Tub Ring @ 31st Street Pub, Pitt: 03.14.02

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As a general rule, Fate makes a lousy traveling partner. Impetuous jaunts tend to end with jail time, long waits for AAA tows, finding out your show's been cancelled or has sold out, and on and on. But during weeks like Spring Break -- when the only things moving in a college town are tumbleweeds sauntering purposefully down Main Street, and not even the sound of saloon doors swinging in the wind pierces the silence - you'll take what you can get.

Chicago's Tub Ring is what Pittsburgh had to offer, and based on the quality of their record label, and the comparisons to Mr. Bungle they've elicited from critics, we graciously accepted. Serendipity, Mac and I piled in the Mazda and headed to 31st Street Pub.

We couldn't have asked for more, and as it turned out, this was one of the best shows either of us have seen in quite some time. The first pleasant surprise was the pub. The fact that the pub has nude dancing until 4 in the afternoon drew some understandable skepticism. The pub was outstanding: the crowd was older than we were used to, scenesters with snobbery drinking in shirts advertising obscure bands familiar only to other scenesters. The walls of the small space are lined with guitars signed by only the most raucous of rawkers - Supersuckers, Zeke, and so on. The ceiling is lined with a similar display of drumheads. The owner, who sat sometimes behind the bar, sometimes at the door, is a heavy set man with a long beard and that friendly-biker man face that many of us never know what to make of.

Tub Ring was likewise a wonderful surprise. The comparisons to Mr. Bungle, former Faith No More singer Mike Patton's project, are warranted. Tub Ring offers a similarly schizoid sound, shifting at the stop of a dime from frenetic, vicious metal to carnivalesque silliness. Further comparisons to Mr. Bungle are irresistible, since Tub Ring's vocals, courtesy of Kevin Gibson, are often a dead ringer for Patton's, and the album was in fact produced by Mr. Bungle's own Trey Spruance. But where Mr. Bungle's work produces a sinister ominousness, Tub Ring's never stops being playful. They prefer to sing of complex string theory, mathematical anomalies, and science fiction, rather than the dark, disturbing narratives Patton prefers.

The performance was as frantic and energetic as the disc. Singer Kevin Gibson sang as often from the floor as from the stage, and joked with the audience between songs about 80s rock and Michael Jackson, whom the band covered brilliantly. Keyboardist Rob Kleiner was the focal point throughout the show however. It's hard to look cool playing keyboards, which is probably what drives Trent Reznor to overcompensate by destroying his equipment during his performances. Kleiner, by contrast, had no problem: he played complex arrangements while standing on the keyboard, laying completely on the keyboard, all the while thrashing about maniacally.

This show was nothing short of phenomenal, and the band is my new favorite thing ever. Don't miss them when they return for two dates in Pittsburgh, one at Club Laga and one more at 31st Street Pub. You won't be disappointed.




P.O. Box 266
Bethany, WV 26032