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Friday, April 3, 2015

Show Review: Pile Preach to the Choir at the Hemlock Tavern

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 2:14 PM

Friends without Benefits

April 2, 2015
The Hemlock Tavern

Better than: Church on Sunday

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Tyler La Salle (front) and Lucas Nevrla (behind) slam dance during Pile at The Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, Calif., on April 2, 2015.

Pile doesn’t have radio hits because Pile is not on the radio. If they did have hits, they wouldn’t be the band’s “#1 Hit Single” or “#2 Hit Single,” but last night at the Hemlock Tavern, the band’s faithful congregation canonized “Touched by Comfort” and “Prom Song.”

Pile ripped through their set with the tenacity of a chainsaw massacre. With one wicked tug of the starter, front man Rick Maguire launched into “The World is Your Motel,” the opening track off of this year’s thundering charter, “You're Better Than This.”

The evening began light-hearted enough. San Francisco sasscore duo, Friends without Benefits, opened up the show. The band, Cadet Edac and White Trash Ninja, donned space cadet and ninja masks. They balanced humor and irony with the most sincere assault on the gentrification they’ve witnessed in their short time in San Francisco with lyrics like, “Americano or latte, because fuck it, you’re entitled.”

And then Sam Titus’s dog, Sophie, died back in New Hampshire. Local nostalgeneric rockers Wag played a tribute set to their friend’s dead canine. It was tinged with the sort of romance that ranges from fighting in the kitchen to driving away from someone you love. On the singalong “Grappling with California,” front man Lucas Nevrla gave the crowd the microphone. “I don’t wanna be here,” they shouted back at him, “but I don’t wanna go home.”

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Lucas Nevrla (Wag) screams the chorus of “Grappling With California” without a microphone at The Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, Calif., on April 2, 2015.

Couches followed Wag, blending crisis-pop melodies with ferocious guitar lines. After a continent crossing tour the beleaguered band was finally home. Their pinstripe rhythms coerced a room of “people who work too much” to cut loose and set the stage for Pile.

But no one commanded the room like Pile. The dark, huddled masses in the back of the room charged forward; the guitar feedback bled the audience. The crowd poured sweat and tears on the floor and stage as front man Rick Maguire bludgeoned through “The World is Your Motel,” while staring into the monitors perched on the adjacent end of the stage.
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Matt Connery (left) and Rick Maguire (right) of Pile play the solo to crowd favorite “Prom Song” at The Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, Calif., on April 2, 2015.

It’s been said that Pile is a band’s band, and tonight that proved true. While the Hemlock’s capacity was nearly breached with the laity of the church of Pile, the fervorous front lines of the congregation were the members of the opening bands.

“The Church of Pile” is a fitting joke among fans. Drummer Kris Kuss learned how to play in church, and from there he learned how to command a room. The turbeulent emotional waters that Pile navigated changed on a dime. From ripping guitar stops to arpeggiated buildups with no in-between, Pile shredded the constitution of what it means to be a post-hardcore band. Siren sounds bled out of Maguire’s worn down Les Paul Jr. as the crowd fell over each other like penned animals frenzied by a mind warping infection.

Finally, like a demolition expert razing a building, Maguire ended the night with “Prom Song.” Arm-in-arm, the audience threw themselves at the stage—diving, slam dancing, fist pumping and crying—as Maguire wrung the last drops of terror and anxiety out of his guitar.

When it was all over and the lights came on, the dark huddled masses had been reduced to the big, moist bag of garbage that Maguire had sung about in the opening song. “Thank you Pile,” they shouted in collective reverence.

Critic’s Notebook:

Pile isn’t the kind of band that you miss after having seen them once, and I don’t expect to see any less than half of the same crowd again on Saturday [4/4] night at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland.


The World is Your Motel
Mr. Fish
Baby Boy
Hot Breath
Special Snowflakes
#1 Hit Single
Uncle Jill
Touched by Comfort
Afraid of Home
#2 Hit Single
Prom Song

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Kyle DaSilva

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