Monday, April 9, 2012

Screaming Females - Laura Stevenson and the Cans -- Black Cat - Apr 8 2012

Laura Stevenson and the Cans - After one song, the crowd goes nuts. I rarely see a crowd at the small stage this stoked for an opener. Releasing tension from a day of family dinners? Or rather, is this yet another band that will make feel stupid for not knowing about them already (Hello Richard Buckner)? After a few songs, I am feeling stupid as they exude more confidence and quality than any unknown band should have. In reading their bio, I do not feel so bad as they have not been on the scene for an overly long time. And we all know some of the compositions of Laura Stevenson's grandfather (Little Drummer Boy!), while her grandmother was a singer for Benny Goodman. No big band sound here, and although some of these tunes are as catchy as a Christmas standard, these arrangements are amazing. Stevenson could easily perform these solo with acoustic guitar and her fine voice, but thankfully the Cans add loads of rock and an accordion for added distinction. I often talk of dynamics, but they are rarely this extreme and successful. Tempos, volumes, numbers of instruments varied often and at any time within or between songs. One song was mostly quiet and ethereal until the band blasted in a couple of noisy extreme passages in a folk-shoegaze hybrid. Things were mostly a classic rock style with much more heart and creativity than the words 'classic rock' normally bring to mind. That one crazy fan near me turned out to be Stevenson's mother, but she had a whole lot of people in this nearly full room joining her in their adulation.
Screaming Females - This is the third time for me seeing this power trio. The first time was only last June, so they are quite the road warriors. And that is the essential strategy for gaining fans and admirers as this band truly needs to be seen live to get the full appreciation. The songs and records are quite good, but the ferocity live is up several notches. And I never cease to be amazed at Marissa Paternoster's ability to smoothly go from rhythm guitar to lead. When you are that good, it is all seamless and ultimately one in the same. She also has to carry the vocal weight and it is easy to forget how well she sings, when you are focusing on her amazing shredding. Do not forget the rhythm section as those two guys are far more than any hired Chuck Berry back-up band. The drums push the songs forward and the bass has plenty of muscle. Paternoster's feral screams were great and offset the controlled singing more than I recall from past shows. The songs from the brand new album sound very good and if that was not enough, they played a newer unrecorded song as well. The crowd ate it up and I think this may be the last time we see them in a room this small. But next show is already booked for St. Stephens this June. I may not make every DC show, but this is not a band that I am getting tired of seeing (as so often happens with the heavy touring bands). I imagine most people at this show will be back and hopefully they will have each told ten friends. This is growing,
Obituary of Note... One of my favorite authors died recently. Harry Crews wrote some of the more gnarled intense southern novels around. And that genre has more than its fair share of extreme characters. I recommend "A Feast of Snakes" and "Body", but they are all excellent aside from the last 2-3. And with a look like he had, he belonged in front of a microphone.


Chris said...

I'm amazed that the Screaming Females are not a whole lot more popular. I found myself alternating between listening to the band and concentrating on Paternoster's guitar - she's really one of the best around. And their encore, a rocked-up version of Sheryl Crowe's "If It Makes You Happy", reminded me of why I like a great band doing one or more covers.

Laura Stevenson is worth seeing just to hear her voice, and as you say, having the band just amplified how good she is. This was not just a pleasant surprise, but a much better band than one would expect to see as an opener. Then again, maybe they won't be the opener next time they're in town.

David Hintz said...

I agree with you on the covers, it especially works as on encore (and thanks for listing it--I knew it was a cover, but didn't recognize it and was too lazy to look it up). And yes, it is worth seeing them multiple times, so you don't just focus on the amazing guitar work and pull in all the elements. They'll get there, they are simply too good and work hard, too.

Based on crowd reaction, I agree that Stevenson could/should be headlining this room next time around.