Low at The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, MI

Low @ The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids, MI | Photo by Jena McShane

Low brings textured layers of sound to The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids for a mesmerizing night of indie rock and roll.

Grand Rapids’ pinball bar and rock hall The Pyramid Scheme was haunted Wednesday evening by droning riffs and melodic harmonies as slowcore legends Low rocked the house in support of their latest album, Hey What. While the band has enjoyed somewhat of a cult following since the early 1990s, this latest album has received widespread critical acclaim and was even ranked among NPR’s top 50 albums of the year in 2021. It was no surprise to see a packed house. 

Melbourne-based doom/sludge metal duo Divide and Dissolve set the stage for the evening with a head-pounding wall of amps that delivered their fiercely progressive agenda in full force. The band is composed of saxophone and guitarist Takiaya Reed and percussionist Sylvie Nehill who seek to use their music to “decolonize, decentralize and destroy white supremacy.” 

While Reed and Nehill’s music centers on instrumental expression, they used song titles like “Gaslit” and “Mental Gymnastics” to discuss topics like patriarchy, colonialism, and more. At one point, Reed explained to the crowd that they hoped their music could inspire fans how they might strike up conversations with “their racist white uncle.”

The heavy messages in their music were met with equally heavy sounds. Downtuned, distorted guitar notes were held and stretched to their breaking point, and then slamming percussion intertwined to convey anger, desperation, and despair. 

The crowd was allowed a few minutes to recover from the sonic onslaught before Low took the stage. The three-piece band is led by husband and wife founders Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums and vocals), with new touring member Liz Draper on the bass. Behind them, three pillars of LEDs flashed like cityscapes. 

Formed in Duluth in 1993, Low has issued 13 full-length albums throughout their career, with their last three helped on by producer BJ Burton who has seemed to pull out the band’s most bold sound to date with the 2021 release of Hey What. The album builds on the distorted layers of synth-guitar sound found in 2018’s Double Negative and takes it to another level. 

Fans were treated to a front-to-back performance of all 10 songs on the Hey What album before a deeper dive into their catalog that included popular tracks “Sunflower,” “Plastic,” and the closing encore “Nothing But Heart.” Throughout the night, Sparhawk and Parker alternated between chilling yet beautiful harmonies and crashing guitar static that had the entire room completely entranced. 

The band will be hitting the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Europe for the next leg of its tour starting on April 25. They then return to the U.S. for a couple of shows in June and again in late summer to close out the tour. 

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About Jena McShane 27 Articles
Jena McShane is a Lansing, MI based photographer specializing in candid portraiture, live music, and stormy landscapes.