Retribution Gospel Choir + Small Awesome at Schubas | Photos and review
“There’s a big hole in the wall, watch out for that,” Retribution Gospel Choir frontman Alan Sparhawk deadpanned midway through the band’s headlining set at Schubas on Thursday night—referencing the hastily patched aftermath of a taxi’s collision with the venue earlier that day. Unlike that careening vehicle, RGC’s set traversed a straight-ahead course, a thunderous set which stood in stark contrast to Sparhawk’s work with slowcore pioneers Low.
Touring in support of their Revolution EP, the group showcased the raw yet refined compositions which characterize their entire catalog. The power trio was a model of efficiency when chugging through the sub-three-minute tracks which dominate their catalog, delivering thoroughly energetic renditions of songs like “For Her Blood” and “Workin’ Hard.” The repurposed Low tracks from RGC’s debut album were also present, finding “Breaker” and “Take Your Time” injected with enough distortion and pounding bass drum to render them almost unrecognizable when compared to their minimalistic counterparts.
Presiding over the evening with his unmistakable vocal presence, Sparhawk’s most impressive contributions occurred when the group allowed their songs to breathe. The drawn-out lament of “Poor Man’s Daughter” was stretched even further into a mercurial 10-minute jam which juxtaposed frenzied fretwork against the complex rhythms of drummer Eric Pollard. Yelling into the pickups on his guitar, Sparhawk transitioned from unassuming Midwest musician to stage-commanding rocker. Openly embracing their rock 'n' roll fantasies, Retribution Gospel Choir showed that there’s no shame in cranking up the volume.