Noise-rock supergroup Human Impact to play Pittsburgh Nov. 30

Human Impact is looking to make a ruckus in Pittsburgh.

The esteemed, NYC-based noise-rock quartet comes to the Steel City next week for an ear-shredding evening at Club Café on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Locally based art punks Microwaves are set to kick off the bill with much bombast. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., with the first set following at 8 p.m. at the South Side venue.

COVID-19 figures large into the Human Impact story.

The band was on the cusp of something – what, they only could guess. They had a vicious, 100-proof debut LP out on Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings. Outlets like the New York Times were paying attention. The group, composed of former members of noise-rock icons Unsane, Cop Shoot Cop and Swans, was just about to launch its first tour. Then, the world came apart at the seams. We all know the narrative.

“We were supposed to start touring in March of 2020,” frontman Chris Spencer lamented. “We’re really looking forward to getting back to it. Our music is definitely meant to be experienced live.”

“It’s volume and experience,” he added. “It’s cathartic to play live, and the music we’re playing has energy and intention to it.”

One can see why.

Spencer doesn’t strike guitar notes in Human Impact as much as he rips and uncoils them, with distorted leads giving way only to an often-roared vocal delivery. The rhythm section – drummer Phil Puleo and bassist Chris Pravdica – pounds like so many metal-pummeled jackhammers on amphetamines. Jim Coleman, who works the keyboards, adds a bit of the synthetic, the vague sense that we trapped in some Blade Runner nightmare.

Club Café also fits Human Impact like a glove – an intimate venue whose PA system can sustain their bombastic propensities. (“I’d rather have a small kinda space – it gets louder,” Coleman laughed. “We’re not painfully loud,” Spencer retorted.)

Spencer, also, is no stranger to western Pennsylvania. The band he fronted for decades, Unsane, played Pittsburgh about a half-dozen times over the years and he grew up visiting relatives in Mt. Lebanon, a leafy suburb in Pittsburgh’s South Hills, he said.

Those turning out also can expect some surprises. The band is developing new songs and plans to premiere two or three new offerings a night during each stop on the tour – working them over, refining and polishing them.

“We have easily over 15 tracks we have worked out in various forms,” Spencer told ‘Swordfish.’ “There’s some keepers in there but we look at them as demos – and a couple of them we’ll be rolling out on the upcoming tour.”

The band plans to record during a tour stop in Minneapolis. What can fans expect of the new material?

“I think things have developed a lot,” Coleman said. “We’re not in a radically different sound. But there’s a progression.”

Human Impact has grown familiar with the throes of pandemic life, despite how it thwarted their best efforts last spring. Spencer and Coleman both said they stayed in a pandemic pod with the band, getting COVID-19 tests and such so they could continue to rehearse and record.

In New York City, things are starting to show signs of hope, the pandemic bleeding into endemic, they said. Coleman went to a Banksy exhibit recently and saw a friend’s band, Isolation Society, play a live show.

“People aren’t really uptight,” Coleman told ‘Swordfish.’ “It’s just, ‘Show your vaccination card and you’re good.’”

“We’re really looking forward to [playing live sets],” Spencer added. “But we’re being cautious. We’re not out of this thing yet.” — Justin Vellucci, Swordfish, Nov. 23, 2021

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About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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