Tuesday night’s show at Glasslands was as good as the segues were weird. You might not guess that a free jazz freakout followed by artfully if haphazardly assembled, psychedelically tinged soul music and then an explosive female-fronted rock band would make any sense together, but it all did. Was Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier going to break his sticks, shatter a cymbal or puncture a drumhead with his axe-murderer attack on the kit? After his barely half-hour set with the trio Short Nerve ended with a final wallop, it seemed that he’d gotten two out of three, at least. Marimbist William Mcyntire played good cop to Saunier’s relentless, Weasel Walter-ish assault, with lingering, resonant lines and rippling neoromantic cascades, while guitarist Ofir Ganon hung back with a spacious, often eerily echoey approach that brought to mind 60s avant garde great Gabor Szabo. That was the trio’s game plan early on, in an explosive, nonstop performance that rose and fell in waves, building to a couple of crazed cyclotron crescendos.
Adam Schatz of Landlady followed with a nimbly executed set of loopmusic soul that drew deeply on classic blues and soul music from the 50s through the 70s. Schatz began with a surreal, dizzying pastiche of dark blues motives and then played a handful of originals that evoked both Bill Withers and Al Green in places. Schatz’s gritty, expressive voice brought to mind the former more than the latter as he shifted from tenor sax to keyboards with the kind of split-second choreography you need if you’re going to construct a song out of loops, live onstage without a net, and make it work. He ended his roughly half an hour onstage by going out into the crowd with his sax to lead them in an animated singalong of P-Funk’s I Got a Thing.
Eula headlined. They’re an amazing band, plain and simple, with an intense, instantly recognizable sound, part postpunk, part noiserock, punctuating their jaggedly catchy themes with hard-hitting, hypnotic interludes that you could call postrock. The trio of frontwoman/guitarist Alyse Lamb, bassist Jeff Maleri and drummer Stephen Reader took the stage joined by guitarist Chris Mulligan – who played terse, incisive licks against Lamb’s searing, sinister chords – along with clarinetist Jason Shelton, whose washes of sound added a distantly flickering ambience. From the dusky, hypnotically galloping, qawwali-esque groove of their opener, Noose, they established a menacing ambience that seldom relented. Why is it that so many lefty guitarists – Hendrix, Otis Rush, Randi Russo and Lamb herself – have such individualistic styles? She was inspiring to watch, leaping from flurries of abrasive noise, to ringing downstroke punk, the occasional dreampop swirl and on one of the set’s later numbers, an achingly unresolved yet wickedly catchy series of acidic chords that Thurston Moore would have been proud to come up with. While the band’s songs were short, seldom clocking in at more than a couple of minutes apiece, Lamb varied her attack and her dynamics as she explored every dark corner of the fretboard.
When she talked to the crowd, she was friendly and vivacious, but when she went to the mic there was venom in her voice and in an instant she’d reestalished a disquieting mood. The special guests stuck around for the second song, Your Beat, an even more hypnotic, one-chord minor key tune followed by the funky, Gang of Four-inflected Things, one of many new songs in the tantalizingly brief set. They brought back the qawwali sonics and raised them to a hardcore stomp on the next song, Aplomb, following with I Collapse, with its swaying groove and biting, vintage 80s Sonic Youth/Live Skull hooks. On the night’s last, savagely brief tune, Meadows, Lamb didn’t even bother playing chords or a melody, hitting her open strings and punctuating the wash of sound with rhythmic shrieks of feedback from her overdriven amp. It’s a simple trick, one you’d think someone else would have used before, and it was an apt way to close the show and sum up what this band’s about.