Screaming Females / Priests - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)

Screaming Females / Priests

live in Brooklyn (2015)

live show

Yes, I saw Screaming Females twice (and Priests once) in one night, and what follows is that harrowing tale. I got a ticket to the February 28 evening's early show (both shows sold out well in advance) with the utmost intention of seeing the direct support: Washington DC's post-punk Priests. Unfortunately due to insane traffic traveling from New Jersey to Brooklyn (shocking) and a tough time finding a park space (more shock) I didn't get to the venue until Screaming Females were launching into their first song.

SF gets a lot of praise for their DIY blue collar work ethic and naturally part of that is they're all business live- Tight and economical with no special effects or unneeded visual frills. They simply don't make mistakes and only stop playing to quickly tune every threeish songs (and so singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster can thank the audience and opening bands bashfully and inaudibly).

Their newest album, the fantastic Rose Mountain, is not a huge departure but has more moody indie rock and a hair less of the screaming/shredding punk-meets-Zeppelin they’re known for. The slightly more somber vibe hasn't permeated their live show however as they still play with maximum ferocity. The set focused on the heavier Rose Mountain songs such as "Ripe" and "Criminal Image," omitting singles "Wishing Well" and "Hopeless." They contrasted that with some of their better known singles, such as "Bell" and "I Don't Mind it". The surf rock tumble of "Extinction" was a stand out, arguably the peak of their fiery playing for the night. "Baby Jesus" and "Little Anne" were other highlights- the former was much faster and more distorted than the recorded version while the latter is a nice touch of tranquility amidst their noise onslaught and integrates the full band halfway through the song elegantly.

It's a real treat to watch a band that communicates with each other so well musically. Jarrett Dougherty’s assertive and sneaky complicated drumming. King Mike's catchy and bouncy bass playing. Paternoster’s in your face Page/Mascis/Brownstein hybrid. It all gels effortlessly, always making you aware they practice more and play more shows than your favorite band.

Paternoster has been dealing with chronic mono for a while and now has her guitar strap around her waist, held with a strap knob added to the bottom of her double cutaway Strat. Once or twice in both shows she would temporarily hunch over/contort herself in an odd way while singing (though you wouldn't think anything of it if you didn't know the back story). It's extremely admirable how incredible her singing and playing is while in pain. Seeing so many indie rock bands simply shoe gaze and never break a sweat, or punk bands who just slam on power chords and root notes, it's a real treat to see Marissa be a real energetic guitar hero, someone you'll be telling your kids you got to see play live.

So many bands just play their tracks identically to the studio version, but Screaming Females, instead, will chug along between songs, connecting them seamlessly with a beat or bassline, or they'll add an extra minute or two to a track for some extra riffage and let it come to a gradual conclusion.

After "Buried In The Nude" concluded the main set, the aforementioned "I Don't Mind It" was the encore, complete with an ending freak out.

I quickly left the venue to attend an engagement I could not miss down the block and bumped into a handful of friends on their way to the late show. Like any good pal, I tried to shamelessly use them by asking them to call me if they saw a scalper so I can run back and see Priests. Of course they did not see one, but I did get a text saying Priests were about to go on so I ran back trying to formulate a sob story for the box office person or maybe find a hidden load in door. My friends smoking outside alerted me that my wristband was the same color as theirs so I just sauntered in with them and that was that, a true act of rebellion indeed.

Like Screaming Females before them, I stepped in during Priests' first song and wow wow wow. What locked me in immediately was how fucking incredible their rhythm section played. Drummer Daniele Daniele was spare when she needed to be and always played the right fill in the right place. Her hits were heavy and uncommonly hard (it might sound silly but if you've never played in a band before you may not realize how many drummers don't hit hard enough and how essential that is). Their bass player Taylor Mulitz played forcefully and my gut says Joe Lally (Fugazi) influenced but isn’t limited to that style. Mulitz played the lead part in many songs but somehow never left the pocket.

Guitarist Jaguar moved and pounced, playing surfy leads that interweaved with the bass or simply created noise. Singer Katie Alice Greer was very commanding and had a fantastic energy- not the punk jumping around type but a crowd engaging alternate prowling/exploding vibe that's infectious and attention grabbing. Her stare shot daggers and her voice can do everything well: Singing, screaming, talk-singing, going to lower and higher registers with ease. They finished with perhaps their most well known track, Doctor, to the highest crowd energy level of the set.

I stayed to see if Screaming Females were going to be play any different songs and lo and behold they opened with "Sheep" and I was awarded with a totally different setlist. Impressively, they did not seem worn out at all, Marissa's voice was just as powerful as ever. The set included the previously mentioned two Rose Mountain singles ("Hopeless" ended the main set) plus the brooding title track. Their longest song, "Doom 84," was a booming highlight, "a sound that turns the mountains into sand" indeed.

By the end of the set Marissa and Mike had the widest smiles I've ever seen them have on stage as they really let it all out hopping and thrashing around - Paternoster even messed up a few times, holy smokes! Unfortunately there was a PA problem and loud crackles would occur a few times a song, really the only differentiating quality factor between both shows.

The encore song this time was "A New Kid," containing possibly their most menacing riff, and the performance was gloriously punishing. As with set one they were done in an hour, the clock hitting 2AM...

(Don't worry, I bought an SF shirt to make up for sneaking in.)