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Rick Maguire and ‘the real Pile’

Remembering a run-in with a upcoming Thing in the Spring performer

Before I hit the road this past weekend, I rode my roof, blasting ice dams with the fiery-bearded forester Steve Roberge; blew out a tire on Union Street; shoveled the last of the six feet of snow we’ve gotten this month; buttoned up things at the shop for the weekend; and most importantly, purchased a copy of Dripping, the newest full-length album by Pile. It provided the perfect nuanced soundtrack to mid-coast Maine, where I bounced around with Luke Olson, cruising the ridges and sunsets, on Thai food and pineapple juice.

Pile is a band from Boston. It’s Rick Maguire, and his songs remind me of Nirvana. Sure, they pummel and crank, and ride squeals of feedback and growls into the realms of punk rock, but Rick shares with Kurt Cobain something that I didn’t pick up on until I was a bit older: clarity of vision. Both songwriters excel at transmuting what can be evasive emotions into concrete vibrations. I have gotten to play some shows with Rick playing solo acoustic sets, and you can see that whether it’s just him, or the whole band, the vibes are pouring out of him; neck bulging, eyes wild. He has a measured tenor voice, dipping to a low growl with ease, and hitting the top of his register by muscling his throat, the volume swelling, breaking the folk ceiling, and reminding you that this is punk rock. I’ve seen video of him playing behind the library, and while not slowed-down, the strings are visibly operating in a different dimension. They bounce under his touch, vibrating erratically, and substantially.

I have a funny connection to the name Rick operates under; Pile was the name of my first band, hatched in Rindge, twenty years ago. We had fun, but I am immensely grateful that the Internet, as it is now, did not exist then. I first heard of them through my friends in Graph & Bunny’s a Swine, who were singing the tune I began this piece with, about Rick’s songwriting and power. They had me bring them to the Toadstool for a show a few years ago. At the door that night, I was standing with Austin, and I introduced one of the guys, saying, “he’s in Pile.” Austin dryly replied, “I remember the real Pile.” Of course, the dude had no idea why this guy was coming off so aggro, and he had no idea if maybe this was Boss-tin (Austin’s alterego) or just an example of Austin’s fantastically dry wit; his silence sometimes undermines his playful charm. But I have to say, after seeing many performances, and listening to tons of recordings, Rick Maguire is the real Pile.

Pile will be playing at the Saturday daytime show during The Thing in the Spring, which will be behind the Town Hall, starting at noon on June 7th. You can pick up cd & lp copies of their albums Magic is Real, and Dripping at the Toadstool Bookshop.

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