Near the old men smoking cigars and playing dominos on the sidewalk, right in view of the upside-down cross glowing in Saint Vitus’ doorway, a rat scurried out into the diminishing sunlight and bared its tiny teeth. The scene was picture-perfect – an eerie view of Brooklyn on Friday the 13th – and it was soon colored by the sound of raging drums and power chords that poured out of the venue. There for much more than the atmosphere, a big group had gathered that night to say “fuck cancer!” with Seattle’s Thunderpussy and raise money for a close friend of the band, Chelsey Pickthorn, owner of Pickthorn Salon in Bushwick (you can donate here to help her too). The benefit show was a compelling one that kicked off with an uptempo opening set from Brooklyn punks Shop Talk, who banged out tracks from their self-titled debut record in a fit of flipping hair and fast-moving riffs.
With such an important cause top of mind, it was awesome to see the venue getting more and more packed as the evening went on. The growing crowd was treated to another strong opening set as Tower started rocking at full volume. Fronted by the unforgettable Sarabeth Linden, whose vocals danced on the edge of opera over their heavy-metal impacts, they were a dynamic force that had much of the room banging their heads – especially on their cover of the ‘68 classic, “Race with the Devil,” on which they delivered a memorable take. The NYC locals were, in fact, celebrating their 13th show at Saint Vitus on Friday the 13th, a milestone that Sarabeth announced in a playful, menacing tone. “Coincidence? I think not!” she said with a grin before they brought down their wrath and brought us closer to the headliners.
Dazzling in sequin-drenched hems, fishnet bodysuits, and gem-encrusted boots, Thunderpussy grabbed every gaze in the room when they popped out of the crowd and climbed onto Saint Vitus’ small stage. But all of those details – things that are so often the main attraction for lesser acts – seemed to disappear in the wake of their volatile, unhinged, pure-rock sound. They wasted no time and started with two staples back-to-back, “Velvet Noose” and “No Heaven,” both of which were on the 7-inch that Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready produced (even guesting on the former in the studio cut). Notably, the Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer has described Thunderpussy as his “favorite new band,” and said that all four members – Molly Sides on vocals, Whitney Petty on guitar, Leah Julius on bass, and Ruby Dunphy on drums – are “as talented as they come.” When you’re hit with their fiercely well-constructed rock songs, which were satisfyingly loud in the confines of Saint Vitus on Friday night, it’s easy to see why he digs them.
Molly’s command of the stage was immeasurably badass, and her powerful vocals, lithe dancing, and contagious energy seemed to continuously tie all their efforts together; as if she were winding invisible rope around her bandmates and their instruments, making quick knots and pulling everything in tighter. The savage intensity of their performance often landed her under the legs of Whitney as she shredded, twisting around Leah as she tore up the basslines, or catapulting off the head of the bass drum, which took some serious abuse from Ruby’s insane breaks and transitions. The rush of excitement that came with each song they served up secured any new fans as permanent ones, and the audience was visibly struggling to soak up all the cool moments that surged by. So many small details – like the way they harmonized into one mic, lips inches apart, kicked at death-defying angles, gleefully spat beer at each other, and threw their full bodies into each solo – made it everything a rock show should be.
“Guess what? We are here for one amazing fucking human being,” announced Molly after an uninterrupted streak of intoxicating rock. “Chelsey Pickthorn is a fucking badass! I just want you to know that the proceeds tonight, all the money you spend, goes straight to Chelsey and her fight with breast cancer. If you don’t know her, look her up! Incredible human.” She and her bandmates then led the crowd in screaming “FUCK CANCER” at the top of their lungs – which felt so good, everyone decided to do it twice. “Thanks for letting us be here. Thanks for letting us a share a space with y’all,” Molly said before they closed out with their self-titled anthem, “Thunderpussy” – a heroic finale to an empowering show.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos/Video: Shayne Hanley with additional images by Omar Kasrawi