Filthy Friends At The Teragram Ballroom, Wednesday August 30th 2017
Super groups are not always easy to sell, how many of them have we seen so far? Plenty, but there is an irresistible attraction to form new ones for bands which admire each other, they can’t help it, and I suspect they do it much more for fun and self gratification than for selling albums. In any case, I have to say that the members of Filthy Friends had a great time together at the Teragram Ballroom on Wednesday night.
Filthy Friends is Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney, Peter Buck of R.E.M., Kurt Bloch of the Young Fresh Fellows, Scott McCaughey of the Minus 5, and Linda Pitmon who is currently replacing Bill Rieflin of King Crimson on drums… Tucker and Buck have been fans of each other for a long time and it really shows, they did not move very far from each other all set long, while Bloch and McCaughey had a lot of fun on the other side of the stage. As a group, they had the excellent idea to let Corin from the band. She sang the whole time and her performance was certainly a blast, obliviously reminding us about the great Sleater-Kinney’s vocalist that all fans love. She was not doing too many weird things with her voice, just singing, with her booming powerhouse, songs that would certainly not be the same without her. Filthy Friends is obviously not reinventing music, there is a 80s sensibility surfacing in these tunes, and somehow, the result sometimes sounds like a missing link between the two bands, Sleather Kinney and R.E.M, while staying ferocious and eager to keep the world fully awake of social injustice and other political catastrophes.
The Filthy Friends recorded an album, ‘Invitation’, and decided to tour to support it. The band is of course a Portland affair, although Buck does not live there anymore, but the collaboration is on Northwest coast label, Kill Rock Stars, and the band looks like a Pacific Northwest front, uniting against the enemy, and these days the enemy is certainly winning because it is in power.
They opened with ‘The Arrival’ with Corin in her true-to-nature Sleater Kinney mode, followed by the fierce ‘Despierta’, with the direct lyrics: ‘You ruled you made decisions without thinking of our needs/You and all your friends feasted while we fought to make ends meet’, then ‘Windmill’ started a bit like a reworked Steve Earle’s song before going all pop chorus. Filthy Friends is certainly a band that has things to sing about in this Trump era, and since Corin Tucker introduced a few new songs, such as ‘Tears are Falling’, and ‘Emerald Valley’, they seemed to be willing to keep on going with this fun little project of them.
Each song had a different vibe though, the track ‘Invitation’ had even a retro ragtime feel, ‘Brother’ was their most PIxies-esque song, while you could hear elements of Patty Smith or Chrissie Hynde through Tucker’s operatic howl and determined vocals, which were the dominant thread leading us through this playful set played by rock ‘n’ rollers lifers.
I just wonder whether ‘Ain’t Much of a King’ was directed at Trump, especially because the song was figured just before ‘Resistance’. The very angry and riotous ‘No Forgotten Son’ was introduced as a song written after Trayvon Martin was killed,… ‘We have to keep the conversation going in this country about racial injustice’, added Corin Tucker, absolutely determined to inform us about her songs.
From social and racial injustice to climate change, they touched all the broken corners of our crazy times and the song ‘Only Lovers are Broken’ was dedicated to people in Houston: ‘We are thinking of you’ Tucker said, as she was not only fronting the band but also doing all the talking, while Scott McCaughey was having the most fun on stage, running in all directions, jumping and grimacing. In the middle of this socio-politico commentary, there was a song entitled ‘The Elliott’ on the handwritten setlist, and I was just wondering if it was an ode to beloved Portland songwriter Elliott Smith.
By the way, the deliciously punk rock band Dressy Bessy did open the night, and Tammy Ealom (formerly part of the Minders) was quite the fire-up frontwoman, while some of their punk pop tunes were catchy as hell. They were bouncing of pure joy like a sort of bubble gum power pop with hints of the Ramones coated with an extra layer of candy. And they had quite a following, just before the show, a few men on the front told me how good the band was, someone even told me he was attending the show because of them and not because of Filthy Friends. I don’t know about that, they were cute bubbly and quite entertaining, like a sort of sweet desert before the plat of resistance.
Tears are Falling (new song)
Ain’t Much of a King
No Forgotten Son
Come Back Shelley
Only Lovers are Broken
Any Kind of Crowd