New Brunswick, NJ punk trio, Screaming Females, recently set out on their latest leg of a lengthy 2018 tour. This jaunt, primarily along the east coast, has them playing with Philly queer punk collective +Hirs+ (pronounced “heers”) and the Baton Rouge doom metal band, Thou. Local gender bending punk pranksters, Space Camp, opened the show and set the tone of “come as you are” for the evening. With a mixture of styles and genres the outlier of the evening was without question Thou, who yucked it up on stage in a way that felt exclusionary, as if we were bearing witness to their inside joke and had no frame of reference. They didn’t seem too impressed with us either.
Otherwise, the evening felt more meaningful and reflective than your typical “rock show”. Case in point, vocalist of the radical collective +Hirs+, who goes by the initials JP, reminded the audience of where they all stood. “If you’re trans, if you’re a woman, if your short, if you are a p.o.c., if you are oppressed and marginalized, please please come up here and take up as much of space as you need.” It was a moment that felt real and made me reflect on who I was and where I was within the space, in the front. While there was little movement within the space, it was an authentic gesture that jibes well with the 21st century punk rock ethos reminiscent of yesteryear’s Fugazi shows.
Touring in support of their latest album, All At Once, their seventh release on Don Giovanni Records, Marissa Paternoster, King Mike, and Jarrett Dougherty performed several cuts from their new album and as far back as What If Someone Is Watching Their T.V.? They kicked off their set with “Sheep”, from 2010’s Castle Talk, featuring Paternoster’s signature vibrato vocals and heavy guitar riffs. King Mike’s bass looked like a ukulele slung upon his regal frame as he belted out deep clean notes mixed in with the occasional power chord that flooded the sold out Space Ballroom. Next up was “Dirt”, which showcased Dougherty’s nifty drum work including a catchy high-hat sequence that filled the pauses of silence from Paternoster and King Mike otherwise mathy stringwork. The epic heavy jam “Rose Mountain” was next and showcased Paternoster’s remarkable chops on guitar, while the rhythm section stomped out the beat with grit and grace.
It’s easy to lose the trio’s precision playing in their heavy stylings, but if you listen closely, each are holding down an impressive sonic strand that weaves together to make the whole of the sound. This has been a hallmark of the New Brunswick bandmates and can be traced back as early as 2007 with “Starve the Beat”, which followed. Though slightly less refined than tracks from their new album, “Starve the Beat” was a reminder of their raw DIY punk rock roots that never strayed from experimentation and an embrace of the noisier side of things. In contrast, “Black Moon” from All At Once was next. Perhaps the band’s most anthemic track, the crowd was at their most raucous as they shouted out the corus of “Now we all dream alone. Now we all dream alone.” alongside Paternosters projections. They finished their set with a ripping rendition of “Fall Asleep” off of Castle Talk and newly released power pop tune “Step Outside”. After a brief respite, the trio returned to play their hit single “Glass House” to great applause from the capacity crowd.
Be sure to catch them when they hit your town, their live show is not to be missed.