On the Verge: Local Band Pabulum Shakes the Shed With Eclectic Mix of Rock and Humor

Set List:
Are You Ready? – Pabulum
Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Luminous – Luke Eicher
Apologize – OneRepublic
I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
Tribute – Tenacious D
Fun-Size Love – Pabulum
Valley of Lights – Pabulum
Verbigeration – Pabulum

Who: Pabulum with special guest Luke Eicher (all ages show)
When: Saturday, May 16, 2015, 10:30 p.m.
Where: The Shed in St. Michael

It’s a rare treat for a rock reviewer (or a rocker’s parent) to get in on the ground floor of a band’s rise to stardom, but that was the vibe at The Shed last night, where rock trio Pabulum and guest pianist Luke Eicher played their first-ever show. Local promoter Abigail Herbst took a chance on the new band to close Catholic Prom, a do-it-yourself formal dance for the youth St. Michael and St. Albert parishes and their friends hosted by the Eicher clan. The result? A rough and ready glimpse of young rockers in the making.

Although the three founding members of the trio aren’t related by blood, Pabulum is very much a family affair: cymbal-smashing drummer, accordian player, guitarist, and vocalist Joe Eicher is brother to part-time contributor and classically trained pianist and singer Luke Eicher; and laconic bassist Brendan Thorp’s bowler-hatted and bow-tied brother Gabe is the band’s stage manager, tech, and jack-of-all-trades. The band’s primary front man and lead guitarist Jeff Geiger is their brother-from-another-mother, setting the tone for the group by alternating freely between aspiring rock god and manic musical comic.

The band changes configurations between songs.

In fact, that dual identity pervades Pabulum’s music, their influences, and even their name. Webster offers two opposing definitions for pabulum: “intellectual sustenance” or “something that is insipid, simplistic, or bland.” The band enjoys the irony, and their set Saturday included radio- and  chick-friendly pop songs as well as classic rock tunes and their own unique sound. The band opened with the surging “Are You Ready?”, which ends abruptly just as the crowd swells to a fever pitch — the laughter showing that the band and their fans share a special brand of humor. A raw stomp through The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” kicked off and held together by Brendan’s deft bass work, was followed by a soulful rendition of “Simple Man.” (“By Lynyrd Skynyrd, covered by Shinedown, perfected by Pabulum,” Joe told the crowd). A cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” with the Eicher brothers harmonizing on vocals elicited a chorus of “Awwws” from all the ladies in The Shed (including the moms, I think), then Luke’s original piano-and-vocals composition “Luminous” brought the house to a hush, his voice and keyboard work highlighted only by accents from the rhythm section.

The crew…

So rapt was the audience that they didn’t notice Joe, who had gone out into the wet night to retrieve his accordion, which he played through the crowd and back to the stage to lead a cover of OneRepublic’s “Apologize.” The song reached its climax with Jeff leaping from a chair to match Joe solo for solo with his gleaming Strat and Joe’s accordion. The battling front men made amends moments later, combining voices and acoustic guitars on Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” (Jeff’s scatting was one of several humorous highlights of the evening.)

But Pabulum really hit its stride beginning with the cover of a band favorite, the epic rock-comedy masterpiece from Tenacious D, “Tribute.” Brendan set aside his bass to tell the tale of the band’s confrontation with a shiny demon who demanded they “play the best song in the world, or I’ll eat your soul.” They succeeded, of course, crushing the demon utterly — but they have no recollection of the song and are powerless to repeat it. What was essentially a hard-rock in-joke signaled a shifting of gears to three original pieces showing the depth and diversity of the band’s musical interests. The first, “Fun-Size Love,” dedicated to 6′ 2″ Brendan and his diminiutive girlfriend Olivia, was two parts ’80s power ballad; one part heartfelt ribbing among friends who share an affection for miniature candy bars and “short” jokes. (Best line: “I got to know you/It didn’t take much time.”) The second was the show-stopping “Valley of Lights,” a prehistoric slab of psychedelic blues rock penned by Jeff and propelled by Brendan’s huge, brontosaurus bass — showing the bands love of the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s and calling to mind Led Zeppelin, the early days of The Black Keys,  and Jack White’s post-Stripes projects, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. They closed the set with “Verbigeration,” a rousing blast of punk-piano-rock (or something like that), with Jeff’s rapid-fire rapping about Culver’s cheese curds and his emotions at the death of Jabba the Hutt in Jedi — Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys over a mellow-yellow summertime groove. It was classic Pabulum: smart, funny, energetic, and totally rocking.

According to Pabulum’s management, they are booking now for grad parties this summer. Email them at pabulumrocks@gmail.com, and catch them while you can — definitely worth the price of admission!

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