Show Review: Shellac at The New Parish, Oakland

Oct. 24, 2011

by Sean Campbell, Ticketfly Senior Accountant/ Financial Analyst (Yes, even the accountant writes show reviews)

Shellac is one of those bands that has a bit of mystery about them. They’ve only released four studio albums in 20 years, rarely tour, and don’t count on Facebook or Twitter to keep their fans interested. Saturday’s show at the New Parish brought home what keeps fans interested: their utterly unique, driving noise/math rock sound, heavy on the sarcasm and the rhythm and light on traditional conventions of live shows. Shellac shows have no encores, intro music, or fashion statements, though they do feature bassist Bob Weston’s audience Q&A, which usually goes like this:

Weston: “Steve is tuning. Questions! You in the front!”

Fan: (inaudible)

Weston: “What? Huh? Turn your cellphone camera off, jerk! Next question!”

It’s that sort of warm and fuzzy band/fan interaction that compelled me to leave a beautiful Santa Cruz beach on Saturday evening and drive up the 17 to Oakland. I’ve never been to the New Parish, and I will be returning. This is definitely my favorite club in the East Bay. Balcony? Check. Outdoor Patio? Check. Liquor? Check. It’s a great sounding, roomy venue that knows what it’s doing. The show was sold out but there was room to move and buy drinks. I look forward to checking out their sister club, Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco.

Opener Helen Money is a solo cellist that plays through loops and effects, sometimes strumming the cello like a guitar, sometimes playing it as a percussion instrument. She was a very engaging performer.

Shellac came onstage and set up with drummer Todd Trainer in front, crash cymbal 10 feet in the air. They launched into “Canada”, “Squirrel Song”, “Steady as She Goes”, my personal favorite “Watch Song” and other fan favorites. They absolutely rule live. You can really hear the distinctive sound of their Travis Bean instruments (necks made out of aluminum) and custom amps. Bass and drums locked into the groove while singer/guitarist Steve Albini sang about radio, aliens, Satchel Paige, fighting, and ghosts. They played for about 90 minutes, stopping only for question time and to announce a song, “this song is about an a******, **** him and **** all his ****.” They announced their last song and said they’d have t-shirts for sale after the show.

They played no encore or solo acoustic songs. Just one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, without frills. Definitely check them out when (if) they come to your town. They’ll be making their way up to the Northwest in the coming week. And check out the New Parish!

Local photographer Shannon Corr got some great photos of the New Parish show you can check out on his Flickr.

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