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Perverse Osmosis Cuts a Slice of Pi

March 18, 2008

For math buffs, March 14 is Pi Day, a chance to celebrate the numerical value of π (3.14159 . . . ). For history and Shakespeare buffs, March 15 is the Ides of March, the date of Julius Ceasar’s death that has become a signifier for impending doom. And for the Baltimore band Perverse Osmosis, March 13 was an opportunity to mash both events together for the Pides Of March, which was almost certainly the only rock show ever played at the Sidebar that involved a math lecture, togas, and free pie.

When we entered the club, the second band of the night, Scoundrel, was ripping through a cover of Mötley Crüe’s “Shout at the Devil.” And whether it’s a testament to Scoundrel’s fidelity to its 1980s metal influences or a commentary on its lack of originality, the band’s originals were virtually indistinguishable from the covers. “Right to Fight” sounded right at home in proximity to Scoundrel’s rendition of Judas Priest’s “Breakin’ the Law,” which closed its set. And its original “Skeleton Key,” which the band dedicated to Dave Mustaine, featured a vocal that so accurately mimicked the Megadeth frontman that we had to check with Google to make sure it wasn’t actually a cover.

Next were the grindcore quartet Shit the Bed, which was delightfully nihilistic in the way that really young guys playing really loud music often are. The band, which featured just a guitarist and a drummer, with two frontmen, alternated between a singer with a typical Cookie Monster growl and a skinny kid who yapped like an agitated Chihuahua. The latter vocalist noted early in the set that he’d been sick lately and told the audience, “I hope I don’t puke all over you,” which might’ve come off as vulgar if his band weren’t called Shit the Bed. The band’s songs were typically so short, usually topping off at two minutes, that when they bashed out one riff for 10 seconds and then stopped, we honestly weren’t sure if they were making a joke or it was an actual song on its set list.

Perverse Osmosis, the self-proclaimed “Lo-Fi Hi-Speed Experimental Thrash” band that came up with the night’s whole goofy theme, was suitably the most eccentric band on the bill. And though its songs were as simple, short, and loud as the bands that preceded it, Perverse Osmosis had the benefit of a less monochromatic sound thanks to the Farfisa organ that rounded out the power trio’s drums and guitar. The drummer, who stood and pounded on a snare and floor tom with only an occasional cymbal crash, wore a toga and a cardboard mask, while a figure of pi made from paper towel rolls dangled from the ceiling. And at the end of its set, the band made good on its promise of a math lecture, projecting a PowerPoint presentation against a sheet, explaining numerous fun facts about pi. It may have been, on a strictly musical level, just another night of local bands playing loud riffs and screaming at the Sidebar. But one of those bands at least had the ambition to turn the occasion into its own bizarre holiday. Hopefully Perverse Osmosis will do it again next year.

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