Local Music Review: She Bears

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Lots of collegiate bands migrate from Athens to Columbus upon graduating from OU. It's been going on for decades, but I can think of a handful of case studies from recent years.

Six Gallery matured, mutated, got signed and eventually imploded. Blackcoin toiled until they couldn't carry on, setting the stage for frontman Joey Hebdo's fruitful solo career. Russenorsk morphed into the more explosive Narrow & the Brights; we'll see where that's heading soon enough.

I dropped by Kobo on Friday to catch She Bears, a promising transplant from down US-33. The band is intriguing for a number of reasons.

On the professional front, She Bears is signed to Deep Elm, former home to emo and post-hardcore heavyweights like The Appleseed Cast and Planes Mistaken for Stars. Deep Elm is hardly in its glory days, but the name probably still carries enough cache to leverage She Bears into another opportunity down the road.

On the personal front, the band orbits Stephen Pence, who seems to be one of those go-getter types. Besides fronting She Bears, he's becoming an important player in the Kobo empire, cracking ambitious schemes with owner/promoter Jacob Wooten.

Those credentials are nice, but music is what makes She Bears notable. Pence is painting with indie rock's primary colors - shades of Built to Spill at their most epic, Modest Mouse at their most disgruntled, Pavement at their most playful, Neutral Milk Hotel at their most mysteriously buoyant - but he's a master of the form, and he writes with a personalized vision that makes it all seem fresh again.

Debut "I Found Myself Asleep" makes a solid case, but Friday the band was missing a member and thus was unable to reproduce the album's arrangements. Instead we got the lean version of She Bears, which emphasized Pence's stoic, nasal delivery and the sturdy rhythm section at the band's core. There were still a few elaborate flourishes (xylophone!), yet I came away most impressed by the deceptively complex drum parts and the enormously melodic bass lines.

If it wasn't the full She Bears experience, it was enough to make me a fan - and to keep me on the lookout for the next talented act to creep up from Athens.