Show Review: Pilot Speed @ Berkeley Church

I Know You’re

Barely Listening

Pilot Speed at Berkeley Church

Nov 13 2009

The first thing that pops into my head when I enter Berkeley Church is “Wow, industry event”.  Maybe it’s the fact that the show wasn’t publicly advertised, or the stack of laminates on the “check in” table as I walk in.  Mostly though, it’s the roomful of square-framed glasses, scarves and skinny jeans, i.e. semi-drunk hipsters who seem to be more interested in drinking and climbing the social ladder than watching a concert.  Regardless, the atmosphere is pretty chill; candles line the walls and hang over the crowd.  There’s even two fireplaces to gather ‘round downstairs.
The first opening act of the night runs in the same vein as Pilot Speed.  They’re called Elias, a four-piece band from Vancouver.  They’re followed by Mistress Barbara, whose sound belongs in a dance club rather than on tour with two alt-rock bands.  Yet, I’m surprised at how much I like it.  Their dark techno sounds like something off the Underworld soundtrack and evokes memories of The Sneaker Pimps and the late great Martin Streak on Saturday night radio.
Todd Clark (vocals/piano/guitar), Chris Greenough (guitar), Ruby Bumrah (bass) and Bill Keeley (drums) of Pilot Speed take the stage just after 11pm.  These unassuming guys seem a little taken aback by the size of the audience.  Todd anxiously notes that this interesting phenomenon comes with playing in their hometown.  If they’re feeling the pressure, they certainly don’t show it as they launch into their debut single ‘Into Your Hideout’ from 2003’s Caught by the Window.  Its prominent guitar rhythm and driving beat get more than a few toes tapping.  Summarizing their entire career, they follow it with their newest single ‘Put the Phone Down‘ from Wooden Bones.  Perhaps this is an effort to capture the attention of those who only know the singles.  Or maybe it’s to remind everyone that Pilate and Pilot Speed are the same band (legal complications forced them to change their name in 2006).  Whatever the motive, it opens the show on a high note.
You don’t have to be an audio geek to notice that the sound system being used for this show is massive.  Whether it’s for the TV pilot that’s being filmed tonight or not, it’s far too powerful for such a small venue.  Especially an old and somewhat deteriorating one like the Berkeley.  Vibrations can be felt down in the basement.  Unfortunately, while the sound was loud and clear for the opening bands, it’s a little distorted for Pilot Speed.  Worried that the bass might actually cause me heart arrhythmia, I move away from my position by the speakers.
“This one is off our first album” Todd says before starting into ‘Mercy‘, which seems to please the crowd.  It’s obvious that their faster and harder songs garner better crowd responses.  Ironically, one of these songs is their single from 2006’s Sell Control for Life’s Speed called ‘Barely Listening’, which repeats “I know you’re barely listening” over and over.  Maybe I’m a purist, but I don’t think the audience din should be louder than the band onstage.  Industry event or not, some people actually want to enjoy the show.
Seemingly pressed for time, the band doesn’t chat much.  Though they do take a few minutes to recognize the hard work of both their audio and stage techs.  The hour-long set wraps up with ‘Knife-Grey Sea‘. As an encore, Todd returns to the stage solo to perform ‘Into the West’.  He is later joined by the rest of the band to perform the lengthy ‘Alright’.
Despite playing for only a select amount of real fans among a pretty indifferent crowd, Pilot Speed puts on a stellar show.  It’s no doubt that they’re very talented musicians. Todd switches back and forth between keyboard, guitar and a voice transformer, sometimes using all three in one song.  Their set is a good mix of slow, pensive pieces and upbeat rock ones, something you might hear from Radiohead or Muse.  Perhaps like these bands, Pilot Speed will one day get the recognition they deserve.
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- November 23, 2009)


About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on February 24, 2011, in Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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