Arts Desk

What Did You Expect?: Archers of Loaf at the Black Cat, Discussed

Alongside bands like Polvo and Superchunk, Chapel Hill, N.C.’s Archers of Loaf helped popularize a geo-specific sound during the early '90s that blended buzzy guitars with a healthy dose of melody. It’s a formula that’s since become common in indie rock, but you rarely hear it replicated with the Archers of Loaf same spark. It would seem to be the perfect time for a reunion. Or would it? Ryan Little and Matt Siblo headed to the band's sold-out show at the Black Cat to see if feedback can strike twice.

Matt Siblo: Here we are again, Ryan: another month, another indie-rock reunion. When news broke that Archers of Loaf was the latest '90s indie-rock sensation to relace its Converse One Stars, I'll admit that I was less than thrilled. Having come to the band late in the game—I got my copy of Icky Mettle a good decade after the fact—I became enamored with AOL as this intangible entity who put on legendary shows to throngs of ringer-T-clad college kids while I was still in middle school. More than most bands to recently resurface, they are so intrinsically linked to a specific epoch that a victory lap would be questionable. Seeing Crooked Fingers play a mellowed out version of "White Trash Heroes" in Central Park a few years back only reinforced this prejudice. But if Matt Pinfield can resurrect 120 Minutes, and Superchunk finds itself in the midst of a middle-aged renaissance, what's to stop Eric Bachmann & Co. from piling on?

Ryan Little: Yeah, it’s almost inevitable. The Internet has made chronological context much less important, and any band that once had its own niche can now get back in touch with it. Those fuzz-flavored licks of yore were bound show up in the reunion game sooner or later. Do you think this show is more in line with the casual hardcore reunions CP wrote recently about, or does it look like Pixies/Pavement cash-grab? I feel like the Archers were somewhere in between, fame-wise.

MS: It's tough to speculate on these things since I wouldn't pretend to know what compels musicians to reunite, never mind Archers of Loaf specifically. The Pixies/Pavement tours have become synonymous with monetary comeuppance, but I can’t imagine that AOL is in this solely for the dollars. Based on the limited press the tour's been getting, it doesn't feel like a massive windfall. It seems like one last opportunity to play out while others are likely to pay attention. I'm not sure there's been a more opportune time for a reunited Archers of Loaf but its resurgence isn’t the result of some surge of posthumous popularity like the others you mentioned.  

RL: We’ll just have to see what spirits they're in tonight...

Post-game Report:

MS: Everything about the show was done to scale. Low stakes is rarely a positive, but I appreciated the fact that there weren’t any false or inflated expectations in the air tonight. As for its 21-song set, there’s little to complain about—the band played all of the hits with appropriate gusto. I don't have many effusive words to describe the performance, but everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time. What did you think?

RL: I agree. There were no trumpets sounding the band's return, but there were old friends downing beers together to the soundtrack of their college years. The band held it together well enough, and while the set had no moments of pure ecstasy, there were more fist-pumping anthems than I expected. I wouldn't say electricity was in the air, but it felt nice. Did the performance match your expectations?

MS: I would say so—particularly the six minutes that saw “Web in Front” and “Wrong” played consecutively—though I think I’m suffering from a serious case of reunion fatigue. I might just have to sit the next round out. Sorry, Bettie've missed your window.

RL: There was a nice moment near the end of the encore following a messy, heavy rendition of "Revenge." The bassist blurted out something like, "Man, I love playing rock music...I know, that's a cliche." Sure, it was on the nose, but I think the crowd felt the same. Nothing wild or extraordinary, no breathless pontifications, it was just a really good rock show.

Photo by Erica Bruce

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