Because of the shindig I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to Saturday night’s Trillions CD release show at Gallery 5. And by the time I got there, I was pretty tuckered out and had already missed Kid Is Qual’s set (more on these fine folks to come in a future post). I definitely needed a pick-me-up, and having recently gone cold turkey on Red Bull certainly wasn’t working in my favor. But I’ll tell you two things that were working in my favor: Worthless Junk labelmates Black Girls occupying the second opening slot and the Trillions kicking ass/taking names.
Black Girls were every shade of amazing one could hope for in an opening act (the Head and the Heart are lucky ducks), generating heaps of momentum, as they do so well, while flexing their impressive musicianship in a way that was made extra apparent by the raised-but-still-intimate Gallery 5 stage. Top-notch musicianship was a theme that would continue throughout the Trillions’ headlining set, as the quartet offered one as-close-to-perfect-as-it-gets rendition after another of the tunes that can be found on their spectacular new album, Tritones. This was by far the clearest look I’ve had at the individual parts that each member executes, and I felt, in a word, spoiled. Because it’s not just accuracy and energy that make their uptempo rock songs so exceptional, it’s the complexity that’s hidden within the songs’ listenability.
With the Trillions, you can have your well-adorned and intricately layered rock and roll cake and eat it too. Close your eyes and you’ll hear elegantly written, catchy tunes with thought-provoking lyrics. Open your eyes and see Charlie Glenn waltz through demanding chord structures and lead riffs, all while singing the aforementioned lyrics with a fluttering vibrato that’s completely his own. It’s truly something special. Things get even more intriguing when you take a listen to Chris Smith’s harmonies — and I’m not just talking about vocals. The Trillions’ guitar parts are stacked so thoughtfully that each note has room to breathe and achieve exactly what it was meant to achieve. Add in Robbie King’s bass — which feels positively punk rock in its ability to occupy the melodic driver’s seat — and Joe Ferguson’s drumming — which feels positively machine-like in its precision (Quick side note: I don’t know that I’ve ever loved 4 good ol’ fashioned eighth-note snare hits as much as I love the ones that break up the chorus of “Calm Down”), and what you get is a feast for the eyes and ears that’s nothing short of indulgent. And that’s without even taking into account the group’s start-and-stop-on-a-dime light show, which, I’d assume based on their history in this arena, was self-made and programmed to interact directly with their instruments.
The lights are just one more example of the Trillions talent for making things that are complex feel natural. I think it’s this quality that’s to blame for my obsession with the night’s (and Tritones’) penultimate song, “What/When/Where,” the chorus of which — “Just do what you can, when you can, where you are” — offers an aphorism that’s drenched in real wisdom despite its deceptively simple construction. I can’t tell you how many times these words have scrolled through my brain since I first heard them late last year, when I snagged a differently mixed, mastered and sorted version of the Trillions’ debut full-length at September’s RVA Music Fest. Getting to see “What/When/Where” performed in person on Saturday was incredibly moving; so much so that, without even thinking about it, I whipped out my phone and took a video of the song, knowing I’d want/need to see it again.
Check it out above and do yourself a HUGE favor by obtaining Tritones (you can name your price for a digital download at the band’s website — anything over $10 earns you a CD and $15 gets you a vinyl copy). If you’re on the fence, have a listen below to the earlier versions of Tritones tunes “For The Better” and “The Experts” that appeared on the band’s Flux EP.