CoMusic Live Review: Boreal Hills, Task Force, Alex White @ Eastside Tavern

Saturday July 25. Summer officially kicked in a few days back amidst the dying cicada population and a temporary energy shift in Columbia from collegiate hub via its multiple colleges) to a strange place that’s both a combination of cowtown and mid sized city (it is the 5th largest city in Missouri) while truly not really being either. At this point Saturday nights are relatively quiet which leads people to wonder what’s up. However, tonight would be a little different as a rare live show at Eastside Tavern would attest as Boreal Hills would play one of their last shows before moving from Como.

Let’s start from the beginning of the night. The first performer was newcomer Alex White. Coming up on stage with only his ukulele, White performed a set of folk leaning indie pop that had a disarming simplicity within his set. With a somewhat dry sense of humor, his songs varied from personal tales to dogs and cats to life in general and a cover of “St. James Infirmary.” While there were the occasional stumbles (a flubbed note here and there – which all musicians have dealt with at some point or another) and a little bit of sloppiness, White managed to keep the crowd at Eastside relatively quiet throughout the set (a hard thing for acoustic performers to do in any situation, much less Eastside). At first I wasn’t quite sure about him, but the last few songs had a spirit to them that showed the artist Alex White has the potential to be. It will be interesting to see how White’s music evolves and seasons as he gets more shows under his belt.

Okay, for full disclosure, it’s not exactly a secret that I’m a big fan of Task Force, so when I heard they were on the bill it was a big reason why I showed up. The fivesome didn’t disappoint as they tore through a short sharp shock set of avant punk often having loud fast power chord fueled ragers collide with elements of experimental music and funk. The band’s penchant for fast, passionate songs that explore the society around them in both personal and political ways was in full effect with the subtlety of a grenade going off in your face. Tonight the band was rough around the edges and even chaotic on occasion, but that’s always been part of the band’s charm. Task Force has managed to get some well deserved props in their year and a half together and this night helped cement it even in the face of the occasional tech hurdle (Nate had an issue with a pedal, if memory serves me correctly). It will be interesting to see what happens with Task Force with time.

Then there’s the reason for the night – what was to be one of the last shows Boreal Hills will play in Columbia as a local band. The guitar and drums duo’s music has always seemed to be between two poles. On one hand, they can throw down riff laden hard rock jams with a vintage feel that seems to lie somewhere between early metal ala Sabbath or Blue Cheer and the prog punk twists of No Means No. The other pole is a garage rock that borders on indie in a lot of ways. While the band knows how to skate between the two extremes, their penchant for relatively lengthy solos/riffs and jams take center in both. The early part of their set was in the more metal leaning with the band driving home aggressive riffs and a rhythm that cemented them into a pure adrenalin force. It was near the end with more the garage rock/indie stuff that Carl and Tom appear slightly out of their comfort zone. Regardless, the crowd still reacted favorably to it which is a huge part of the show and had a band is received. Sadly, it will be sad to see Boreal Hills head off to other pastures. Here’s hoping they stick it out and we get to see what paths they take in the future

And with the last chords of Boreal Hills Saturday night was brought to a close as bar tabs were paid and people ventured out into the cooler than usual weather. It was a bittersweet night as we witnessed the beginning of the end of one band’s ties to this town while enjoying another artist taking root here. However, as we ventured out towards our next moves, it was another example of the dynamics that a college town in summer can be like.

Boreal Hills in action

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