And Then There Were Three: A Night on the Road with Periodic Table of Elephants

“Ever want to experience what it’s like to travel with a band?” read the Periodic Table of Elephant’s Facebook post. “Experience travel in a gear-laden vehicle! Participate in the time-honored tradition of unloading! Eat gas station food!” The Rochester-based band had room to take a few people for their headlining show in Tonawanda on Thursday, December 28. It is likely the best ad I ever have or ever will respond to.

I hitched a ride with bassist Greg Horton in his gear-laden station wagon, and we picked up a friend of his on the way to the gig. Cruising along I90, he filled me in on the origin story of the band, which is known as PToE for short. While Horton is the newest member of PToE, he’s not new to playing with the other members, Sean McGinnis Scanlon and Jason Pariseau. They were in a band together until Horton moved out of state three years ago. Before leaving, he suggested changing the name to Periodic Table of Elephants. Pariseau and Scanlon carried on as a duo in Horton’s absence, until he made a return to New York this fall.

This was my first time at Stamps in Tonawanda. The bar is located in a stone building on Main Street. Inside, a long and inviting bar stretched back to a mid-sized room with a stage, some tables and seating, and a pool table. Pariseau and Scanlon arrived before us. After a warm welcome, I was introduced to their entourage of friends and loved ones.

It was still early, so we threw back Coronas by the bucket while the guys held a pool tournament. Pariseau had picked out some epic rock anthems on the jukebox: Social Distortion “Story of My Life,” Queen’s “Somebody to Love” and Goldfinger’s cover of “99 Red Balloons.”

Scanlon was wearing his Lil Bub t-shirt and told us all about meeting the phenomenal feline at a recent appearance at Black Sheep in Buffalo. Lil Bub is a miracle cat, having several rare conditions including dwarfism, extra toes, and the only cat diagnosed with osteoporosis. She’s become a poster child (er… rather poster cat) for disabled and homeless cats, and helps raise awareness and funds for charities. Sean is a cat-lover, and he and his wife share their home with several rescue cats. 

The conversation turned to music, and we talked shop for a bit. PToE has been selected for again to play the Homegrown festival at Lovin’ Cup in Rochester. They’re one of seven bands on the bill for the day-long celebration of Rochester’s indie music, food, and beverages. The annual event is scheduled for January 20. They also talked about re-entering the studio to work on a follow-up to last year’s debut EP Henry.

Attention was then directed to the stage, which is lined in vinyl records, as singer-songwriter Jordan Potter took to the mic. The solo performer from the Southern Tier played a handful of originals and finished with a cover of Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Potter was followed by Buffalo-based progressive band Jon Rizzo & The Conference of The Strange. Imaginative art rock originals incorporating vocals, drum, bass, keyboard and mellotron were intermixed with a handful of holiday classics.

Before starting to play, Horton, a proponent of hearing loss prevention, offered complimentary earplugs to members of the audience. It was a good idea to take him up on it, because these guys play loud. From the first note of the set to the last, PToE put the pedal to the metal and didn’t ease up. They started with their garage rock anthem “Kung Pao Chicken.” It begins with a simple guitar chord progression before Pariseau lets loose the guttural cry, “In America” signaling the onset of earth-shaking rhythms and grungy guitar riffs.

While PToE was doable as a live duo, the addition of Horton to the band gives their performance extra oomph. Not only does he contribute to the added dimension of sound on bass, but also with his stage presence. There’s a dynamic energy between the trio and it’s fun to watch them go all out on stage together. Scanlon is easily one of my favorite drummers to watch play live. He goes at the drums with exuberant expression, and the waves of pure unadulterated joy he emanates are downright contagious.

It was great to enjoy the show among the herd of Elephants fans, surrounded by the friends and family who’ve supported them for years. Playful banter between the stage and crowd erupted between songs. 

PToE did a bunch of their most popular songs, and tried out a new one. “Lost” is full of crashing waves of sound, reminiscent of 90’s rock. In a fun twist, they also covered a song from their previous iteration as a band, a punk rock rager called “Lament.” They ended strong with the bar-brawl riot theme “Better Off Dead.”

In the car on the way back home, we listened to some classic rock tunes (Talking Heads, The Kinks, David Bowie, and the like) and talked about shows we’ve been to and the ones we plan to hit up this year. Horton has seen an impressively long list of legendary artists, including Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead. We arrived back in Rochester after midnight, thoroughly exhausted, but still riding that post-show adrenaline high.

To keep up to date with events, follow Periodic Table of Elephants on Facebook. Read the NYS Music review of Henry. You’ll find their EP and their live album to stream on Spotify or purchase through Bandcamp.

Setlist: Kung Pao Chicken, Head Trauma, Machines, Duck, Whatever, My Youth, Lost, CBT, Lament (Ack! cover), Better Off Dead