It’s a funny thing when a reunion tour that wasn’t even that big to begin with comes around for a second time. Last year Archers of Loaf played two consecutive sold-out nights at this very venue (The Troubadour), and now they return on a Sunday evening in February, to see just who is interested in seeing them again. Judging from those in the audience it seemed to be a pretty even mix between those hard core fans coming for another helping, people who would call themselves fans but had missed them on the first time around, and those who are new to Archers of Loaf. That is to say, that even on a Sunday night, not long after they had last played the venue (but a long time after they had just released some new material), Archers of Loaf still managed to pack the place out, and that says something about just how beloved this band is.
A band looking to capitalize on this good will that Archers of Loaf have is tour and label mates Hospitality, who just released their debut album on Merge last month. As is to be expected, Hospitality still have some way to go to being show-stopping performers, but their set was largely enjoyable, as they intertwined their various instruments to create a smooth brand of indie pop. Singer Amber Papini’s performance was adequate, but she looks like she needs a bit more time before she becomes comfortable and confident enough to lead the band strongly. She could take some pointers from bassist Brian Betancourt whose demeanor turned from casual to intense from moment to moment in songs and was always interesting to behold. The Archers of Loaf crowd was always going to be one to win over for a relatively unknown band who don’t rock anywhere near as hard as the band that they’ve come to see, but by the end of their set everyone in the audience had clearly enjoyed Hospitality’s performance, and hopefully as the tour continues they can make more of an impression each passing night.
Last year Archers of Loaf reissued their debut album Icky Mettle, while just last week the reissue of their second album Vee Vee was released. The band plays from all of their albums on this tour, but it’s unsurprising that the majority of the crowd came to see songs from these first two albums. This was abundantly clear when “Wrong,” the first big hit of the night, was played early in the set, causing a lot of movement in the audience from those who wanted to mosh along. Even those who weren’t so in the mood for rough housing couldn’t help but scream along to the cathartic song. For their part, the band themselves were extremely active onstage, especially guitarist Eric Johnson and bassist Matt Gentling, who did most of the excited talking between songs.
The band kept the momentum high with songs like “Let The Loser Melt” and “Audiowhore,” bouncing and headbanging along to every new guitar riff, creating a thrilling sight. However, it was those moments when the crowd could sing along audibly that were the most memorable. The opening sinister bass line of “You and Me” got people excited and singing along, “Web In Front” was complete chaos, while “Greatest of All Time” was a strangely touching moment, with Eric Bachmann singing the words with just as much earnestness as the day he wrote them.
The band left the stage promptly after an hour of playing, but the audience could tell by the way the band had seemed so impassioned in their performance that they were not done yet, and abruptly the band returned to deliver an impressive encore. The title track of 1998’s White Trash Heroes showcased Bachmann’s best vocal performance of the night; the song, a fairly different style to the rest of the set, allowed the crowd to sit back and relax a little to take it in. That same album’s opening track, “Fashion Bleeds,” was certainly appreciated by the hard core fans, and along with “Harnessed in Slums,” it certainly made sure that the crowd remained active, in terms of moshing and screaming along, through the encore too.
Although on the one hand it’s an almost saddening inequality to see Archers of Loaf’s contemporaries like Pavement and The Smashing Pumpkins playing venues many times the size of The Troubadour, it’s also strangely pleasing too. Archers of Loaf’s music is supposed to be experienced in small, sweaty clubs where people can mosh and see every drip of sweat on the band’s faces. The band should be able to hear every word being screamed back at them from a crowd that is mere feet away. That is a true rock show, and Archers of Loaf and their fans certainly haven’t forgotten it.