Monday night’s double-bill post-punk show at the Swedish American Hall was over by 10pm, following two extremely satisfying sets from Portland’s Lithics and Washington D.C.’s Priests — and oh buddy, I’m glad I was there.
Lithics hit the stage shortly after 8pm as a small crowd gathered on the floor, which gradually expanded throughout their set. “Oh, hello,” vocalist-guitarist Aubrey Hornor said, addressing the crowd, “I didn’t see you there.” The four piece band launched into a set of taught, angular post-punk with bass-driven melodies and often slightly off-kilter time signatures. While bassist Bob Desaulniers and drummer Wiley Hickson held down the rhythm section with staunch dexterity, guitarists Hornor and Mason Crumley delivered shrill, often siren-like guitar sounds to the room. While still relatively danceable, the group’s dynamic also employed a somewhat unpredictable air of experimentation. At one point, Desaulniers turned his back to the crowd and began striking his bass with his hand to achieve more non-traditional, near-apocalyptic rhythms. Horner, on the other hand, faced the crowd with a stoic, deadpan stare while delivering her cutting lyrics. I felt myself getting sucked into the hypnotic melody on “Shees,” a cut from their latest album Borrowed Floors, a song that concludes with harsh guitar shredding.
If you haven’t listened to Priests yet, go ahead and check them out because I really can’t adequately stress how fucking good they sound, both live and on record. Opening with “Appropriate,” the explosive first song off January’s Nothing Feels Natural, the band’s magnetic energy stayed with me long after they left the stage about an hour later. Katie Alice Greer’s impressive vocal chops and expressive stage presence were the most memorable aspects of the band’s performance, accentuated by GL Jaguar’s galvanized guitar antics and a tight rhythm section comprised of drummer-vocalist Daniele Daniele and Fabi Reyna (editor-in-chief of She Shreds magazine) sitting in for bassist Taylor Mulitz. Reyna killed it, by the way, even though it was only like her third live show with the band.
Priests were definitely not shy in engaging with the San Francisco crowd. GL Jaguar leaped off stage and shimmied through the crowd during one song. Daniele took lead vocal duties while drumming on “No Big Bang,” a high point of the performance. Greer clarified that “Nicki” was in fact a tribute to “queen of the earth” Nicki Minaj, while “Stuck” was dedicated to paying no mind to the toxic people who force you to expend unnecessary energy in order to compete with their abrasiveness. No introduction was necessary for “Doctor,” a highlight from Priests’ 2014 EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power. Greer did announce the band’s final two songs, the title track from Nothing Feels Natural and the vulgar EP closer “And Breeding.” Greer also felt compelled to clarify that she didn’t realize her vintage MGM costume slightly resembled Sailor Moon when she bought it, not that anyone noticed. Despite some very minor feedback issues, the band sounded great, cementing themselves deep in my psyche as one of the must-see up-and-coming live acts of the summer. Seriously, go see them.