TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns) and Tera Melos‘ tour is a guitar pedal enthusiasts wet dream. Between the two bands, hundreds of pedals were on display but some would argue that only one band really used the pedals to their full effectiveness.
TTNG opened the show; many of the crowd grumbled “shouldn’t they be headlining.” A few songs in it became clear why the fans felt that way. The math rock trio owned the crowd. Despite their shy British exteriors, clearly the Connecticut crowd was on their side. Not one song was not greeted with immediate cheers. A majority of the crowd knew every word and voiced it appropriately. The band seemed flabbergasted with the circumstances, occassionally turning to one other saying “this is so cool” or praising the crowd as “awesome.” Truth is that it was TTNG that was awesome. The band’s mixture of math rock and Cap’n Jazz-style emo creates a highly emotional yet energetic combination. The members of the crowd that were not familiar with TTNG could still enjoy their complex guitar work, grooving rhythms, and at least lead singer/bassist, Henry Tremain’s excellent mustache.
When TTNG announced their last song, the crowd broke out into loud boos. As they finished up “26,” the crowd began cheering “one more song.” In their shy and slightly embarassed sort of way Tremain explained “the less we play the more Tera Melos gets to play and you want to hear Tera Melos play.” The truth is that the crowd did NOT want to hear Tera Melos played. Uncannily the crowd thinned to about half its size by the time Tera Melos hit their first notes. There were some eager young fans who pushed forward but they were pedal gawkers, looking at lead singer/guitarist Nick Reinhart’s multitude of pedals. How Reinhart used the pedals is what made the crowd thin out throughout Tera Melos’ set until only a handful of fans remained for their 23 minute final song.
Reinhart’s pedals can make a guitar sound and do things that seem other worldly. One pedal makes the guitar sound like a pinball machine. One makes the guitar sounds like an organ. Another makes the guitar sound like a record drop. While occasional use of these pedals add a unique spin to a song, Reinhart used them as a crutch, letting the pedals speak instead of his guitar playing or song writing.
Secondly, at their heart, Tera Melos is a free jazz band. Bassist Nathan Latona and newest member, drummer John Clardy have no idea what Reinhart is going to do. So in cases of his guitar solos when he often follows no time signature or tempo, Latona resorts to striking one bass note or sliding his fingers up and down the fretboard willy nilly while Clardy does drum rolls or jazz fills. Some of these solos lasted tens of minutes, most notably this 23 minute closer that was essentially one giant solo. Some of the eager young onlookers could be seen yawning during these solos as Reinhart continually hit pedals whose novelty was already established and added nothing to the music.
In the end, Tera Melos was boring. The crowd was right for cheering TTNG to play more, because there was nothing about Tera Melos hour and a half set that made them more suitable headliners over TTNG. While TTNG enraptured the crowd, Tera Melos thinned the heard until only the most committed (and journalists) were left.