Live Review: Pillage & Plunder

Where: The Drunken Unicorn – Atlanta, GA

Highlight: Three-piece rock magic with an arty twist.

Do plaids and stripes go together? They do for Pillage & Plunder, who take things that don’t quite match and make them work. The art rock band is composed of two Asians and a Jew (Hsiang-Ming Wen, Gokul Parasuram and Noah Kess). Wen and Parasuram have known each other and played together since middle school and now there’s Kess, their drummer since 2011.

The band even mixed and matched at Drunken Unicorn. Many of Pillage & Plunder’s songs began with ballad style singing and guitar riffs akin to those from the ’50s or ’60s. However, instead of choruses, they took the breaks between verses and played very technically difficult hard rock guitar jams (Parasuram likes King Crimson) while everything was pulled together by Kess’ harmonic, varied tempo jazz drumming on his Gretsch set. During all of these musical changes, Wen and Parasum traded out singing lead and playing his Fender Telecaster guitar with playing Wen’s Ibanez Artcore bass and singing backup, both doing so proficiently, changing quickly and smoothly. On top of all that, Wen kept everyone smiling when he was on bass and he and Parasum walked toward each other and back while rocking out, swinging their guitars and hair in time with the music.

The singing was more matched than mixed. Parasum’s vocals ranged from low and melodic to a smooth low range falsetto when needed, like on songs “Blue” and “Nutcracker” to jazzy and quick on “Beetlejuice.” Wen was equally adept on vocals, but liked to scream instead of going falsetto, and was reminiscent of Marc Bolan with his glam-style rhythm guitar riffs. On “The Last Date,” Wen sang a bit lower and took the tempo from slow to almost punk speed while Parasum took the opportunity to show off his bass skills by cantering up and down the neck at breakneck speed. Every band member was equally talented. When one amazed, the others played just as well, if not better. The band was self-described as “three piece rock magic” for a reason.

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