Pianos Become the Teeth made an intense, beautiful return to NYC with Caracara & Dosser
Pianos Become the Teeth have returned to the road for the first time since they and Touche Amore did a tour celebrating the 10th anniversaries of their debut albums in 2019, and the first time since they released their great new album Drift. The tour kicked off in late August in Durham, and I caught it about a week later in Brooklyn at new-ish Bushwick venue The Meadows. Drift is unlike anything Pianos Become the Teeth have released before -- darker, weirder, and more of a claustrophobic art rock album compared to the towering post-hardcore they're best known for -- so you may have been wondering how the new material would translate live and how it would work with their earlier material. The answer to both is: as beautiful, impactful, and hypnotic as Pianos Become the Teeth have ever been.
PBTT opened with the first three songs from Drift, with the stage drenched in fog and red light that matched the album cover, and the band looking like silhouettes in front of their logo that graced the entire back wall of the stage. Armed with a sampler that helped incorporate the loops and other eerie electronics that populate Drift, Pianos waded directly into the murky waters of album opener "Out of Sight" without so much as a hello. When drummer David Haik went into propulsive rhythm that opens second track (and lead single) "Genevieve," the energy in the room began to steadily rise, and by the time they hit the song's climactic coda, vocalist Kyle Durfey broke from his previously stoic pose and raised his voice to a yell for the first time of the night. On the album, the heavier parts of Drift hit so hard because they're few and far between, and that was even more the case at the live show. PBTT brought the new songs to life in a way the album versions only hint at.
After the third Drift song of the night, Pianos took it all the way back to "I'll Be Damned" from 2011's The Lack Long After, a transition that was just as effective as the louder parts of "Genevieve." Going into the most flat-out heavy song of the night after three more restrained ones was a huge release; you felt it in the crowd, and you saw it on stage too. The band's light show changed from deep red to a mix of lighter colors, and all five members of the band went into full-on rock-out mode, a reminder that no matter how much this band's music has changed over the years, they can still go hard. From there, they hit on another drastically different period of their career, "Charisma," the lead single from 2018's Wait For Love and the poppiest song of the night. Watching them bounce seamlessly between the different styles of music they've done over the years really helped reaffirm that Pianos Become the Teeth are never content to repeat themselves, but also that everything they do ties together in the end. All of their albums and eras are crucial parts of a larger story that's still being written. We probably still aren't done seeing all the ways the puzzle pieces will fit together.
It wasn't until the sixth song of the night that Pianos touched on 2014's Keep You -- probably their most widely beloved record -- and from there, the rest of the set was primarily a mix of songs from Keep You and Drift. A sizable portion of the crowd up front got extra hyped for the Keep You songs, and the band played the hell out of them. David Haik was as beastly as he was a decade ago, Kyle as magnetic as ever, and guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald and bassist Zac Sewell were as locked-in as possible, all swaying together as one locked-in unit. From their stage presence to their light show, they were truly mesmerizing, putting on a set that you could not just rock and yell along to, but also really lose yourself in. Kyle didn't say a word to the crowd all night until he thanked us and announced that the band have two songs left, and that only added to how immersive the show felt. You were just engulfed in the music; anything else would've taken you out of it.
Those last two songs were Keep You's seven-minute closer "Say Nothing," and then "Hiding," the pivotal fan favorite from PBTT's 2013 split with Touche Amore. It was the song where Kyle -- once primarily a screamer -- introduced the world to his soaring singing voice, and it remains one of their very best tracks. It was also a fitting note to go out on, as the jump from Wait For Love to Drift is probably their most drastic since the jump from The Lack Long After to "Hiding." "Hiding" began the chapter of Pianos Become the Teeth's career that reached its natural conclusion with Wait For Love. Drift begins a new one, and I can't wait to see where they take it from here.
Before Pianos, the Brooklyn show began with very solid opening sets from Philly's Caracara and Pianos' Baltimore neighbors Dosser. Dosser packed their set with punchy, poppy grunge-punk that brings to mind stuff like Dinosaur Jr, Superchunk, and Sugar, and they really know their way around a hook. Their riffs were picture-perfect, and they stuffed their songs with catchy choruses and big, loud energy.
Caracara's soaring, atmospheric indie-emo was an especially good fit with Pianos Become the Teeth, and Caracara knew how to get pretty mesmerizing on stage themselves. From the very first song, you could tell singer/guitarist Will Lindsay was just in it, fully immersed in the music and commanding the crowd like they were the headliners. They played a lot off their great new album New Preoccupations, which came out back in March on Will Yip's Memory Music label, and they did a killer job of really making those crescendos explode and really letting Will Lindsay's crystal-clear voice and personal lyrics cut through the mix. (Really tight vocal harmonies too.) They took control of the room within the first few seconds of their set, and they remained incredibly tight and intense until their final song, an explosive rendition of their great 2019 song "Better." If you haven't seen Caracara yet, change that now.
Pianos, Caracara, and Dosser have a few days off but they pick things back up in Atlanta on Thursday (9/8). After that, Pianos have West Coast dates with reunited screamo legends Jeromes Dream, followed by a Midwest run with Dosser and Dreamtigers. All remaining dates are listed below, alongside videos and the setlist from The Meadows. Pick up Drift on red vinyl.
I also recently spoke to Mike York about the making of Drift, touring with Jeromes Dream, PBTT's early DIY days, and much more on an episode of the BrooklynVegan podcast. Listen on Spotify, Apple, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Pianos Become the Teeth @ The Meadows - 9/4/22 Setlist
Out of Sight
I'll Be Damned
Ripple Water Shine
Pianos Become the Teeth -- 2022 Tour Dates
Thu, September 8, 2022 Atlanta, GA Masquerade - Purgatory
Fri, September 9, 2022 Nashville, TN Exit Inn
Sun, September 11, 2022 Columbus, OH Big Room Bar
Wed, November 2, 2022 Los Angeles, CA 1720
Thu, November 3, 2022 Mesa, AZ Nile Half House
Fri, November 4, 2022 Las Vegas, NV Rockstar Bar
Sat, November 5, 2022 San Diego, CA Voodoo Room
Sun, November 6, 2022 San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
Fri, November 11, 2022 Pittsburgh, PA Preserving Underground
Sat, November 12, 2022 Chicago, IL Subterranean
Sun, November 13, 2022 Minneapolis, MN Cabooze
Mon, November 14, 2022 Detroit, MI El Club