By: Reed Heaton
Protomaryr with special guests, Rebel Kind and Deadbeat Beat, at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor MI.
BY: REED HEATON
on January 30, 2016 at 5:46 p.m.
The Blind Pig has been a staple underground music venue in Ann Arbor since 1971. It is heading into its 45th year of hosting shows. It has overseen the evolution of rock music, from 80s punk and college rock through 90s grunge.
Today, it is still a thriving venue. It hosts local shows as well as up-and-coming touring acts. Bands like REM, Sonic Youth, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Circle Jerks, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam have all played on this stage while in route to success. Not to mention Nirvana having one of its first sold out Midwestern shows at the venue.
This context makes one look around the venue. The fascinating thing is if the framed show posters and Nirvana article by the merch stands are taken away, there is not much here that makes one think the venue has as deep of a history as it does. That is not what matters. The fact any band you see on this stage could eventually do something as great as their predecessors is interesting enough.
There were three bands on the bill for the night. Each grabbed the crowd’s attention.
The first band to play was Deadbeat Beat, who matched the post-punk, sonic aggression of the headliner. The band embodied the gloom that comes with the genre, but also played songs that had “la la la” sing-alongs, which made a very interesting combination.
The band reached their strength when the bassist and drummer would lock into a strong groove and the singer/guitarist would play what sounded like less of a guitar solo, rather than an amplified rant. It was not particularly technical, but it was a good thing in this case. It was a raw interpretation of soloing I found remarkable. Also, credit to the guy for doing all of it without a high E string.
Rebel Kind — an all female garage rock trio — played direct support. Much like the other two bands on the bill, the band pulled off combining murky and energetic music with a certain pop appeal. Their punctual, chord driven song approach paid dividends for them in their set.
All of the band’s songs tended to be around 2 minutes in length, and varied stylisticly from a raw, inhibitive garage rock to a more elegant and melody-oriented sound. Sometimes the two would meet in the middle, which proved to be interesting.
All in all, I enjoyed every second of their set. If there was a song that didn’t quite land, it was over before I knew it, and if there was a song that I dug, it made me want to hear more of it, which resulted in me buying one of their tapes after their set. On the hour drive home, I listened to it at least two or three times all the way through, and all I can say is if you’re looking for a new genuine, energetic, and catchy female rock group, look no further.
Protomatyr did not need to do much to get the crowd on their side. The sing-alongs started right from the start and continued through the end. The reaction to the song “Dope Cloud” spells out that there is something special about the material they have been releasing. Entertaining the crowd came without effort from Protomatyr. It was a certain effortlessness I have only seen in bands that have played much bigger venues than The Blind Pig.
Each detail of the band’s songs translated well, and the band did not miss a beat. The drumming style that drove their recorded material shined in the set, and went back and forth from an abstract style, which was reminiscent of bands like Bauhaus and Joy Division.
Not only did I not see a single mistake made, they played as if each note and chord had a purpose, resulting in driving, effortless music, persuading a crowd that did not need to be persuaded in the first place.
The centerpiece was the singer, Joe Casey. He came onstage looking like a pissed off alter ego of Uncle Joey from Full House. Though standing at a relatively average height, he raised the the mic stand, leaving the microphone resting at his nose. Once he began singing, he raised his neck and sang upwards into the microphone, which is honestly something I have never seen before.
The only parts of his body that were moving were his neck and arm whenever he needed a swig of beer. This is probably a choice made due to personal observation of his own talents over a long time performing in front of people, as the clarity of Casey’s voice was unlike the other singers I saw that night.
He kept his body still, because the only things he needed to project were his voice and the words he sang, along with the power and sadness that come with them. Protomartyr does not care about moving around on stage. The band only cares about doing what it wants to do, and it has paid off.
My Personal Favorite:
The night belonged to Protomatyr. The post punk titans of Detroit made waves in 2015, releasing a fantastic full length, The Agent Intellect, to much acclaim from critics and fans alike.
The band began to gain considerable exposure too. The record landed on many “best of 2015” album lists.
I have been to the Blind Pig for a few smaller shows, and this was the first show I had been to with a line waiting for doors to open, and the venue was packed by time Rebel Kind had gone onstage.
There is no doubt what separates this band from the openers and pretty much any local band I have seen is the fact that one can tell they have put more work into their material and live set than many others in the area, and the fans responded with such ease to their songs.
Maybe the next big band to play at The Bling Pig has already played. Obviously the future is not certain, but I know there was a reason The Blind Pig was filled like a farm kennel.
People came because they knew there is something special about the acts that played on this night, especially Protomartyr, who seem all but destined for indie rock success.
One might wonder why I think so highly of this band, but I only ask for you listen to The Agent Intellect. Listen to “The Devil in His Youth” and feel the moody, but elegant rage. Listen to “Dope Cloud” and try not to find yourself singing along to the pessimistic, but albeit catchy lyrics.
There is something very special about this band. They tackle the truly dark side of life while being able to make it musically shocking and promising. With Protomartyr taking a step towards indie domination and me discovering the raw inhibitive underbelly of the Michigan scene, I would consider this show to be more than a fun time.
“When I Talk 2 U”
- “Very Vivid Personality”
“I Forgive You”