Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Andy Johnson
A trio of punk trios performed at the Black Cat’s main stage Tuesday evening in a showcase of Don Giovanni records.
Wisconsin’s Tenement played a brief, no more than 20 minute, set for the collected two-to-three dozen in attendance. The trio sounded like a poppier, less ragged version of The Replacements. After sweating through songs like “Simple Things (Can Seem So Involved)” off their 2011 LP Napalm Dream, frontman Amos Pitsch busted out a maraca that he grinded against his guitar much to the audience’s delight.
Waxahatchee, the solo project of singer/guitarist Katie Crutchfield, opened with “Bathtub” off her debut LP American Weekend. Crutchfield, with short black hair and wrapped in a cardigan and floral dress, is by no means a powerful singer, but her talent lies in her descriptive, downright melancholy lyrics. Given her look and tone, it’s easy to pigeonhole her as a moody ‘90s revival act, and songs such as the bass-only “Brother Bryan” and “Grass Stain,” featuring lyrics like “I don’t care/If I’m too young to be unhappy/or I reckless impair/this newfangled proclivity,” makes the comparison to (early) Liz Phair lazy, yet apropos.
And just to show there’s more to her besides all that gloom’n’doom, Crutchfield and her band cheered up the audience with a crashing cover of Mama Cass Elliot’s “Make Your Own Kind Of Music,” transforming Desmond Hume’s wake-up song into a feminist acclamation. I enjoyed the set, and given the girl to my right was crying throughout the performance, Crutchfield’s lyrics resonate to those willing to listen. This may have been a problem for many, as her reserved voice was nearly drowned out by incessant chatter throughout the set.
I’ve heard that Screaming Females’ frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a guitar prodigy, but it really must be seen to be believed. The two men in New Brunswick, New Jersey trio have a comical height advantage over the diminutive singer/guitarist, but looks can be deceiving, as is their misnomer of a band name. Paternoster doesn’t really “scream” as much as a lets out a warbly, nasal wail while winding through chunky, hard-rock guitar licks. Screaming Females’ considerable energy was a relief after Waxahatchee’s public anxiety attack, best heard on the propulsive “High,” where Paternoster shouts, “I don’t get high,” a call that went over well in a city that birthed a significant straight-edge scene.
Throughout the set, Paternoster hopped around like a Pikachu hopped up on Pixy Stix, shredding for her fans, howling into the microphone, jumping off the drum set while her black bangs smacked her forehead. However, the good times came to an early end when about an hour into the rousing set, bassist Mike Abbate began experiencing difficulties with his amp. After playing one more song, Paternoster conferenced with her bandmates and informed the crowd, “Our equipment’s broken,” pausing to add, “Well, I didn’t break it.” Confused, the audience milled around obediently waiting for an encore until Paternoster shrugged and walked off stage. The premature conclusion was disappointing, but I consider it instant karma for not shutting up when bands are playing.