Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pere Ubu at the Bowery Ballroom

David Thomas
Protopunk garage rock band Rocket from the Tombs, based in Cleveland, Ohio, split in 1975 after only a year together. The various members then formed the Dead Boys, the Saucers, and Pere Ubu. Only Pere Ubu remains, and vocalist David Thomas has been the sole constant of the "avant-garage" band. Pere Ubu briefly disbanded in 1979, reforming later that same year. The group disbanded again in 1982, while Thomas worked on a solo career, but he again retooled Pere Ubu in 1987. The band's 16th and most recent album is 2014's Carnival of Souls. Pere Ubu presently consists of Thomas, new guitarist Gary Siperko, synthesizer player Robert Wheeler, bassist Michele Temple, and drummer Steve Mehlman.

Tonight's concert at the Bowery Ballroom was billed as Pere Ubu: Coed Jail! Songs from 1975-1982. This meant that the newer generation of musicians was going to perform many of the band's earliest songs. Indeed, Thomas sat on his stool for the entire set, singing and speaking with his eyes closed, and sipping red wine and sharing anecdotes between songs, while the musicians recreated music composed before their engagement in Pere Ubu. The set began with "Heart of Darkness," one of the band's oldest songs, launching a 23-song retrospective of Pere Ubu’s first five albums and the singles before the albums. Thomas spoke, sang, yelped, and howled, while the band played Pere Ubu's obtuse art-punk rock, demonstrating how this propulsive music was a precursor to grunge and yet peculiarly different. The concert was not so much a representation of Thomas' present vision as it was a rear-view mirror to what was once Pere Ubu.

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