Rock ‘n’ roll, beards and Ugly Mugs

Published 10:16 am Friday, May 14, 2010

Berrien Springs, Mich.-based I AM BAND brought its piano-rock sound to Ugly Mugs in South Bend recently. Photo by Andrew Gerard


Off the Water

A duo calling themselves Honest Injun and the Stool Pigeon (they probably have a different name, but that’s what they called themselves, and lacking another other designator, that’s what we’re calling them), Take the Sky, Poets and Posterboys and I AM BAND played at Ugly Mugs, a small, bohemian-looking coffee shop in South Bend, Ind. on April 30.

Honest Injun are two fellas with one guitar and some excellent song choices (Flaming Lips, Beck, Bon Iver), a singer with a fantastic voice and apparently not long to play – after five or six short acoustic songs they got out of the way of Take the Sky, an emotional, guitar-driven rock band from Indianapolis.

The energetic, sweating rockers played intensely despite having colds (this, combined with the hot room, may have explained a bit of the sweat). Guitarist Cameron Yamashita played a trippy reverby lead, and occasionally switched to keyboards. Singer Jason Chapel played rhythm guitar, Aaron Day kept the beat on a trap set and bongos, and bassist David Hughes played admirably despite being so dizzy he was almost falling off his stool. As I would throughout the concert (and whenever I looked around the hip cafe), I thought to myself during Take the Sky’s show: “Why aren’t more people here?”

A possible indication why some people – people with heart troubles, high blood pressure, non-skinny jeans – might not feel entirely comfortable at this concert: pop-punk. Poets and Posterboys (singer Nate Chamberlin, guitarist Ben Rothe, bassist Johnny Yoder and drummer Lance Miller) indeed played poppy punk with seizure inducing speed (and light show), the sort of music that takes you back to your teen years, unless you are in fact a teenager, which, come to think of it, most of their fans were. These young men played very loud and I would wager are thin from playing their instruments so damn fast. They played mostly originals (Take the Sky did as well), but did please a few members of the crowd nostalgic for high school with their rendition of Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem.”

By the time I AM BAND came on the stage the audience was made up with I AM BAND fans who had driven down from their home-base in Berrien Springs, Mich., and members of the other bands. I AM BAND didn’t seem to care; they played as if they were playing for royalty or record executives. These bearded (very bearded – especially bassist Nate Edwards) rock ‘n’ roll dragons played a set of all-originals – complex high-energy songs with psychedelic keyboard (by Teddy Bermeo) and guitar breaks (by singer Seth Kissinger), three-part harmonies, call-and-response vocals and that rarest of creatures, the singing drummer – Logan Steely. The element that I most appreciated when watching I AM BAND (full disclosure: I’ve seen I AM BAND a few times and know the members) was the pure joy with which they play. While their playing was accurate and clean, their harmonies were at times happily loose, reminiscent of the Grateful Dead on a good day. I AM BAND joyfully plays technical, bearded, skinny-man hipster piano-rock. You don’t need to be bearded or skinny to like them, but why the heck wouldn’t you want to be?