Sensory Overload: Bicentennial Bear & SPD GVNR

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

On countless Columbus nights over the past decade, Miranda Sound and Treysuno played shows together, basking in the glow of each other's sweaty, passionate Midwestern indie rock.

Those bands both folded within the past couple years, but their members have popped back up with a pair of new projects that carry the torch for their respective sounds.

Bicentennial Bear brings together three former Miranda Sound members as the continued songwriting outlet for Billy Peake, one half of the old band's two-headed monster.

SPD GVNR (that's "Speed Governor" for the phonetically challenged) is the new band from Treysuno frontman Justin Hemminger, who has logged most of his stage time lately as guitarist for The Kyle Sowashes.

The bands played together Saturday at The Treehouse, and it was just like old times. Well, almost.

SPD GVNR began the evening with the sort of set you expect at a band's first show: tentative excitement tempered by roughshod execution. Hemminger continues to draw heavily from the gritty, riff-driven indie rock of the mid-'90s, faithfully channeling the likes of Archers of Loaf and Silkworm.

No one song stood out as the showstopper - I'm not sure if I need more time with the songs or if the definitive SPD GVNR track is still pending - but anybody who liked Treysuno will get their kicks from this band too.

After a spectacular showing from Brooklyn's Via Audio, Bicentennial Bear took to the tree room for their third show.

Although this band features Miranda Sound's founding bassist Sean Sefcik on guitar and early-era drummer Scott Haynes behind the kit, it's not a direct transplant of Miranda's sound. That band's best work was sleek and smooth yet frantically energetic. Every song was a slice of high drama that built to a big climax.

But on their self-titled swan song last year, the scrappy, understated song fragment "Ugly Elevator" hinted that Peake might be indulging a taste for Guided by Voices. And that influence is definitely present in Bicentennial Bear.

Exhibit A: set-closer "The Waves of Last Summer," a fist-pumping indie anthem cut from the same cloth as GBV classics like "Glad Girls" and "Tractor Rape Chain."

The Bear busted out short songs that wrapped up right when Miranda Sound songs would have launched into ecstatic end sections. I'll need to hear these songs more times to tell if these GBV-style nuggets are the product of lazy composition or genius streamlining.

Saturday's show felt like the first chapter in a sequel, with many of the same characters returning for another storyline. But a few short pages wasn't enough to tell whether this new installment will live up to what preceded it.

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