Midway through Pop Pistol’s set, the power trio covers Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.” The cover itself is a straight-ahead crowd panderer, unquestionably topped by others on the set list, but watching vocalist/guitarist Alex Scheel passably condense three guitar parts while delivering Thom Yorke’s emotive lyrics reveals what the musical multitasking Scheel — bandanaed and barefoot, mashing effects pedals, hopping around the stage like a Pentecostal — is really capable of.
Other times he’s kneeling, hunched over the guitar in an upright fetal, while bassist George Garza stomps and teeters, thumping aggressive lines and charging static volts in socks. What do these guys have against shoes? But no time to psychoanalyze, because now Scheel’s holding his guitar to the amplifier, forcing waves of feedback into the audience. All the white noise seems intentional, however — the sound setup is impressively clean, opting for clarity and depth instead of tinnitus, key for appreciating Pop Pistol’s textured sound, and even allows those live-show rarities — intelligible vocals — to slip through pop free.
But unplug the speakers in the Blue Bubble Ballroom with its smoke machines, full-sized disco ball, and walls painted like backdrops for a middle-school production of Beauty and the Beast, and this show would play like a John Hughes homecoming dance with a cooler band. All jeans and T-shirts here, of course, and none of the toe-crunching prom waltz, and not too much of the dance-punk foot shuffle common at rock shows. The glorious disco drums in surefire single “Angela Awake” inspire actual non-ironic hip wiggling. Hands up, audience members writhe like charmed snakes, less self-conscious than most high-school kids could ever hope to be.