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Archive for the ‘Screaming Females’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 3, 2019] Team Dresch

Back in the mid 90s (when things were pretty great), as I was exploring more and more indie music, I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest scene.  There were a lot of great bands fronted by or comprised entirely of women–it was like discovering a gold mine of new sounds and voices.

This led to discoveries like Sleater-Kinney and Team Dresch.

This also led to exploring the Candy Ass record label (run by Team Dresch singer/bassist Jody Bleyle) and the amazing Free to Fight compilation.  As well as the Chainsaw records label (run by Donna Dresch).  They shared a lot of bands.

Team Dresch is one of the great queercore bands and they opened my eyes to a lot of avenues of queer culture that I didn’t know about.  I’ve become a huge LGBTQ+ advocate over the years and I attribute much of that to discovering Team Dresch and all that they stand for. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 3, 2019] Screaming Females

I was surprised and excited to hear the Team Dresch were doing a tour of our area.  They were playing at Monty Hall (a venue I love) as well as Union Transfer (a much bigger venue that I love).  It was a little hard to parse that they would play a venue with a capacity of 200 followed by a capacity of 1,200, but there ya go.

I would, of course, prefer the show at Monty Hall; however, for some reason, the Union Transfer show was also featuring Screaming Females.  So there was no way I could miss a chance to see this great band one more time.

Before Des Ark, I was looking at Screaming Females’ merch and actually wound up buying a CD directly from King Mike, which is pretty cool.

After Des Ark ended, Screaming Females came out.  They set up their own gear quickly and efficiently and then started playing. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 3, 2019] Des Ark

I had never heard of Des Ark.  This show was a double bill of Screaming Females and Team Dresch and I had kind of forgotten there was another opening act.  So I didn’t look into them at all.

I was amused when the drummer came out and was texting on his phone before their set began.

Turns out that drummer is Ashley Arnwine who I had seen play with Waxahatchee (that band was fantastic, too).  He is also in the band Pinkwash.

The other two guys in the band were brothers Chris Taylor and Mike Taylor who were both in Pg. 99.

But these three guys are just with the band for this short (5 day) tour.

Des Ark is really the creation of singer/guitarist Aimee Argote.  Des Ark has three albums out Loose Lips Sink Ships (2005), Battle of the Beards (2007) and Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker (2011).   In between these she released three live albums from Durham, North Carolina radio station WXDU: WXDU v. 1 (2006); WXDU v.2 (2007) and Live at WXDU Vol. 3 (2013).  On these she plays new songs which may or may not make the next record.

Note the dates. That last WXDU record was from 2013.  And, it turns out that Des Ark hasn’t played live (despite being amazing) for over three years.  Why is that?

 because main member Aimee Argote quit music for the past three years. She posted a lengthy statement explaining on her hiatus on Instagram, which reads in part: “I left music because I felt unsafe, exhausted, unsupported, poor as shit, and my body was super, SUPER fucking broken. I had no plan, no health insurance (w/ chronic health issues), no stability, and I knew I would never have consistency in my life or in my relationships if I was going to keep touring as much as it would take for me to make a [pretty shitty] living.” She also later added, “Being talented isn’t enough. It simply isn’t enough to keep me or others safe in an industry that tries to destroy women, POC, and queers at every turn.”

But I didn’t know anything about this when Aimee came out on stage and started playing and singing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THOU-Tiny Desk Concert #847 (May 6, 2019).

I saw Thou play a show last year and they were loud, abrasive and intimidating.  So much so that when I saw this collective of people behind the Tiny Desk, I had to double check to make sure it was the same band.

I mean, the band I saw had a male singer who growled/screamed all of the lyrics.  This band had three women singing and was entirely quiet.

I had a ticket to a show recently featuring Screaming Females (who headlined for Thou last time, too) and what was listed as a rare acoustic show from Thou.  I assume it must have sounded something like this.

And this is pretty awesome.

But what is going on?

The first-ever metal band at the Tiny Desk is a little bit of a head fake. Make no mistake, Thou makes some of the heaviest, most tortuous music around; but the band also constantly experiments with beautifully ornate arrangements that balance its most extreme measures. In a set culled from the acoustic-driven Inconsolable — one of six full-lengths, EPs and splits the band released last year (no, really) — Thou shows us just how crushing quiet can be.

Guitarist KC Stafford plays guitar and sings lead.  The song is brooding and powerful in its slow quietness.

“This is the softest I’ve ever played,” guitarist KC Stafford told me during sound check.  Yes, their downtuned guitars are turned down low at the NPR Music office, but the weight is still ever-present. Stafford takes the lead on “The Hammer” as co-vocalists Emily McWilliams (blonde) and Melissa Guion (dark hair) sing, “Bring down the hammer / A bludgeon to my shrines / Bring down the hammer / To the corpse of my worship.”

McWilliams’ more high -pitched voice is an excellent companion to Stafford’s deeper delivery.

Guion also makes ambient-pop music under the name MJ Guider and MJ Guider was the opening act for the quiet show.

Stafford played bass when I saw them.  The bassist at this show, Mitch Wells, doesn’t look familiar from that night although he and rhythm guitarist Andy Gibbs are founding members (along with lead guitarist Matthew Thudium).  Perhaps Mitch was not around for that tour?  But he certainly brings some mirth to the proceedings.  He;s wearing a crazy bright shirt (not typical for a doom metal band) and he says that playing the Tiny Desk was a big old bucket list.

Even though the band’s line up has stayed pretty consistent since they began in 2005, they have had three drummers.  Tyler Coburn (who might be the reincarnation of Andy Kaufman) joined in 2018 which means I probably didn’t see him at my show.

The cryptic lyrics and melodies are largely written by Bryan Funck, who normally screams his existential despair for Thou. But for these songs and this Tiny Desk, he lurked in the audience.

So that’s where he was.  Turns out that for the Inconsolable EP, he didn’t sing anything, allowing guest vocalists to sing everything.

For the second song “Come Home, You Are Missed” McWilliams sings lead.  She sang on the EP as well.  Guion accompanies her very nicely.  For this song Stafford’s guitar seems tuned down so far you can hear the string vibrating and rumbling as she plays open chords.

The final lines, “Privacy is priceless to me” are repeated three times.

Thou’s decade-plus discography is an exercise in exploration and refinement, finding new textures in heft, which is why this set offers such a slow-burning thrill to its oeuvre.

I am now regretting even more not going to that show.  I can’t get over what a different experience it would have been.

The closing cut, “The Unspeakable Oath,” lead by guitarist Matthew Thudium, is a twinkling grunge song that overlaps guitar melodies with the grace and grandiosity of a whale.

I don’t believe that Thudium ever sang when I saw them, but his voice is fantastic.  He doesn’t even sing on the EP.  His voice seems wasted in a screaming band.

I really like this song a lot.  I like the way the verses quietly build up and then release with a simple but effective guitar riff as a segue to the next part.  The final part of the song also features some interesting/creepy “ahhhs” from McWilliams and Guion which conclude the song very tidily.

[READ: May 6, 2019] “The Escape”

Eddie Prior is the protagonist of this story and he makes a grand entrance.

As the story opens, Eddie has entered the Pavilion and is heading down the grand staircase when he slips (leather dancing shoes on parquet floor).  But he keeps smiling and manages to tap out the beat with each step, rescuing himself as he comes to a stop between two striking women.  Both women are named Millie and both are embarrassed by his attention.

The blonde Millie is dismissive.  The brunette Millie is embarrassed, but finds him handsome.  Later she agrees to dance with him and a year later agrees to marry him.

As with another recent New Yorker story, this one jumps ahead quickly.  There are children, a war, and bitter words but through it all they are Catholic, so they just get on with it. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2018] Screaming Females

It’s ironic, I suppose, that Screaming Females are a band from New Brunswick, NJ (not far from me) who apparently plays (or once played) lots of basement shows and unnamed clubs in that city, but I traveled all the way to Philly to see them for the first time.

I’m not the kind of person who gets invited to secret underground shows, and that’s fine.  I’ll happily see a band in a great venue with a rowdy crowd.

The focus in Screaming Females is centered on Maria Paternoster because she is a stellar guitarist and a compelling singer and front woman.  But we mustn’t forget King Mike Abbate on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on drums who have made up the band since the beginning.  All three were there in fine roaring form, working like a tight machine. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2018] Thou

I was unfamiliar with Thou before this show.  Reviews were pretty interesting so I was really intrigued to hear them.

Gregory Heaney from All Music wrote “the band’s sound blends the shuddering heaviness of doom with the oppressive atmospherics of black metal, giving the band a monolithic sound that feels, at times, inescapable.”

And nothing could be more accurate.  Thou are loud.  Really loud.  I have seen Sunn O))) who are possibly the loudest band on the planet and Thou was more inescapable.  And I did not find it enjoyable, possibly because I was unprepared.

Musically the band is rather interesting.  They play heavy doom metal, but they have complex (and heavy) chords and riffs–sometimes with the bassist playing counterpoint.  Their riffs were slow, but the notes they played were not always the obvious choice.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2018] +HIRS+

+HIRS+ (pronounced “heers”) is a collective. According to their website: “We are infinite and never ending. A collective of freaks and faggots that will never stop existing.” But mainly the band is made up of two semi-anonymous individuals, best friends JP on vocals and beats and Esem on guitar.

And their slogan is “LOOKS LIKE HELL. SOUNDS LIKE SHIT. QUEER AS FUCK.”

Incidentally, the band just released their first full length, which is currently streaming on NPR.  It is 14 minutes long–20 songs–and features guest contributions from Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Shirley Manson (Garbage), Marissa Paternoster (Screaming Females), Alice Bag and more.

Vice describes their set so aptly:

A quick listen to one of their songs – and it will be quick, as most of their tracks don’t stretch for longer than 30 seconds – will definitely do the trick: Sample from a movie. Heavy blastbeats. Fast and pounding guitar riffs. Screamed, mostly unintelligible vocals. Repeat. If you’re seeing them live, the typical +HIRS+ set will last maybe ten intensely chaotic, fun minutes.

That’s a lot of talk for a set that lasted no more than 15 minutes.  But their set was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. (more…)

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