Sep 20, 2013

On the scene: Screaming Females at Bowery Ballroom, 9.16.13

Liz Maher saw the Screaming Females at Bowery Ballroom a couple of days ago, and lived to write about it:

Screaming Females is really only one female - the diminutive Marissa Paternoster - with a wicked guitar technique who carols and scolds out songs alongside two guys, one a tall bass player, King Mike, and the other a drummer, Jarrett Dougherty. All three from New Brunswick, New Jersey, which sort of makes up for Bon Jovi.

Somehow, Screaming Females wasn’t the headliner, in a Don Giovanni Records showcase held at The Bowery Ballroom on September 16th. The lineup included Aye Nako, Tenement, Screaming Females and Waxahatchee, which gave Paternoster time to man the band concession stand.

Warming up for the SFems was Aye Nako and Tenament. Aye Nako is a promising young band from Brooklyn fronted by sweet-voiced Mars Ganito, who chatted with the audience, spoke nostalgically of girls’ rock camp, and dedicated a song to Freddie Kruger. For some reason, they all wore shorts, which they need to stop doing.

Tenement, a band out of Wisconsin, reminded me of a sloppier but equally loud Hives. Tenement's lead vocal and guitarist, Amos Pitsch’s performance was silly in a good way, and the bassist’s hair was cool.

Waxahatchee followed SFems. My friend observed their songs just never started: and there lay the problem, or at least one of the problems with Whatchahell. They need to have full songs, to carry through on any initial surge, and switch their drugs to something happier - Whipettes?
As always, Paternoster, whose name translates in Latin to "Lord’s prayer," changed into her nun-like Talbots dress and started off the set with weird little leg gesticulations while ripping into the band’s first song, Normal. Despite looking uncoordinated, she was perhaps the only performer that night who might be good at yoga. Sfems played around 8 songs, mostly from Ugly and maybe two new(er) ones. Their songs often reference being gay in a non-self absorbed way but mostly random, dark and personal odes of contempt for the staus quo. Everyone needs something to sing about and such dark stresses of life ground sleek guitar slides and riffs backed by King Mike’s echoing Rickenbacker bass and Doughterty’s solid drumming. A small happy-go-lucky mosh pit formed and kept up throughout the show. No real angst there, just thrilled at being out of NJ on a school night.

SFem’s songs run longer than most punk bands- perhaps a ratio of 7 minutes: 1.3 minutes. This gives Paternoster time to menace King Mike with her tiny, fierce self. It’s cute but minimizes how great her talent is. Her hands act with precision, making quick, strategical strikes across the bridge. Paternoster tweeted before the show that she got a new guitar but it just looked like she cleaned her guitar. King Mike and Dougherty keep up with Petitemonster and deliver rocking versions of Buried and Wild. Wishing Well, a new song, is almost folk, fast folk. Wishing Well's lyrics creates bleak poetic imagery which again is impressive for a punk band and another mark of Paternoster's talent. It's not completely perfect, SFems should consult a DJ since some transitions are choppy. For the finale, King Mike’s bass dominates Doom84, just about blowing my head off.

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