Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pink Lightning: Washtub bass, projecting anxiety, and 'the Raising of the Hands' - 4/17 @ Lager House

“…just, try to play high energy music,” Everette shrugs.

Talk about that, talk about getting up there, and that energy.

Everette: “Oh!”

What’s it like up there?

Mike: “…sweaty.”

Guitarist Matt Paw speaks for bassist Everette Rinehart, accordionist Mike McWilliams, and drummer Neal Parks: “We’re glad we don’t have to sing back up vocals” (behind lanky spark plug balladeer Chris Butterfield) “…because we’re fucking tuckered out by the last song.”

“I love the anxiety I feel,” Butterfield said, “before performing. I like to project that anxiety onto an audience

These five, as musically attuned as brothers and personally affably rowdy and anecdotal as lightly grizzled beer league socialites, form the rickety rocking post-punk groove of Pink Lightning, a band born on a volleyball field, ameliorated upon a baseball field, and consistently galvanized inside a cluttered fifth-floor loft in Eastern Market.

Parks and Rinehart started busking on corners at the Market with their friend’s Americana folk project , Parks on a snare and Rinehart playing a re-purposed garbage can and 2x4 (as makeshift “washtub” bass). McWilliams added his accordion to the mix, and the trio would then jam up in Parks’ loft. Parks would also jam with his fellow Wayne State student, Paw. “Neal and I are just jamming, getting stuff together, ‘till he says: Hey, I know this bass player and this accordion player. And I’m like…accordion player? Fuck! So…we all jammed a couple months and (Steve Gamburd) hooked us up with our first show at the Phoenix Café.” This was winter, early 09.

“Matt comes to us,” remembers Everette, “and says, Hey, we got a show… We’re like: Oh, shit…well, we need some songs!”

Mcwilliams chimes in, “I would never have joined that band if I thought we were ever gonna play a show.”

~all photos by Lo-Fi Bri~

Pink Lightning shows tend to emit that classic, rattled up spirit of rock n roll, where the stage is more a flimsy cage steadily more undermined by the vigorous (still yet exacting and graceful) jitter and juke of the wild sway and trounce of the players keenly moving and grooving to their own melodic fire as much as any crowd would be arrested by their danceable rhythms and keyed-up sonic aesthetic.

But, a certain bombast atop the characteristic wheeze of an accordion shouldn't’t suggest any passé reach to label them “gypsy punk” – whatever it is, its exerting, as rock n roll should be, and edgy and gnarled ,as punk should be…

Say what you will, it keeps its cohesion, because a.) each player’s been noodling and honing his craft for years and b.) this quintet utilizes every free minute to practice in that cavernous loft. Swerves into chaos are managed with sureness when the team knows where (and how) to land (together).

And they really are a team, let’s be frank.

“I met you guys playing baseball,” Butterfield recalls a summer afternoon at the Wayne State diamond. Pink Lightning was switched on by a volleyball match at Z’s Villa, where Parks suddenly threw off his shirt and exclaimed, “Fuck this, who wants to be in a band with me, raise your hands!”

Rinehart speaks of: “The ‘Raising of the Hands…,’” whereupon, of those gathered volleyball players, he and McWilliams were the ones to respond with the appropriate gesture. That gave you your rhythm core. Add Paw’s guitar and the quartet started piecing together songs as an instrumental band.

Their musical compatibility and familiarity knotted up tightly through that, which meant that by the time Butterfield officially joined the band in summer of 09 (after experimentally belting and scatting over their practice sessions), that the sometimes suited up cut-up could throw his throaty lyrical paint all over the room…the walls were secure, the Pink Lightning shack was sturdy. “We’re just going nuts the whole time, live,” said Paw, “and Chris has this awesome ability to just roll with that.”

“Because,” said Paw, “we don’t break, man. You can’t stop for a second.”

Parks: “The set’s at 100 miles per hour.”

Rinehart: “Live, the songs are about 1 ½ -times as fast, but, it works cuz we practice a lot.”

Lyric writing is a process Butterfield “doesn’t care to rush. If lyrics aren’t ready by the time we perform live, I scat through most of the song. I grew up listening to a lot of punk, so themes of disillusionment are fairly prevalent, though I would hardly consider myself a cynic. You sprout from your environment, look around and ask questions…..I like to ask loudly, sometimes incoherently.”

“I’m not even thinking straight when I perform,” said Butterfield. “I have no control over my thoughts. I’m not good at hiding my feelings. So, if I’m not having a good time, I might use that. It’s theatre, you’re on a stage. I like that dynamic with the audience not knowing, like, Who am I gonna get tonight? What’s it gonna be? It is what it is…”

“One day I might be in drag,” Rinehart shrugs again.

And now, after almost two solid years playing and a recently released EP (recorded at Tap Water Studio), the band is realizing more, and appreciating more, the community they’ve been settling into, particularly the indie rock shoegaze trio Pewter Cub (whom they toured with recently and plan to, again), or other comrades like Phantom Cats, DevilFish, Macrame Tiger or Marco Polio and the New Vaccines.

They're even settling in with their neighbors throughout the loft, who often open their windows in the summer time to take in the Pink Lightning rehearsal echoing down. “Hey, we heard you’re stuff, it sounds good,” Rinehart mimics comments the band receives upon heading out for shows.

Weird…but good,” McWilliams quips.

“It’s the electricity of us being in one room that makes Pink Lightning,” Butterfield said. “We’re a ragtag bunch; different backgrounds, different music. It’s nonsense that works.”

4-17 - Lager House - with Parts & Labor + Child Bite + Golden Torso


Playing TONIGHT - at Squared Circle Revue - "Attack of the Clowns" - 9pm at Hastings Street Ballroom -

Squared Circle Revue continues... Friday night - more info here - with "The Match of 1,000 Pies" and performances by Black Jake & the Carnies and Haley Jane and much more.

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