The 1990s were a strange time. At first, there was grunge and flannel, and then suddenly there appeared a local trio of guys dressed in old suits with short hair cuts, looking like refugees from footage of early NASA rocket launches. They were called The Purkinje Shift, and they played a gloriously loud, fast, and complex sort of instrumental rock. I fell in love with the band, their sound, and indeed the entire math-rock genre that they introduced me to.
As the decade came to a close, they moved on, playing a final gig in the summer, in a strange little dive bar down Moreland Avenue. (You can download that final show at Ben Davis's blog. And for extra points, see you if you can identify me yelling during the taping!) Their drummer, Scott Robbins, moved from Atlanta, while guitarists Gary Flom and Ben Davis toughed it out in two other local bands during the 2000s: Moreland Audio and then Home of the Wildcats.
At the end of 2009 Scott Robbins came back to town to play a reunion tribute show for a dead friend (which you can download from here), and i realized how much i had missed the band.
Well, Robbins's return was short lived, but Flom and Davis are calling themselves The Purkinje Shift again. This time, they have added in drummer Lee Corum, who has played in a ton of local acts, most notably Some Soviet Station and Home of the Wildcats. Although i really liked Home of the Wildcats, i was kind of skeptical going in to this show. Robbins' precise drumming propelled Purkinje's music along, and without him, well, what would it be like? Would this new incarnation be more like Home of the Wildcats?
But i had to know, and so Tracers and i headed out to 529 on a rainy Friday evening.
We were sitting at The EARL waiting on our burgers, where she suddenly started laughing. "They're wearing the suits!" I turned to look at the entrance, and Flom, Davis, and another guy (Corum, but i don't recognize him at first glance like i do the other two) came in for dinner, dressed in skinny ties and dark suits. The Purkinje uniform. This made me very happy, i have to admit. Even though the reunion show was great, i was kind of sad they weren't in suits.
We finished our food before The Purkinje Shift got served, and so we filled time with coffee and standing around 529 waiting for music.
Flom's amp with Purkinje logo.
He even has a guitar branded for the band!
At a little after 10, they took the stage. And, just like old times, they tore into it without a word.
Mr. Flom did have to check his one pedal.
They played straight through for 30 minutes, just odd rhythms and guitar licks traded back and forth.
What The Purkinje Shift do live is almost like jazz. Corum lays down a rhythm, and Flom and Davis explore the song structure over it. The songs and ebb and flow, sometimes with Davis in the lead, sometimes Flom, sometimes the two guitars volleying the melody back and forth between them every measure. It was just like the old days, and i was in heaven. In fact, there seemed to be quite a few people in the crowd really getting in to it.
Thy played all new songs. Here is the setlist.
It is good to know that they are writing new Purkinje tunes. And i have to admit, Corum does a fine job. He is not quite as heavy handed of a drummer as Robbins, but he has the skill to keep the songs moving at strange time signatures. And, in the middle of the set, there was a tune that was positively melodic, Davis playing some sort of happy, hummable riff while Flow crunched away with a more rhythmic part. Huh.
The Purkinje Shift are back, and i for one could not be happier.
Here are a mess of photos of the event.
First up, Mr. Ben Davis:
Mr. Gary T. Flom:
(I like this shot because it captures him shaking his head in such a way that the end result makes him look like an alien from a bad SyFy TV movie. Or maybe he really is one....)
Mr. Lee Corum: