Seminal indie rock laureates Archers of Loaf may have broken up in 1998, but judging by the drunken, packed crowd at Neumos last Friday, the past thirteen years may as well have never happened. The mood of the night was unbidden excitement, the vocabulary limited to loud, ecstatic cheers. For a band who’s never had great mainstream success, the full-crowd singalongs must have been a welcome sight.
Archers didn’t mince words when they got up onstage, and lurched right into crowd favorite “Wrong,” with its pop-punk guitar and easily shoutable chorus. Lead singer/guitarist Eric Bachmann roared while guitarist Eric Johnson and bassist Matt Gentling lurched to and fro onstage, spurring on the already moving crowd into full-on mosh pit mode. Spilled beer and sweat filled the air as the foursome plowed through hits from all four of the band’s records, each of which will be seeing a reissue in 2012 except for Icky Mettle, which was released this year. Perhaps most impressive was the raw energy and power exuded by the band. All entering or well into middle age, the group didn’t miss a beat, throwing out riff after riff and lyric after lyric like they were all in their twenties again. Frequent shouts of “this is the best day of my life!” came from the crowd, who were all smiles (when they weren’t lurching into each other).
It’s always a welcome surprise when a band sounds better live than they do recorded, but Archers are one of those bands that sound almost completely different. While their albums rock in the straightforward indie tradition, live the Archers are a whirlwind of sonic chaos, punk rock in its purest form. The sonic assault was made even heftier by the blown-out sound (never a surprise for Neumo’s), but with each and every attendee throwing their own personal riot, it was hard to care. Bachmann has said that this may be the band’s last tour as Archers of Loaf; an understandable notion, and if it is to be their last Seattle performance ever, they couldn’t have asked for a better show.