September 15, 2013

Screaming Females (and Pals) Rock Ithaca

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Last Wednesday, the Ithaca College Bureau of Concerts presented Screaming Females, Speedy Ortiz and Brick Mower. It was not exactly the setting I expected — crowd members were met with a carpeted event room that looked like it could have just been used for the kinds of business meeting with light cocktail snacks out on tables.

The diverse young audience ranged from grungy teenagers in denim sporting pins that advertised things like “Explosive Crack,” to average college students who could have just wandered into the room accidentally; it was no doubt a strange grouping. To say that no one pre-gamed this thing would be an understatement.

The second the opening band, Brick Mower, sound-checked, the head-banging, long-hair-shaking lead guitarist and vocalist gave a head-rattling scream, and out of nowhere the audience was immersed in the song’s heart-attack-inducing beats. Although the lyrics weren’t all that distinguishable, people were bouncing around to the music just the same. I started bobbing my head just so I wouldn’t feel out of place, despite the feeling that my ears were internally bleeding. The guitarist was passionate, and his feelings transferred to the audience when he got into each song and became consumed in an all-out jam. He leaned down to the ground with his guitar, nodding in time to the music and cried out, “And I believe!” From the sheer power of his shouting, I trust that he really did.

The bright red concert lights provided an eerie ambiance in Emerson Suites, under which Brick Mower’s drummer sweated in an alien graphic tee, grinning away as he smashed his drums. Astoundingly, between songs they paused to tell the tech crew that they “needed a smidge more bass” though, from what I could hear through my ringing ears, it seemed like there was already plenty. The band’s energy lured the crowd in closer to the stage, and by three songs into the set there were four rows of laid-back concert-goers, nodding and foot tapping along like satisfied schoolchildren. With ground-smashing beats, the lead guitarist jumped back and forth from foot to foot, breaking out in a full-on sweat.

Next up was Speedy Ortiz. Complete with self-aware yet spooky decoration (including signs proclaiming “Enter at your own risk”), the casually dressed performers looked like they could have just walked straight out of a band practice in their garage as they nonchalantly took the stage. Female guitarist and lead vocalist Sadie Dupuis immediately captivated the audience with her voice with her startling rendition of the band’s hit release, “Tiger Tank.”

And then things started to go crazy.

Lead guitarist Matt Robidoux, who was already leaping around the stage, took his vibrantly-colored guitar, threw it completely around his body, ripped it off leaned down on the ground as we erupted in full-on head-throbbing and limb-flinging “dancing.” I learned this much: If the guy standing next to you is doing it, I guess it’s acceptable for you too.

Things just kept getting weirder. At one point, after a song finished, Sadie announced “[the band had eaten] a lot of bread before coming on stage” and “if we puke everywhere, spread.” Comforting, I know, but her friendly vibe, with audience members shouting back replies, kept the crowd involved and loving it.

By the time the main performers, Screaming Females, took the stage, the audience was antsy with anticipation and charged with energy. The band originates in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and includes guitarist and vocalist Marissa Paternoster, bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Dougherty. Paternoster brought rich sparks to the room with her deep, confident vocals as she bellowed the memorable and repeated line, “It all means nothing,” from their biggest hit, “It All Means Nothing,” off their newest album, Ugly.

Photo: Michelle Feldman / Staff PhotographerScreaming Females perform at Ithaca College.