It was once mistakenly believed that the pelican (genus Pelecanus)—the big-beaked, short-legged, seemingly lopsided waterbird—fed its young with blood by tearing open its own breast. Thus through the ages, the wide-mouthed li’l feathery chubster even became a symbol of Christ and self-sacrifice. A couple of Wednesdays
back at the Knitting Factory, Pelican—four skinny and compact Chicago lads—sacrificially fed the sweaty, young, and unkempt indie crowd with heaping dollops of high volume. Some call it “metal”—as in heavy, very heavy; some don’t. Slowly and methodically these Olympian instrumentalists soared through several epic, mid-tempo numbers culled from the new full-length The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw and the recent EP March Into the Sea. Numbers like “Autumn Into Summer” and “March Into the Sea” itself climaxed with gorgeously melodic yet massive crescendos. During those bits, you’d find most of the band swaying in place as guitarist Trevor de Brauw stomped his Chuck Taylors while shaking his toothpick legs and flailing his underfed torso like an uncoordinated grade-schooler who just happened upon the “Beat It” video. Strange thing is, he actually looked kinda cool doing it.
Originally crawling out of the same doom-laden crust of bands as Isis and Neurosis—they often still quake there—Pelican have evolved in ways that’ve proven them not unrelated to
similarly large and graceful birds the Swans (in the latter’s later incarnations, at least). And especially with the absence of vocals, Godspeed! You Black Emperor figure into the equation as well: Most songs, like the perfectly named “Aurora Borealis,” explored with ebb-and-flow dynamics such dichotomies as loud/quiet, beautiful/ugly, fluid/corkscrewed, and harsh/soft, all mystically generated (à la Jimmy Page) with a violin bow and a mother lode of psychonautical pedals. Considering the ridiculous temperatures in the packed furnace of the Knit’s (allegedly) air-conditioned
main room, the exquisite onslaught did bear a ton of sacrifice. But judging by the blissful look of the
closed-eyelid-slow-motion-headbanging audience, the soul food was worth the penance of the heat.