Brooklyn power trio Prima brought their tower of turbulence enveloped by a stream of serenity to Williamburg’s bowling alley hotspot The Gutter. An expansive nationwide lineup of bands made it an evening of new exposures, bold evolutions, and elated salutations.
The first band of the night was Above Ground Basement who came all the way down from Boston to jam out some expansive tunes bridging the seemingly wide divide of prog and punk rock. They played with the duality of these two seemingly diametrically-opposed genres that stretched into explorations of how progressive rock can be more raw and rowdy, and punk can be more complex and nuanced. At first, they came on with a sort of James Gang gun-slinger style, with guitarist and vocalist Nolan Sullivan, drummer Noah Lapierre, and bassist Matt Schuman taking on a power chord roar. Then they changed up to a trickier rhythm-changing chameleon of jazz touches reminiscent of mid-70’s/early 80’s King Crimson, with a mixture of the danciness and precision of math rock in the vein of Battles or Shellac, and even radiated polyrhythmic whiffs of classic 1984 Black Flag album, My War. I was impressed enough to pick up their new self-titled disc, which is definitely worth laying back and blowing your mind to.
Next was local band NO SHOES, who I remember seeing several years back, and it feels like they have grown in size and scope since those days. Their post-apocalyptic pop numbers fit with the dimly-lit stage, but with their sprightly electro-pop, no wave, and noise rock touches, they made me feel like they needed and/or deserved a more colorful, artsy light show. There are definitely some bold influences in their tunes, from The Mars Volta to The Dillinger Escape Plan, as they mix animated melodies, prog, psych, and punk into a wildly expressive mélange.
Speaking of wild, the next band, Material Girls, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, were in no way going to be out-done. They don’t have much of an online presence yet, but they probably prefer to fly under the radar, that is until they bowl you over out of the blue with their bombastic presence and wild party defiance. I’d say they can be almost be described as a blender full of exotic elements, funky and freaky musical stirrings, served with all the campy cheese you could possibly desire, and, of course, being served by a band full of guys all dressed in sparkly drag as the shiny cherry of awesomeness on top. On the same day that thousands gathered at the Stonewall Inn to protest the recent repeal of federal protections for transgender people, there was a special synchronicity that across the East River this wondrous band of southern gypsies descended on Brooklyn, lifting the energy to another level. There was definitely some B-52’s kitschy fun influence in there, and for more than just the massive bee-hives and wild party groove ‘tudes. There were also echoes of Tom Tom Club, complete with the wailing trumpets, saxophones, and dancey rhythms of parties past. They even explored some of the classic new wave era via the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Human League. They’re definitely worth pumping up your party cred levels to.
Then there was PRIMA, who have definitely grown substantially since the release of their first demos back in 2013. Back then, they had a definite no wave allure with that giant wall of high-octane, low-fi blasts mixed with unhinged noise-rock brutality. Surprisingly, lead singer and guitarist Rose Blanshei has only been recording music for the last few years, even though she plays with such an authoritative vocal roar and wailing guitar barrage that you’d take her for a vintage rock vet. On the new material, she still roars with the intensity of early PJ Harvey, but now she also inhabits more of an imposing later-era Sonic Youth style. On her new track “SAMBA,” the first track from PRIMA’s upcoming EP Performance out this April 2017, Rose hatches a darkly unhinged, yet strangely optimistic message about “finding each other in this f-in’ mess,” depending much less on the sonic howling and screaming of yore, and discovering an expansive soundscape of thunderous squalls and swelling arcs. The new songs were recorded in 2015 with the former band lineup, but that also changed recently with the addition of guitarist Frank Rathbone (from another one of my favorite local bands Sic Tic) and drummer Jeff Widner that has helped really broaden their musical horizons. I can’t wait to hear their new disc in its entirety and see where their intense vision goes to next.
Article: Dean Keim