Particle : Paradise, Boston MA 4/20/2006

Expectations were high as Particle took the stage at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club around 10:30 on what stood to be a significant test for the band. Not only do their fans hold higher expectations for a 4/20 show, but the gig was going to be Particle’s first chance to show their Boston based fans the new, and supposedly improved lineup, that has been hyped since its unveiling alongside guests like Joe Satriani, and Robbie Krieger of The Doors.

Opening with the body moving pulse of “The Battle without Honor and Humanity,” first striking public eardrums in 2003’s Kill Bill Part I (and later by a relentless continuum of repetitive car commercials), Particle made it clear that things were going into overdrive early on. Following their opener with the road-tested “Road’s A Breeze (@3AM),” the familiarity stopped there.

Bassist Eric Gould and Key/Synth sensation Steve Molitz each took their respected position on opposite sides of the stage, filling in the gap with Particle’s newest guitarists, Ben Combe and Scott Metzger. Early on Combe nailed his sideman duties for Gould, as Metzger did the same for Molitz, effectively creating a pair of contestants for a techno-jamband tag-team match, which both sides embraced as a joint operation, rather than a contest.

But to say that the new guitarists were solely “sidemen” would be undersold. Combe and Metzger both went from sidemen to the spotlight, playing off of each other in a dynamic that most resembles the Haynes/Trucks accompaniment of the Allman Brothers. While their new bandmates showed fans what they had to offer, Gould and Molitz both held it down from their respective corners of the stage, communicating between themselves and drummer Darren Pujalet, for the sake of the investments (Combe and Metzger) they had bet their careers on.

Particle’s new stage dynamic places a greater emphasis on the all-for-one-esq philosophy that the old lineup was lacking. In the past, where former-guitarist Charlie Hitchcock, and Steve Molitz would have limited themselves to trying to out-balls each other, their new guitarists, still earning their bones, played with an aggressive modesty that really emphasized teamwork over the spotlight.

The set was packed with new material, but saying it was immediately embraced would be a fabrication well beyond that of the Bush administration’s pre-war intelligence. And the hopes for an encore of old fan favorites like “The Elevator” or “Mind Over Matter” were shot down quickly as the band closed the show with a newer song called “Bra” that was unrecognizable to even the most devoted members of the crowd still left on the dance floor at 1:30 in the morning.

Though in the end, the band decisively proved to their fans that the new lineup is a change for the better. One that will continue to warp the dynamics of the band’s performances and songwriting as time goes on. With the addition of Scott Metzger and Ben Combe, the band is playing tighter, and visually happier than ever. But they need to place the emphasis on making new fans in a way that still humors their existing fanbase while incorporating their entire song history.

Particle’s ability to cater towards both of these realities is the biggest test they stand to take in their post-Hitchcock days. Whether they pass or fail will only be known in time. Their fans will continue to show up, but it is Particle itself that must pass the test, or quite possibly fade away.

Photos by Earl Gardner

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