Thursday, October 8, 2009

Live: Screaming Females

When: Sept. 26, 2009
Where: "The Maze" at Death by Audio

I didn't mean to see Screaming Females again after having seen then open for Dinosaur Jr. While I found them to be an outstanding band, all those chromatic guitar solos gave me a headache. But as fate would have it, I ended up at their show at Death By Audio, and I'm very glad I did. It's only been three months, but the band has evolved astronomically.

I say evolved and not improved because they were so good before, it's not necessarily a linear progression. However, I would say they've matured. And either when I saw her in the summer, Marissa Paternoster wasn't at the top of her game or she's become a much stronger singer over the last few months. She did a lot more singing, and did it much more openly than before, not buried under the instrumentals. And the voice she found is strange but compelling - like a young PJ Harvey but with odd open vowels like she has some unusual accent (she doesn't). It's a distinctive sound and a great fit for the band's weighty melodies.

Screaming Females (photo from
Screaming Females (photo from MySpace)

She's also scaled back the solos. Perhaps this is because the band's recent success has shown her she doesn't have to constantly prove herself, perhaps because she's able to take on more with her vocals instead - who knows? In any case, there are still some standout shredding solos, it's just no longer 50% of the set.

Death by Audio's "Maze" art installation, which I described before, was still in place for the show, though the DBAers wisely cut the front few walls to half the height so a much larger number of people could see the stage. This was a big improvement from the previous maze shows I'd seen.

But by the end of the show, there wasn't much of a maze left in the front third of the room anyway. Screaming Females' fans were so taken with the music that they basically went nuts. A number of people attempted to stage dive, which is pretty hardcore when the audience is split up by a maze - only a few people could reach a crowd surfer at any given time, and when the inevitably dropped, there was the thin wooden maze wall waiting to impale them. Pseudo-moshing at the front rearranged the maze (to put it gently), and by the end, the place didn't look like it had an hour before. It's amazing that no one was seriously injured, but all's well that ends well, and this show definitely did.

There are some concerts I will never forget and this one is definitely on that list.


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