Greenwood Avenue has a place in the memory of many students who attend the University. Every year during Welcome Week, hordes of people make the trip from their dorms, apartments or houses to the Greenwood block party, hoping they’ll arrive before the police inevitably break up the festivities. But Greenwood Avenue has another claim to fame: It’s the rightful birthplace of Bear vs. Shark, who are playing tonight at one of their favorite venues, The Blind Pig.
Highly combustible indie-punk ensemble Bear vs. Shark held their initial practices at the Greenwood Avenue house of former University student John Gaviglio (guitar/bass). Childhood friends Mark Paffi (vocals), Derek Kiesgen (guitar/bass) and Mike Muldoon (guitar/bass/keyboards) were also in the band’s first incarnation. After adding Ashley Horak on drums, the group got its start playing house parties throughout Ann Arbor. From the beginning, Gaviglio knew they were on to something. “I’ve had that feeling since day one,” he said. “I think what brought it all together was when Mark finally came to practice – hearing him and what he could do to the music we were writing really gave me chills.”
Their sophomore release, Terrorhawk, combines Paffi’s furious vocal assault with a well-developed “We’ll punch you in the mouth but we’re courteous enough to drive you to the ER” wall of sound that glues listeners to their speakers. Essentially, Terrorhawk is 44 minutes of the pulse of these men, music that’s calculated to bring listeners to their knees.
Songs like the introductory “Catamaran” and the malicious “5, 6 Kids” deliver an energy that’s enough to make listeners tear a hole through their walls with a barrage of punches. However, by the end of the album’s emotional journey, they’ll be contemplating the bruises on their fists with an introspective manner. This thought process comes straight from the music of songs like “Song About Old Roller Coaster”: The power behind these tracks are why Gaviglio says of Terrorhawk that he’s “the most proud I’ve ever been of anything I’ve ever done.”
When asked about the meaning behind Terrorhawk, Gaviglio explained, “(With) most of the stuff we, do we don’t really try to explain too much. We just kind of leave it open to interpretation.” Essentially, Terrorhawk can become whatever a listener wants it to become; it’s best to let the music take you wherever it may wander. Gaviglio also stated that the goal when making Terrorhawk was to create “a full album that was one cohesive unit – (and) to be more thoughtful with the songs.” That is just what Terrorhawk is: reticular in the effect that its varied points are all connected and mesh brilliantly.
Bear vs. Shark bring an incendiary and energetic live show to Ann Arbor. For a few dollars, music fans can see a blistering set from one of the more exciting bands to come out of the area in years. It’s also a chance to take part in a reunion of sorts – the reunion of a band with the city of its birth.