One question that Sam Cohen‚ Jesse Gallagher and Jeremy Black must hear over and over is "when are you guys finally going to release a live record?" Apollo Sunshine's studio albums are inventive explorations of Wilsonian pop with tinges of funk and rock psychedelia. Get the band onstage‚ however‚ and the gloves come off. Building on the impressive foundation they set on their studio recordings‚ the band expands the sound into a furiously heavy psychedelic experience with so much energy you wouldn't think the band only had three members.
Friday was the eighth time I'd seen Apollo Sunshine‚ and I can honestly say they have never failed to put on a great show. Whether it was in front of five people on a snowy night at the Wobbly Barn in Killington‚ Vermont‚ or in front of a few hundred at Pearl Street in Northampton‚ they have always played a great rock show that left me feeling stupidly content with life. After a seeing a few of my favorite bands play disappointing shows in recent weeks‚ I was desperately in need of some feel-good rock and roll therapy‚ and when I saw that Apollo was playing a Halloween show at the Iron Horse‚ I just couldn't say no.
In the spirit of the evening‚ they took the stage in costume as the Jimi Hendrix Experience‚ complete with massive wigs and Aquarian dress‚ and opened with a blistering rendition of "Manic Depression" that stretched a three-and-a-half-minute song into an intense eight-minute jam. I have seen a lot of bands cover Jimi‚ but never with the competency or spirit that Apollo brought to stage that night. Thankfully‚ this was a theme that continued through the rest of their set‚ which included both old and new Apollo material as well as a few of Jimi's classics.
One reason I was looking forward to this show so much was to find out how the material from their latest release‚ Shall Noise Upon‚ would translate live. Immediately after the Hendrix opener‚ Apollo laid down the first three tracks off their new record with the energy and skill they have always brought to their live shows. The fourth song of the set‚ "666: The Coming of the New World Government‚" was the stand out Apollo track of the night‚ elevating the playfulness of the song to a new level in spite of its relatively dire content… but that was the point.
The band capped off the night with a tripped-out cover of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" that proved their ability to rock out their audiences with the most unexpected pieces of music. This was followed by Jimi's "Are You Experienced‚" which descended into a drawn-out jam finished off by Sam Cohen belting the National Anthem out of his guitar in homage to Jimi's performance at Woodstock. That moment left me with the now surreal feeling that Apollo was both taking something back from and giving the finger to the idiot wind that would die out just four days later. Whether that in itself was intended to be a statement of any kind is doubtful‚ but for my friends and I who were taking a few hours from the campaign trail to listen to some rock and roll‚ that moment still resonates.