Photos By Miranda Hontz, Words By Leon Hontz
I learned two valuable lessons from the loud and youthful punk rockers performing Thursday evening at Black Cat: one, stop forgetting your damn earplugs when you go to concerts. Two, don’t stand so freaking close to the speaker. The good folks at Babe City Records organized a hell of a show for the release of BRNDA‘s new album, Year of the Manatee, complete with a stuffed manatee prize for one lucky audience member.
Den-Mate, consisting of front-woman Julia Hale and her band, opened up the evening with a performance steeped in manic attitude. One of Babe City’s own, Den-Mate features the requisite noise-forward and distortion-heavy vibe that is intrinsic to the Punk genre and is so absorbing that the band’s rhythmic undulations could give you motion sickness. Hale is a hyper evocative performer; whether moving through the crowd or launching around the stage, her show was filled with emotion and personality. I was also impressed by the sensitivity and beauty of Den-Mate’s slower songs, bringing forth an intimacy and laid-bare honesty that was just as powerful as her heavier fare.
Baltimore’s Wildhoney opened their set with an unintentional instrumental, the result of mic issues that persisted throughout their set. The band’s lead guitarist is a damn animal, providing the frantic backbone to their psychedelic/punk sound (let’s call it Pyscho-punk because it sounds cool), which they achieve in the absence of their vocalist. During the band’s more vocal-forward songs, they become dreary and melodic, which may be great for creating a sea of nodding heads but is ultimately underwhelming when compared to their more charged numbers. While this may be the sought after affect of a Shoegaze band, I found myself itching for the instrumentalists to jump back to the front of their songs and avoid the subdued withdraw needed to accommodate their vocalist.
BRNDA closed out the evening in celebration of the release of their sophomore album, Year of the Manatee. BRNDA’s music is quirky and playful. While the content and attitude of their songs can seem juvenile, the band’s captivating performance reflects a mature togetherness and understanding that perhaps they would rather you not notice. BRNDA’s songs drift between the loosely held madness of Modest Mouse and the paranoid myopia of the B-52s and Talking Heads. I don’t use these references lightly; it takes talent and creative vision to weave the cerebral into musical and to consolidate them into one expression. That BRNDA can do this so seemingly effortlessly, while never seeming to take themselves too seriously or distancing themselves from the crowd, speaks to the earlier mentioned maturity.
Despite the ringing ears and the near nauseating level of manatee puns, Thursday evening was a genuinely fun and satisfying evening of music. Babe City is building a roster of talented and entertaining acts, many of which will be on display at their one year anniversary party on August 22 at 9:30 Club.