Concert Review: Arc in Round at the Hideout
Arc in Round’s “Said Astray” is a wall of a song. It begins in chaos, and then it gets louder, shifting between layers of sound produced by its four members on drums, bass, guitar, and keyboards and accompanied by half-ghost, half-intelligible, boy-girl vocals. It sounds as good live as it does on Arc in Round’s self-titled, debut LP, released on La Société Expéditionnaire on June 28, 2012, but that quality of production could be expected from the band fronted by Jeff Zeigler, a recording engineer, producer, and owner of the Uniform Recording studio in Philadelphia.
Zeigler is joined on vocals by keyboardist Mikele Edwards, with Ian Meakim on bass and Matt Ricchini on drums. At the Hideout last Friday, the band assembled to open for Reds and Blue, who was opening for Panoramic and True, who was releasing an album that night. The grassy front lawn of the Hideout was packed with twenty- and thirty-somethings sitting on benches enclosed by a white picket fence, an oddly suburban sight on the otherwise concrete and industrial 1300 block of West Wabansia in Chicago. The bar is an annoying trek over the Chicago River from the nearest el station, so I drove and ordered a single Guinness in the front room of the bar, then sat with my friend at one of the tables along the wall in the back room, where the band was set up. They took the stage and people trickled in, beers in hand, swaying slightly to music. It was too loud to talk over, so we just listened.
The music Arc in Round produces is mesmerizing. It taps into the best sort of the shoegaze, dream pop that slows down the world around you and examines the intersection of sounds. It’s a seamless, powerful set of string and keyboard-driven swells, backed by a drum beat that has evolved since the band changed its name to Arc in Round after years together in the Philly music scene as Relay. The new name is taken from a song by Disco Inferno to which Zeigler wanted to pay homage. Zeigler said the Philly scene is supportive of fellow artists, and he cited working as a producer/engineer with Kurt Vile, the War on Drugs, and Purling Hiss, a network that has developed thanks to Zeigler’s studio. Meakim and Ricchini are also sound engineers, and Edwards is a promoter. They changed their name and finished their LP a year ago, then waited for the right time to release it, recording and releasing two EPs in the meantime.
The band took their show at the Hideout seriously. They stood on stage and played their music. They did not banter with one another. They did not chat with the audience beyond a basic introduction. The drummer smiled occasionally, but otherwise the faces were blank, concentrated. What came out was nice to listen to – tight, groovy, full-sounding – but some enthusiasm from the band members would have swayed me more.
Pick up Arc in Round’s solid debut LP, particularly the tracks “II” and “One-Sided,” which are totally awesome. I don ‘t know that I’d bother traveling to Philly to see them live, at least not yet. But I will check them out again and hope to be charmed when they open for Frightened Rabbit on October 11 at Lincoln Hall. 9:00 p.m., 18+, $20, tickets here.