(I’m trying something new here by publishing this review without a photoset in order to get the recap up in a more relevant manner. I will have a full photoset, which you will definitely want to see, up in the next few weeks.)
I feel like I have to begin this with a little caveat; I haven’t seen a show since September, there have been a number of shows I thought about seeing, that I even wanted to see but I didn’t. I have a two and a half year old and my wife works a lot so if I’m going to sacrifice a night with my family, the show had better be good. If at any point in this recap you say to yourself “this guy just sounds cranky” well, I might have been a little cranky. I wasn’t a fan of the moshing (and thanks to Thunderpussy lead singer Molly Side’s urging to dance respectfully and tight, I don’t think I was alone) I wasn’t a fan of the Fame Riot superfan next to me who had no sense of space (or was on a lot of drugs) and had literally one dance move that he rocked to death. I wasn’t a fan of the random tweekers who seemed to be at the show alone and were out to ruin what was an otherwise fun evening. I wasn’t a total fan of everything I saw from the Fame Riot. If you’re still rolling your eyes at me and saying “get over it grandpa,” I can accept that because I was a fan of most of the evening, especially Thunderpussy.
I’ve been wanting to get out and see Thunderpussy, the supergroup of Molly Sides, Whitney Petty, Leah Julius, and Lena Simon, for some time, but due to varying circumstances it just didn’t work out. But the stars aligned for Thursday night and I actually saw them in all their heated sexual glory, that it was Whitney’s 30th birthday show just made it all the better. Overall it was a really fun evening, the kind of evening worthy of being the 30th birthday party for the guitarist of one of the city’s most outrageous bands.
The Hollers opened the night with an impassioned performance and the bloodied guitars to prove it. The least known band on the bill also felt like the odd man out, stylistically I didn’t really see how they fit with the evening, and their performance was considerably more tame. But then this is the perfect opportunity for a band like the Hollers to really get a foothold and pump out a performance. Their indie rock with a splash of generic 90’s alternative, doesn’t really lend itself to the schtick of the Fame Riot or the flashy moves of Thunderpussy, and you could tell they still haven’t really developed a stage presence. I didn’t really get a great idea for who these guys were on stage, and while I think they played their hearts out, they didn’t seem overly confident or comfortable. Dude York is a really great example of a young(ish) indie rock band with great stage presence that’s also looks really comfortable. Overall the Hollers wrangled in a pretty good crowd (albeit calm) for being the 9:00 opener, I was definitely moving.
During setup for both the Fame Riot and Thunderpussy, Molly Sides and her dance troupe ignited a full on choreographed dance in the middle of the crowd, this was the fun aspect that Thunderpussy brought to the whole evening from start to finish, and little touches like this are always my favorite part of a show.
I was excited to see the Fame Riot I thought their wild live show would blow me away, and in some regards it did, but in other regards I felt really let down. The Northwest needs bands like The Fame Riot to remain relevant, diverse, and interesting, a straight up dance pop band with a massive schtick is like throwing a firecracker onto an ant hill and watching as they all scramble at the explosion. Wherever the line between persona and reality lays Liz Scarlett and Shazam “Tea Time” Watkins, for which they insist are their real names, is really blurry. Scarlett speaks and sings with a faux british accent, the pair dress like bad 80’s glam rockers, and all that is at least effective enough that they could be from anywhere. There’s a disparity between the music I listened to on soundcloud which is straight dance pop and what I saw, which was 80’s glam pop with a punk rock razor, it had me a little confused but also intrigued. Similarly, I felt that as much as they’ve cultivated an image, they confused that image with a genuine persona, I never understood what the point of them was, was it to have a good time? Was it peace and love like Charles Bradley? Or was it punk rock anger and angst? I still don’t know and I don’t think they do either.
Towards the end of their set the whole thing began to fall apart for me, it started to feel like they were simply getting off by dressing outlandishly on stage, and that wasn’t a lot of fun. When Watkins abruptly broke into a rap that also fell apart and was capped by the N-word (Jeff Osborn over at nocoverseattle.com has some good thoughts on this) I was pretty much ready for them to be done. Similarly the crowd seemed unable to hold it together and when they struggled to raise Scarlett up to crowd surf, I watched as his literal rail-thin frame smashed into the monitors. I couldn’t tell if this was their lack of commitment or drugs, I wanted them to be better but by the end it felt like they weren’t that interested in being good, just outrageous. I think there’s a lot there for the Fame Riot, I think they can and will become fixtures in the music community, but by the end it just began to get uncomfortable, in a bad way.
But the evening belonged Thunderpussy, and in particular guitarist Whitney Petty. Thunderpussy has their own bloated sexual persona’s, they’ve committed heavily to it and it never falls apart. In fact when they blasted into their encore I was riding high on studded leather wings and everything that had made me cranky throughout the evening just melted away. I’ve often resisted referencing their overt sexuality simply because it’s not something I would reference describing a male band, but I feel pretty confident after seeing them live that it’s all part of what they want you to take away. They use that sexuality like a fucking knife and cut you in the gut to let you bleed out with garish smile. They’re not selling sex like like a Carls Jr. commercial, they’re literally whipping you with it, like 80’s Madonna, they’re the dominatrix standing over while salty tears stream down your cheeks in a pleasureful pain.
They back all this up with drippy soul and the heaviest sound you’re likely to find this side of Hobosexual or Petty’s old band the Grizzled Mighty. There’s a part in the chorus of their song Fever where they all go “oooh” deep and guttural followed by a refreshing “ahhh” and mixed with the thunderous(sorry) instrumentation it is goddamn narcotic. I don’t hesitate to lump them in with the heavy blues-rock that’s boiling over right now, but the drums thunder(again sorry), the bass bounces, the guitar peels the flesh from your bones, and Molly’s vocals are sexy and glorious. The vocals are the screw that holds this whole thing into place, they can be harsh and in your face, and other times soulful and sultry, but they are always bold and beautiful.
Thunderpussy doesn’t need to be showy to impress you, but when Molly shows off her dancer roots by contorting her body on the stage belting smooth bluesy vocals, or when they “whip” each other into a frenzy it’s all supported by stunning music that forces you to lean back and go “good goddamn!!!” These gals bash it out with an unapologetic force, like lightening struck the tip of their heels and shot through their bodies to the tips of their fingers. Their cover of Helter Skelter reminded me why anyone ever really liked that song.
Their rousing encore featured their namesake song and was performed half clothed, or less in the case of the birthday girl, and it capped what was by far the wildest show I’d been to in a very long time, both on stage and off. It was also one of the most promising shows I’d seen in a while , that Thunderpussy can be such a young band and still command the stage with such confidence, such honesty, such thunder(sorry last time) is truly remarkable. Lookout
Seattle America, lock up your husbands, lock up your wives, and probably your children too, Thunderpussy is coming for them and there’s no safeword.