Attic Abasement and I have been locked in a holding pattern for a while now. Since arriving at UR three years ago, I have heard about and then promptly missed no fewer than four shows from the local indie legends, for a variety of reasons ranging from the peculiarities of travel in the modern age to me being a dumb idiot who forgets things. So when I saw a poster for Attic Abasement’s 9/3 Swan Dive show, I knew I wouldn’t mess it up this time.
Opener Pomelo, another local favorite, were tight, tight, tight.
They filled the upstairs area of Swan Dive (a loft known as “Big Pink”) with mathy post-hardcore that was heavy on dynamic and time signature shifts. The penultimate song, an as-of-yet-untitled number that was introduced as being “a new boy,” was especially frenetic. It was full of stops and starts and a grinding guitar line. Had we been in a basement instead of the upstairs of a comparatively swanky bar, I don’t doubt a pit would have opened.
The members of Pomelo all seemed like nice boys: bass player Erik (also of False Pockets) greeted me and my friends before the show and cheerfully invited us to “punch [Pomelo] in the face when [they] got up there.”
Best of all, their guitarist had the grill of his amp covered with ‘70s faux wood paneling. How cool is that?
Attic Abasement lined up with one guitar, one bass, one drum kit, and one organ and keyboard station to deliver a high fidelity (read: faithful) rendition of their lo-fidelity back catalog, which I appreciated greatly. How often do you go to see a beloved artist and end up assaulted by bar band arrangements of songs that were better fleshed out on record?
The setlist avoided easy applause, eschewing fan favorites like “Australia” and “A Werewolf” for deep cuts from 2016’s “Dream News.” Besides the wonderfully titled “Sorry About Your Dick,” only two bonus tracks from the landmark 2010 LP “Dancing Is Depressing” were played: “Marijuana” and “Get What You Wanted,” and the latter only as an encore.
Perhaps due to this choosy song selection, the audience was quite subdued, though at times this seemed to be more of a case of hushed reverence. Have you ever seen city people see a deer? It was sort of like that.
Nowhere was this more apparent than the middle of the set, when the band launched into a Silver Jews cover. Everyone present knew the song, a B-side entitled “Self-Ignition,” played in memory of very recently deceased frontman/mastermind and Gen-X poet laureate David Berman.
I’d never really listened for similarities between Attic Abasement and Berman, but it all clicked together for me then. Both bands can wax bruised poetic and are, at all times, more than a little ramshackle. And both bands, whether through turns of phrase or idiosyncratic production, can in a flash summon up the sound of lying bruised next to a patch of black ice on Genesee Street, having just, despite swearing you had your balance, slipped.
As my car home flew back toward campus, David Berman’s original version of “Self-Ignition” on the aux, I found myself turning that image over in my head, enamored with the specificity of it, and thinking, “What a night for local music.”