WASHINGTON, May 7, 2014 – When discussing the performance of The Pack A.D. and their recent show here at DC9, one’s first impulse is to compare them to some other act. Whether it has more to do with their particular composition or the vague aura of blues-rock that permeates their sound their sound, comparisons seem unavoidable as a way of getting some kind of handle on them.
This is the kind of ensemble people feel forced to connect in some odd way to something or someone else. That’s unfortunate because they’re more than capable of standing on their own.
The Pack A.D. is at once unique even though, at least in part, they occupy some well-traveled territory. It’s likely that everyone in the audience has seen or heard of at least one band similar to them at some point in the past. It would be surprising if associations drawn to the White Stripes or the Black Keys would really bother the two principals, but it feels like the easy way out for those who are trying to define their output.
The relative obscurity of the Pack A.D. also plays a part in this dilemma – not necessarily the obscurity of their music but more the obscurity of their presence. Becky Black and Maya Miller hail from Vancouver, British Colombia, and relish playing a very distinctive style of blues inflicted garage rock. A lot of that distinctiveness lies in the manner and quality of their performance more than anything else.
Additionally, their style specifically lends itself to owning certain bar venues like DC9, which is the type of space that’s best, suited to their style. And that’s really where the distinctiveness of The Pack A.D. comes from. They’re at their absolute peak confidence while playing up on stage.
This shouldn’t be surprising considering they’ve been at this for 8 years and five full-length albums. Even so, it’s still quite interesting and fun to see a band play like it did here and never miss a beat.
For Black and Miller to put on an effective show, they have to find the perfect middle ground between technical proficiency and the inherent looseness and grime residing within their brand of rock. It’s something they do effortlessly when performing live. That’s important because they last thing want to do is look like they’re trying too hard to put on a great show while ignoring the audience in general.
Their set here is was generally tuned to support their recently released album, “Do Not Engage,” but they covered a good portion of their career history during the performance as well. Ultimately, though, any selection of their music readily demonstrates how consistent Black and Miller are across the boards. At no point during the show was there any doubt the duo wasn’t just playing pure rock and roll.
In other words, it’s not really important what they might be influenced by or who they could be possibly compared to because it wouldn’t significantly alter how much they rock when they’re on stage. Black’s guitar is still going to be immersed in fuzz, winding and twisting, and always with a noticeable and well-paced hook. Her vocals are going to be strong and understated. Miller is going to keep the pace while seemingly beating up her kit.
The Pack A.D. are as confident a rock duo as anyone will ever see on stage. All they do is play straight rock during their set. There aren’t any frills when it comes to their stage performance, but then, that’s kind of the point. The Pack A.D. would lose a lot of their luster if they added anything to their act beside what they really are: two women giving it all they’ve got and presenting an excellent show.