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Show review: “A Spring Semi-Formal” with Strum the Fox, ilyAIMY, and Petal Blight, The Metro Gallery, Baltimore 4/3/11

Strum the Fox, ilyAIMY, and Petal Blight
“A Spring Semi-Formal”
The Metro Gallery in Baltimore, MD
April 3, 2011

The Metro Gallery played host to this fancy dress party to celebrate the birthday of Petal Blight guitarist Brennan Kuhns.

Strum the Fox started out the night with a set list timed to a series of projected videos spliced together from fiction out of the group’s own odd imagination, vintage cartoons, and home movies, with a set list composed of letters of the alphabet (the group does not name their songs). This trio commands serious improvisational power, with notes of swing and jazz, classical, heavy metal, and pop spicing up every bar. The group must have a devil of a time finding shows, though: Their musical sophistication (example: they had one section where they stayed together while all playing in different time signatures) places their listeners in the button-down world, but the volume output puts them in the mosh pit. A wonderful surprise for the start of the evening.

ilyAIMY, though more commonly seen in the coffeehouse than in the rock club, has a level of intensity uncommon in acoustic acts. The group’s music borrows liberally from both the folk tradition and 1990s grunge and heavy metal, and their sweaty and frenetic set is always a pleasure to watch. Heather Aubrey Lloyd debuted a new song, “Revolutions Per Minute,” and ilyAIMY-ized (of all things) Usher’s “DJ Got Us Falling in Love” (no really, this is a folk group) in a mashup with Lloyd’s own “Love a Girl.” Frontman Rob Hinkal ended the set with “Counting,” another powerful song, proving that the group’s own material can stand up quite well to the hits, thank you very much.

The unusual music of the night was capped with a set from Petal Blight, another band that borrows liberally from harder alternative rock styles, but with a dose of classical sophistication, melodic pop, and experimental alterna-weirdness. Double bassist Elliot Peeples plays like he’s been possessed (not unlike, say, certain famous cellists); he and singer Mell Wall originally formed as a two-piece, with the bass the only accompaniment, and the crazy, melodic low-end work is still the core of the band’s sound even after it has swollen to a six-piece with guitar, drums, violin, and theramin. The biggest surprise in their set was a new slow-dance song, with Peeples abandoning his a-clef monstrosity for a glockenspiel and singer Mell Wall playing her flute in public for the first time in years. After hours of frantic, if not necessarily distorted, material from three bands, this song provided a much-needed soothing catharsis.

Pictures of the night have been provided variously by members of the bands and audience members.

—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)

Strum the Fox. Left to right: Nate Royer, Basil Mironenko, Dima May.

ilyAIMY. Left to right: Sharif Kellog, Heather Aubrey Lloyd (front), Kristin Jones (back), Rowan Corbett, Rob Hinkal.

Petal Blight. Left to right: Brennan Kuhns, Paige Johnson, Mell Wall, Elliot Peeples. Not shown: Wayne Dent (drums) and Adesh Francis (violin).

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