By Jason Duarte
Originally published by Gaper's Block
New Brunswick, NJ's Screaming Females are not just another three-piece punk band. It would be unfair and inaccurate to pigeonhole their sound as simply punk, garage or indie because it's all too vague. If you threw indie, garage, punk, noise, pop and a dash of darkness into a blender and set it to high, walked out of the kitchen, forgot about the blender, then came back an hour later, you'd come back to a huge mess, blended to perfection. Soak it up, wring it into a glass, introduce some radiation from your microwave and then you have Screaming Females.
Screamales, as the band's fans refer to them, played the Subterranean in Wicker Park Thursday night in support of its new fifth studio full length; the Steve Albini-engineeredUgly, out on Don Giovanni Records. Screaming Females' vocalist/guitarist Marissa Paternoster has a voice that carries the Riot Grrl torch. It isn't "pretty;" actually, it's quite an acquired taste, but once the taste graces the palate, a Screamales song to a fan is the bell to Pavlov's dog.
The Females played fan favorites like "Laura and Marty" and the ever-melodic, "I Don't Mind It" off its 2010 full length, Castle Talk. Paternoster's patented screaming plays a more dominant role on the Screamales' earlier songs like "Theme Song" or "The Real Mothers" off What If Someone Is Watching Their T.V.? To watch her transition from singing to screaming is to watch Lon Chaney Jr. turn into the Wolfman just for a few seconds before turning back. It appears she unhinges her jaw and flips a switch into her alter ego, engulfing the microphone with her mouth and letting loose a barrage of sound, bellowing from the depths of some seemingly faraway hollow place.
The Screamales added some new ones to their set; their first single and the first track on Ugly, "It All Means Nothing" as well as "Rotten Apples," which much of the crowd already knew. Fans were eagerly pogo-ing, singing along to Paternoster's urgent lyrics and moving their bodies to her gritty guitar solos, which were orchestrated well with bassist Mike Abbate's driving, progressive bass chords. The Screamales inspired camaraderie between fans last night. The total stranger next to me who was losing his mind noticed I knew the words to some tunes, so he proceeded to grab my shoulder several times throughout the set as if to say, "How about that one!?"
The band had an interesting stage presence — Paternoster is short and fiesty-looking, whereas Abbate is tall, silent and has a gentle demeanor, and drummer Jarrett Dougherty falls somewhere between the two, and always wears what looks like a Polynesian kukui nut necklace. The band isn't one for stage banter and when Paternoster does speak, she sounds apathetic and complacent — but in a cool way. She'll say, "Here's another song." A female audience member yelled, "Marissa, my boyfriend loves you!" to which Marissa, looking unimpressed replied, "That's nice." The flattery kept coming, which seemed to make things just a little awkward, since it wasn't reciprocated. They blazed through some more tunes before closing the night strong and without an encore.