Review: The Von Bondies, SSM, Freer @ The Basement

On Saturday night, a friend and I traveled down to Columbus’ beloved Basement to see a cavalcade of Detroit rock bands. Freer kicked off the show at 8:30 sharp. This quintet seems to be more influenced by various strains of keyboard-pop and classic “alternative rock” than their hometown counterparts. Hell, they seem to have appropriated most of the bridge from “Under The Milky Way” by The Church for one of their songs, which surprised me. Overall, the set didn’t move me much. When lead singer Jeremy Freer swapped his keyboards for a guitar, the band rocked decidedly harder, but still hit me weirdly (I am tempted to call one of the tunes punk-funk, which I wasn’t ready for). After a short 25-minute set, the band left the stage abruptly (with some members unaware that it was over). It seems that Jeremy busted his mouth open somehow during the last song, as evidenced by his heavily-bandaged face when he was behind the merch table. Hopefully he is healing well.

Next up was SSM, whom I had seen rock the not-so-mighty audience at Little Brother’s almost a year ago. Unfortunately, during the set changeover, my friend’s medical condition flared up and I had to take him home. Therefore, I missed the first half+ of the set. I did get to see some lively versions of a couple of my favorites from their 2006 eponymous full-length as well as a few songs (presumably) from Break Your Arm For Evolution, to be released on January 29th via Alive Records. They ended their frenzied set of electronically-enhanced garage with a long take on “Put Me In” that went from the angelic squelch of John Szymanski’s keyboards into a weird rap into some Kraftwerk chants (“Pocket Calculator”) and back into a rousing chorus of the actual tune. What I saw of the set was great, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.

After a long transition, the headliners hit the stage. Despite changes in lineup over the past few years (lead singer Jason Stollsteimer and drummer Don Blum are the only holdovers from the liner notes to 2004’s Pawn Shoppe Heart), the Von Bondies are still squeezing the most out of their poppy garage tunes. They are touring on a new limited-edition EP, but played over half of the songs on PSH. So, for a town that saw this band 3 or 4 times when the album came out, this was kind of like a nostalgia tour. They seem to be regrouping after a hiatus (or reformation?), but more new material would have been nice. Stollsteimer crooned all over the catchy boogie of “Pale Bride,” the only memorable new song from the set. The band did old standards like “No Regrets” and “C’mon C’mon” proud, but I was still left wanting more.

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