We didn’t need to see the size of the crowd to get revved up for Screaming Females’ Brooklyn show on Friday night, but the densely-packed swarm of humans was impressive nonetheless. Surely pulled in by the seasoned trio’s reputation for cooking up transcendent rock, Screaming Females’ fans were visibly ecstatic about what might go down, dancing around even when the stage was still empty. The darkness that set in was a soothing break from the day’s blazing heat, and it was nice being outside for Industry City’s Summer Series – nestled between two tall buildings under their festive strings of lights. Amid all the fleeting and impressive things that occurred during this concert, there was a quieter storyline unfolding in the still-lit windows adjacent to all the action. Someone was mopping the floors inside the large industrial space, starting at the top rooms and gradually making his way to the bottom, often pausing to watch the rock show outside with a big smile.
You know you’re in for a double-header treat when the opening band brings in a bunch of their own fans; you could spot Swearin’ shirts and several people singing along to their lyrics without pause as they kicked off the show. We were especially hyped to see them play after our interview with Screaming Females a few hours earlier (coming soon to P&W), because Marissa Paternoster had cited Swearin’ as a source of inspiration and a group she listens to often. The Philly-based band – comprised of Allison Crutchfield, Kyle Gilbride, Amanda Bartley, and Jeff Bolt – have close ties to the headliners, as Crutchfield noted during their upbeat alt-emo-rock set. “We’re so excited to be playing with Screaming Females! We played some of our first shows ever with Screaming Females, which is exciting…it’s a very nostalgic night for us,” she said, revealing another cool tidbit as she introduced their next songs. “The first song – I’ve actually never told her – is about Marissa! Not in a weird way, Marissa,” she laughed. “I promise it’s not creepy, Marissa. It’s nice.” The sweet song penned about Paternoster was “Young,” which includes the lines, “I’d follow you anywhere,” and “What we share is secret and self-aware.”
The admiration was clearly mutual; in fact, the longest speaking moment from Paternoster during Screaming Females’ focused set was when she gave Swearin’ an affectionate shout-out. “We’re very happy to be here with our friends Swearin’,” she said at a rapid pace. “They put an album out very recently. You should check it out. And we’ve been friends for a long time. We love them all very much! They were our neighbors, they’re our friends, and they’ve traveled with us, and we’re very grateful for their companionship.” Aside from that quick break, the tight-knit rock powerhouse from New Brunswick, New Jersey – known worldwide for dropping jaws when their crucial layers collide onstage – said nothing; they just rocked the fuck out. Covered in her tidy all-caps letters, Paternoster’s amp issued the prudent order: ‘GET OFF THE INTERNET.’ In the same handwriting, Screaming Females’ hard-hitting setlist was determined while she was conversing with fans at their merch table before the show – during our interview, which happened right before soundcheck, they didn’t yet know what they might end up playing. That spur-of-the-moment planning seems to keep them slightly on the edge musically in a way that’s exciting to witness. Their sound is intricately volatile, like something delicate and ornate bursting into flames before your eyes.
If you aren’t still sore from headbanging at this moment, you must have been at some other show on Friday night, because drummer Jarrett Dougherty was constantly building rhythms and disrupting the tempo with awesome rage. King Mike Abbate was right in it with him, further dicing it up on bass and laying down the foundation beautifully. Of course, the nucleus of all that energy was the razor-sharp performance by Marissa Paternoster, who is, objectively speaking, one of the very best guitarists of all time. She also possesses the savage and gorgeous raw vocal timbre of a rock deity like no other. Between all the peaks and highlights were some subtle yet memorable traits: King Mike’s tone on bass remained consistently powerful (void of pedals and plugged right into his acoustic receiver); Dougherty’s firm beats kept the sea of jumping bodies moving hard – a few younger kids were in for a wild ride on their parents’ shoulders – and every time Paternoster played a solo, their fans lost their minds. Like a hero from a vintage film, she occasionally wiped the sweat from her brow while strumming with every muscle in her body. In the thick of their fiery set, she spit coolly onto the stage as a hypnotized tangle of dancers pushed their way closer to her feet.
It all started with “Agnes Martin” – during which Paternoster was already down on her knees concocting a vicious solo – and “Step Outside” from their newest record, last year’s All At Once. They zoomed all the way back to “Foul Mouth” from 2006 album Baby Teeth – when someone in the audience screamed a panicked “Oh my gosh!” before she’d even started singing – followed by “Ripe” from their life-altering 2015 record, Rose Mountain. The setlist jumped around enticingly from there; from “Glass House” to “Help Me” to “My Body” to “Triumph” – which not only featured a long solo section, but an epic moment in which Paternoster took to her guitar with a violin bow. By this point, her gnarly, enigmatic riffs had gotten a whirlpool brewing in the middle, and it spiraled faster throughout “Extinction,” followed by a rampage of “Black Moon,” “Tell Me No,” and “Criminal Image.” The way they were cheering after those bangers, the crowd seemed determined to earn their encore, and Screaming Females rewarded them with an explosive finale of “I’ll Make You Sorry.” All that was left was the heavy feeling that comes only with the most intense musical experiences: the sudden realization that the show you’d been eagerly waiting was now in the past tense; a rush of memories in need of preservation – and the gripping desire to see Screaming Females again.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley