No, Youâ€™re the Jerkface: We Used to Be Family, Yukon, Lands and Peoples at the Metro Gallery, June 16
Recently, when news began making the rounds that Baltimore instrumental band We Used to Be Family had a new song called â€śJerkface Shipley,â€ť multiple people jumped to the conclusion that it was about me. If Iâ€™d earned their ire with a negative review, it wouldnâ€™t be the first time (shout out to Keys). But no such luck: Iâ€™d never written about the band, and the song title was apparently based on some inside joke about some other Shipley. (Itâ€™s a pretty common surname in Maryland.) Still, last weekâ€™s release party for the bandâ€™s new release that the song is featured on, the T.Y.T.O. EP, was a good opportunity to say hello to the band, and dispel and/or encourage any rumors about the origins of â€śJerkface Shipley.â€ť
Fortunately, I wonâ€™t have to start a feud with We Used to Be Family because theyâ€™re pretty damn good. While so many instrumental indie bands with a violin and cello are content to play something slow and pretty and build up to predictable crescendos, We Used to Be Family takes its winding compositions through some interesting twists and turns and lets skronky guitar textures and energetic drums drive things forward. When it came time for the band to play the song Iâ€™d came to hear, the band diplomatically announced, â€śThis song is not about Al Shipley.â€ť
We Used to Be Family got some good openers for the show too. Lands and Peoples are quickly becoming one of Baltimoreâ€™s most promising bands, with the recent Friends Records compilation track â€śIn Living Colourâ€ť showcasing a more uptempo approach than the bandâ€™s spacier, more lackadaisical early material. The quartetâ€™s set on Wednesday continued to build on that songâ€™s direction with a confident, muscular live sound and big hooks that werenâ€™t drowned in as much reverb as they sometimes are on record.
The other opener was Yukon, the proggy local rock band whoâ€™d recently gone through some lineup changes and pared down from a quartet to a trio. The new Yukon sound is much as it was before, full of knotty time signatures and airtight dynamics, although the guitar sometimes dipped down a little too low in the mix. Staggeringly talented drummer Nick Podgursky sounds like even more the driving force of the band now than before, even singing more vocals than he had in the past. As amazing as Yukon can be on a technical level, though, sometimes all the complex rhythms and interlocking riffs can pile up so relentlessly that the bandâ€™s sets unfortunately become more something to endure than to enjoy.