very-previously-mentioned Luka Bop debut is as solid as it is sincere. I had expected a posi-Le Tigre, but what I got was an electro-clash take on psyche-punk (the best part of being a music journalist is inventing plausible sounding hyphenations, by the way) aesthetic that owes as much to Wolf Parade as it does Black Devil. Terror Pigeon excels in building towering lights of breathtaking, neon extravagance out of an admittedly crude combination of claps, gang vocals and a research grant from the Casio corporation. The individual elements of the music (the beats, the vocals, the claps) are weak, almost insignificant, but gain a certain strength in numbers that overwhelms the listener with what can only be described as an immutable sense of joy. Whether thrilling over a snow day at twentysomething-years-old or gushing a river of love at a lady of affection (not caring whether she reciprocates, just enjoying the feeling), Terror Pigeon treads the line of the saccharine with a maturity that recognizes how easily purity can be lost and how much more important it makes it to retain.
But San Diego just may not realize any of this yet. I asked Neil and Jesse who they wanted to listen to their music – more importantly why they wanted those people to do so;
“Everyone. Really – everyone could just be so happy. I want them to feel young and in love with everything, with themselves, with each other.” -Neil + Jesse (condensed + ghost-written).
Everyone involved with something beautiful and is close in any way to the source of that thing watches it decay the more it is shared. After breaching the span of the United States, Terror Pigeon’s essence has been distorted by the people around it. During the performance, I watched Neil, Jesse and Christina (of The Shakes) flail in simple ecstasy. Around them, fat girls in American Apparel leggings touched each other for the sake of a Facebook photo. A drunk bro in the center of the crowd positioned himself in just the right way so as to have the surge of the mass behind him thrust his half-chub into the innocent little freshman in front of him. The boring, hired, professionally hip dj who fucked around on a MacBook Pro between sets lurked somewhere in back, talking shit (nobody remembered his name after that show – nobody.) The possibly-furry opening band was nowhere to be found as they were probably off yiffing in their half-assed tiger stagewear (a LARPer’s take on Aladdin Sane.)
Everybody danced, everyone embraced, everything was just lovely. I just don’t know how many were there for the novelty and how many were there for the memory. I never had to make that distinction before and now that I do I am left feeling a little bit sad.
Here’s to you – Neil, Jesse, Dan, nice lady who’s name I can’t remember, Pat, Christina, James, Sam. The ones who made it all the way to drop out without ever having to turn on or tune in like the rest of us did. We lost part of what you’re keeping alive and I, for one, stand jealous. With any luck at all, your shows will be well attended and your records eagerly bought. If not for the art, then maybe for the feeling of just how much of a blessing it is to live a life absent of documentation, memory, reservations or a like button.