My Protomartyr Friday (At The Blind Pig)
Protomartyr, Rebel Kind, Deadbeat Beat, DJ Ryan - Blind Pig Ann Arbor, MI 1/29/2016
Protomartyr is a band from Detroit, I saw them last Friday night (1/29) at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
You probably remember I loved their last album, and put it in my Best Albums of 2015 list.
Look, let's get the easy part out of the way before I start waxing poetic.
Protomartyr kicked ass tonight.
I have listened to them on wax, but I have never listened to them live (and live matters a LOT to me).
It was brutally hot at the Pig, the place was packed, but they killed it.
Just didn't want to bury the lead - They were great!
If you just want to read about them, feel free to scroll down.
I like to write about the whole experience, but I understand.
First Up, Ryan the DJ
Before the show started, I had the following conversation via Twitter (The Blind Pig doesn't accept plastic, but they have perfectly good wireless apparently)
@OnPirateSat I don't like DJs as openers for bands. Just... I don't.
— Jennifer MacRostie (@jennyquarx) January 30, 2016
I responded by mentioning that:
1) I generally agree with her sentiment
2) I make an exception for Don Lett's who was the DJ who played reggae at Clash gigs and later became their friend and documentarian.
3) This night was also an exception
Because Brian the DJ.
I mean Ryan the DJ (more on that in a second).
Ryan knew his stuff, his set was the most fun I have had listening to a DJ in a very long time.
He played the following songs (and many more):
Cibo Matto - "Know Your Chicken" (only the much cooler 7 inch version I somehow did not know existed). Not sure this is the exact same version but it is close:
He played one of my all-time favorite songs by Wire - "The 15th"
He played a cover of X-Ray Specs classic "Oh Bondage Up Yours" by Free Kitten (a Sonic Youth offshoot I missed somehow).
I was very aware of the Bikini Kill version, I lived the X-Ray Spex version, and I am pretty deep in Sonic Youth (I own The Whitey Album on CD for God's sake) and when I was in college I wore Pussy Galore gear all the time. So, I am still kind of pissed that I did not know the Free Kitten version (sigh).
Holy Jesus, the man played Gang of Four, I think he played Natural's Not In it...Gang of F'n Four in a DJ set? That is about as good as it gets.
Also, in a more subtle proof that he owned my brain, when Protomartyr left the stage he played my all-time favorite B-52's song Legal Tender (sigh).
I felt like he was in my mind like Zack Galifinakis owned Steve Carell's for most of Dinner for Schmucks (yes, it sucked but I assumed it would be good because of the cast - big mistake).
Now, this set would never have played at most clubs in the United States, but if my ears were a dance club, Ryan might be my club's DJ.
Anyway, I tip my cap to Ryan the DJ! I am including some of his stuff in my weekly playlist because respect!
So, why did I call him Brian, well because when I met him, I couldn't hear a damn thing, so in usual nightclub fashion I misheard his name.
He also mentioned his label was called "Selfish Agenda" - so on Saturday, I sent a message through the "contact us" link on the label website, waited a few hours, and I find out his name is actually Ryan.
Glad I got that figured out.
Here is the link to the Bandcamp for his label Selfish Agenda.
I have listened to some of the bands, lots of potential for finding good stuff here.
Cheers to Ryan!
Second, Deadbeat Beat
Here is my bad picture of Deadbeat Beat playing (I need a better phone):
I was impressed with Deadbeat Beat.
I knew I was going to be in good hands when the drummer sat down at the kit wearing a Dead Boys T-shirt, and I was not disappointed at all.
They were sloppy in all the best ways, they were fun, they sounded sloppy great, you should check them out, they have a bandcamp, so here is their most recent album:
They were a very good college band - with the seemingly brooding but wacky and talented singer/guitarist, rock star bass player, and too cool girl drummer (she was good - I am a drummer, I know things about drummers).
Third Up, Rebel Kind
Another ungodly bad picture taken by me (sigh) - apologies to Rebel Kind for my terrible photography.
They were pretty good - but also seemed a little off (maybe mike problems).
It seemed like the bass player and the drummer were having some issues and the mix wasn't right either way.
I could certainly see where they are probably very good normally, but it just didn't "swing" tonight.
I have every confidence that next time I see them they will be great. They had the vibe of a good band.
Again, they had me at hello because the bass player was wearing a Suicide T-shirt (if nothing else, everyone playing tonight had great taste). So, I was totally ready to love them.
But, if I am being honest, they seemed a little off.
I hope to see them again soon to see if it was just an off night.
Here is their most recent album (also from Bandcamp):
Give em a chance, they seemed really cool. Don't mind my lukewarm review, I am pretty sure it was an anomaly because the album is much better.
Actually, I really enjoyed the album.
Seriously, very catchy.
Finally, The Main Course - Joe Casey Version
So, here is what the Detroit News wrote about Protomartyr before tonight's show.
I think they, and the people they quote, have singer Joe Casey a bit wrong. This dude has it together, he is letting his anger show, and he is singing from his dark places of pain and sadness.
I also like him because he looks to be about my age, which was refreshing. I don't feel so much like the "old guy in the club" when the singer might be the other "old guy in the club."
Anyway, he certainly did not seem "nervous" to me,
Reason 1) Joe Casey does seem a bit like the alcoholic uncle of the three other members (who seemed anything but scared to me) - I have to give it to DN on that call.
I actually thought he looked a bit more like that guy your Dad kept as his accountant or real estate agent despite the obvious alcoholism (because they had secret history together).
No offense to Joe, I mean that with love.
He also kind of looks like he is too cynical to be either of those guys.
Truthfully, Joe is great on stage, he didn't seem scared or nervous at all to me he seemed naturally sarcastic, emotional, and full of angry disdain at the world that has let him down.
He has very effective mannerisms and communicates immense emotion with his face. He also gives little gestures that, if you are paying attention, say much more (in particular he does this eating his tears mocking gesture thing) than just his words.
To my mind, he had every bit the intensity and emotional presence of a Johnny Rotten, he just had a very different in the way of presenting things.
Joe seemed like a slow simmering but barely contained volcano where Lydon was more like the sea of lava?
When he says things you feel them. When he glares you see the intention behind what he sings. When he screams, you feel his pain.
I love the performance of words. So many singers these days just sing words other people wrote as if they are just stepladders designed to help reach notes.
When you can see the feelings behind the words on a singers face, when he (or she) pours it out in sadness, despair, or bile it makes the song so much more powerful to me.
Joe Casey shows all of that.
Reason 2) I am pretty sure Joe Casey is Craig Finn's older more sardonic brother.
Yes, Craig Finn sings about lots of fucked up situations and people in terrible positions.
But, he isn't empathizing or feeling sorry, it is obvious to me Craig Finn LOVES it.
Craig Finn is like the guy seeing the fucked up shit he isn't supposed to see but can't turn away.
Craig Finn is a rubbernecker on life's highways.
Craig Finn loves telling stories of broken messed up people. He lives through his characters eyes.
That is not Joe Casey.
Joe Casey seems to look at the world through similar jaundiced eyes, but he doesn't seem to like most of what he sees.
And he doesn't see any way out, no way out.
"That's not going to save you man."
He is like the protagonist in The Stranger, opened to the benign indifference of the universe. Finn is like the dude who is excited God let him see behind the curtain, even more excited because what he sees is so bleak.
Joe Casey knows it is all bad.
Money, religion, drugs, whatever...
"That's not going to save you man"
Everybody dies at the end of his (and our stories).
Where Craig Finn likes being a fly on the wall, Joe Casey can barely contain his contempt for the fly or the wall.
He has not other option but to vomit his frustrations out at us.
Protomartyr: On And On
I wore my Ramones shirt to the show because I had heard they don't waste any time between songs.
I respect that.
The air changed in the club when they started playing.
Not saying the other bands were bad at all, they were not, but it was a whole different level when Protomartyr started playing.
The connection between the three musicians is amazing, they really feed off of each other live.
The drummer and the bass player seem about as connected as connected can be. Like they are finishing each others musical sentences.
Most of the songs from The Agent Intellect gained a great deal in the live performance. They sped up, they gained volcanic intensity, and they had a different urgency.
If you have listened to them for a bit, the difference between them live and on the record is about as big as the difference between the albums "The Agent Intellect" and "Under Color Of Official Right."
UCOOR is a really solid album, but The Agent Intellect is just a much better album. Seeing them live is the next level.
My understanding is that this was the first show on their tour for the album, so if they come to an area near you, I would certainly check them out.
It is just great to see a really good band starting to really come into their own live.
Bonus: The Hippy Dancing Dude
Look, I have absolutely no ill will towards the person I am about to describe. I am more bemused about this than anything else.
So, there was this guy standing next to me, he looked like a really tall David Cross (I am 6'3 and this guy was a few inches taller than me).
This dude aggressively wanted to dance, which is totally cool, enjoy yourself at shows (I always say).
But it was the way he danced, that was interesting.
Protomartyr do not, at all, sound like Phish.
This dude was dancing like he was at a Dead Show in 1960, only as if the Dead played really fast.
It was aggressive hippy dancing on intense speed.
I was kind of mesmerized by this to be honest with you. It never even occurred to me that you would or could want to dance this way to a dark themed angry punk band.
Part of it is probably my upbringing, punks don't like hippies and visa-versa - yup, just another unnecessary genre war.
I guess I should just learn to love the groovy.
I do love Tim DeLaughter in all his hippy glory I guess.
You know, all the really demonstrative arm and hand gestures and side to side wiggling?
I was not annoyed as much as in awe really.
Sometimes you just are not entirely prepared for people letting their flag fly.
Okay, got that off my chest, keep dancing man!
If you have seen Protomartyr share your experiences, I would love to hear what you thought, leave a comment!