Polvo: Live Last Night
By Patrick Foster
Once upon a time (around 1992), the land of Indie Rock was a different place than it is today: 7" singles were essential currency, fanzines came from a photocopy machine and a pitchfork was something you'd only find on a farm. And a humble quartet from North Carolina called Polvo created knotty, intricate songs from cascading dynamics and tangled guitar riffs that rose and fell like half-remembered dreams. They parted ways near the end of the decade, leaving a trail of glittery musical gems behind.
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So when they walked onto the stage of the Black Cat last night and launched into "Fast Canoe," they instantly wrapped the small, but enthusiastic crowd in the cloak of the indie rock days of yore. But the 80-minute set was more than a magic carpet ride into the past. Polvo recorded and released a fine new album since reforming last year and the set was a judicious mix of past and present, a full-circle encapsulation that felt both relevant and timeless, entirely reminiscent of one of their compositions.
As ever, it was the guitars of Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski that drove the action, overlapping, intertwining and preparing a bed for one or the other to lay their impressionistic, fleeting vocals. Through older gems like "Every Holy Shroud" and newer ones like "Right the Relation," "The Pedlar" and "Beggar's Bowl" there was a sense of cohesion and connection. Polvo played with strength and sensitivity (and of course, few histrionics or banter), almost standing aside at times, to let nothing stop the music from getting through. Which is exactly what they did in 1993. And can there be a better measure of the success of a reunion show than walking out with the feeling that the band never really left you?
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