Screaming Females With Hit Bargain And Street Eater At The Bootleg Theater, Thursday October 19th 2017
My memory of Screaming Females dated from 2010, during the early days of the FYF fest, when the festival was closer to its true punk origin. The day was hot and bright, frontwoman Marissa Paternoster was wearing bright red, and many of us were sweating half of our body water while standing along the rail, totally fascinated by this woman’s amazing howls and the energy of the band, whereas people behind us started to ferociously mosh along the furious sound. It was one of these bands I wanted to see again but couldn’t till last night. Screaming Females played a very packed show at the Bootleg theater on Thursday night, and two other interesting bands, Hit Bargain followed by Street Eaters, opened the show in front of a crowd which seemed composed of many SF die-hard fans.
Hit Bargain was a high-energy, hard hitting punk band fronted by a woman who had a few surprises below her black trench coat. After a few howls and violent punk riffs she revealed her multi-mammary gland costume, which seemed to come from a Peaches show extravaganza. That thing obviously was a major distraction, but their music was as aggressive as this display a female anatomy was audacious, and she looked like a super female conducting the game at the sound of chaotic dark guitars, pounding drums and plenty of screams, noise and dissonance.
Street Eaters, a bass-drums duo producing a monster-like sound, didn’t let down the theme of the night: women who can scream. Half hidden behind her drumset, Megan March was on fire, beating her drums with a violent and totally non-female touch, while John No was making his bass roar while trashing the stage with a brutal sound. The result was a raw emotional release, an unapologetic series of wild and intriguing songs – I have read that their album based on the writing and ideas of radical sci-fi author Ursula K. Le Guin. John No told us ‘to fight that shit until it’s gone’, while talking about the resurgent fascism around us in the present administration, and the rage was real, mixing the aggressiveness of another punk duo like METZ and the nihilism of hardcore.
Marissa Paternoster took the stage with her long-time partners King Mike on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on drums, and they didn’t waste any time, riffing and shredding right away into a few of their songs, a mixed cuts from many of their albums (‘Rose Mountain’, ‘Ugly’, ‘Castle Talk’, ‘Power Move’, ‘Baby Teeth’) according to the setlist. The New Jersey band, which has released his four last albums on Don Giovanni Records, is about to release a new one, their first new music since their 2015’s ‘Rose Mountain’ – and they even previewed the song ‘Black Moon’ on Pitchfork a few days ago. However, they didn’t play new music last night: ‘We have a new record coming out in a few months, but this song is not on it’, said Marissa during one of the rare moments she talked to the crowd. In any case, I would not have been able to tell, the songs were so furiously played and so rapidly piled at the top of each other with almost no pause in between, that the show became one unique beautiful and enraged beast, unleashing violent outbursts and physical assaults, while Marissa’s high-vibrating Joplin-like punk wails occasionally managed to pierce the wall of guitars.
No need to say that Paternoster is an amazing guitar player, and if I mostly did remember her unique vocals, this time I was observing her fingers climbing up and down the neck of her guitar with the speed of fire, breaking the rules and rising a monster each time, for the crowd’s greatest delight. Watching Screaming Females play, whether you are familiar with their music or not, doesn’t make a big difference, you just have to go with the ride, as the sound is a fury, a tormented journey with countless and heroic detours into shredded and riffed chords. They may have reached the decibel level of metal with major hand-banging moments, however, they rarely lost their melodic sense and this was particularly true during the most vulnerable song of the night, ‘Hopeless’, which was probably their idea of a quiet tune. During ‘Fall Asleep’ (from their 2010’s Castle Talk’) King Mike’s dark and bouncy bass lines seemed to open all possibilities for Paternoster’s nuclear-bomb guitar work, and at the end if the music they played was rather dark and wild, and Marissa’s tone always in the creepy side, they thrilled the audience with an intense set, coming back for an encore with only one song despite the crowd still asking for more.
Screaming Females’ music defies genres and ordinary classification, it sounds like a new version of jazz or rock appealing to a punk mind with Godzilla riffs and no conventional song approach, despite the indestructible melodies below the thick layer of sound. Live, they blur even more preconceived ideas you may have of them, the band undoubtedly has the so-called punk attitude – they played a high-energy show with a driving, stomping even physical force – but they also have a remarkable technique, shining through Marissa’s mind blowing guitar solos. She has probably heard it many times before, how can such a brutal sound and magnificent noise possible come from such a cute and short woman? I bet she hates the cute adjective as much as I do but with her short black dress and the belt she was tying around her waist to maintain her guitar in place during one of her long punk jams, she was the vision of cute, but also appeared like an unassuming woman totally mastering the music at the first riff. In fact it was during the most chaotic and powerful moments of the show, when she was facing Mike in front of the drum set for some epic noise duels, that she looked the most in control of her art.
Buried in the Nude
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