When Pipe first hit the grimy stages of local bars, they stood out against the melodic indie rock bands giving the area its misrepresented reputation. Tastemakers and media hounds had been scratching for another lead story after grunge, so the words "next Seattle" were still ringing in locals' ears. A young local label, Merge Records, was off and running with its first releases. And in 1992, the label Sonic Bubblegum put out Ball Peen, Pipe's first release, with members Mike Kenlan on guitar, vocalist Ron Liberti, bassist Dave Alworth and drummer Chuck Garrison. On Saturday, Aug. 20, that original lineup reunites at Local 506.
Since those heady days, the musical landscape has changed somewhat. Folks started to realize the colorful palette of music here in the Triangle; Merge forged on to become an example of how to run a national independent label; and those two hated words finally left the vocabulary for Chapel Hillians.
Pipe remained unique throughout. Their now-legendary beer-sprayed shows grabbed audiences with an immediate energy, a rankled feeling of despondency one could embrace and felt good to shake to. They ticked through various lineups until their dissolution in 1999, notably with Clif Mann of The Bad Checks filling the guitar spot when Kenlan was absent. Kenlan was often concentrating on his own band with Garrison, Small. Kenlan's appearance on guitar for this show--his guitar tone the live wire cable crossing Liberti's exposed battery post vocals--is a highlight to many fans of the band.
Liberti and Mann's other band, The Ghost of Rock, closed the door last week. So, why have a reunion of his previous band within a week? Liberti says it was just a coincidence, with the Pipe show in the works since last winter. On the amicable breakup, Liberti says, "I want to spend more time with my art and [another band ] Bringerer. Clif has Chrome Plated Apostles, and Rock [Forbes] is playing drums for Fake Swedish. I love Clif, Rock and Jeff [Clarke] and am totally proud of our recordings and what we were as a band. I'll miss it but have to move on."
When asked if playing with the Pipe guys again is just a temporary fling of the beer can, Liberti quips, "As of now, just one show. Practices have been great though--just like riding a pipe."
Pipe's original lineup plays Local 506 on Saturday, Aug. 20 with The Nein and The Chest Pains. For advance tickets, see www.local506.com.