A little band with a big punch: Pack A.D. comes to Buffalo

Becky and Maya of The Pack A.D. give a lesson in how to rock and roll

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Two seasoned performers – one smashing drums and the other shredding guitar and screaming into a mic – dominated the dimly lit stage, head-banging and dancing crazily, hair spiked and swept over their faces. A closer look revealed their eyes were closed – they were performing in their own world.

Maya Miller on drums and Becky Black on guitar and vocals make up the duo The Pack A.D. On Wednesday they put on an electrifying rock concert at the Tralf Music Hall in downtown Buffalo.

The show was testament to the band’s years of touring experience with a commanding onstage charisma.

Concerts fall into three categories: good bands with bad live shows, bad bands with good live shows and bands that just make you want to hop on the air guitar and dance away. The Pack A.D.’s show can be filed somewhere in the latter category.

Recorded, The Pack A.D. sounds like any old generic rock band – spiraling rock riffs punctuated by rhythmic drums and pitchy vocals. Live, however, it is completely different.

The duo opened their set with their hit, “The Water.” The song, filled with raucous drum beats overlaid with hard guitar riffs and wailing vocals, was a good indicator of what was to come – a pure rock ‘n’ roll concert.

Over The Pack A.D.’s over seven years of touring experience, the duo has traveled with bands like Alice in Chains and No Means No. They have had quite a long time to perfect their practice.

The duo’s familiarity and comfort onstage was apparent both in the pair’s inhibition – the two girls did not hesitate to rile up the crowd between songs with throaty chants and lackadaisical, mindless strums of the guitar.

“I loved them,” said Spencer Levitt, a sophomore political science major. “I never heard of them before, but that set was killer.”

Although he had never listened to the pair before, he was thrilled by their performance.

“If you know us, then you know our songs,” Miller said onstage. “If you don’t know us, well … you’re learning now, aren’t you?”

The female duo said it’s often asked about what it is like to be in an “all-female band.”

This question, to Black, is confounding.

“I think that is kind of a weird issue in culture,” Black said. “There is such a separation between genders based on arbitrary roles constructed by cultural connotations. I don’t focus on how it feels to be a woman in the music industry. I’m just a person.”

The band played a number of its songs, ranging in style from the classic-rock infused “Battering Ram” to the lighter, alt rock “Cobra Matte.”

Black said their diverse style isn’t something they’ve focused on; it just happened.

“Our style has changed naturally,” Black said. “Our first album we were really just learning how to play. I played guitar as a teenager, but casually. I guess our style evolved as we got better at playing.”

In the beginning, Black described their early style as more simple. Both the guitar and drum parts were technically easy, in order for the budding musicians to learn. Now, the style of the band draws from every possible genre of rock music.

As for the future – who knows, Black said.

“Maybe next album will be completely different,” she said. “Or maybe it won’t. We’re working on it – it will get there.”

When listening to The Pack A.D., one can hear roots of punk rock, grunge, hard rock, blues-rock and classical. They have grown from a band that only grasps at music concepts into a band that can experiment with their own musical identity on a regular basis.

Becky’s screaming guitar and Maya’s pounding drums creates music that emanates from the purest forms of rock ‘n’ roll – it’s magical and nostalgic.

Now far from their beginnings, the seasoned performers can dominate an audience. The show ended with The Pack A.D.’s “Sirens,” a song that involved a room full of whipping hair, pumping fists and wailing vocals.

“They were amazing for just two people,” said Lauren LoVullo, who attended the show. “They had so much energy.”

Offstage, the girls’ rocker personas are replaced by something less larger-than-life. The two play tennis in their spare time, and Black reads a lot.

This contrast, perhaps, personifies the band. They can play an out-of-this-world rock concert one day, but then lounge around reading sci-fi paperbacks the next.

Miller and Black play for the modest things, like paying their rent on time and enjoying their shows. They aren’t out to change the world or make headlines. They aren’t even worried about the future, or how long their band will keep touring. But that’s all OK, Black said.

According to Black, it’s simple.

“Its all about the music, man,” she said.

email: arts@ubspectrum.com