I’ve seen shows in more basements and attics than I can remember. I’ve seen countless bands whose names I’ve never bothered to note. I’ve pulled band stickers out from under my couch and had no idea at all where they came from. I normally know what to expect when I go to a show. I just hope it’s good. Sometimes I get lucky and it’s really good, so then I write about it here. Tonight I left a show and thought to myself, “Holy shit, that might be the greatest show I’ve ever seen.” That’s what happens when a band the caliber of Screaming Females plays a venue like The Kilkenny Alehouse in Newark.
Screaming Females (maybe you’ve heard of them) have been absolutely crushing it for over 10 years. Started in the New Brunswick basements, they’ve found enough success to launch nationwide tours and release six full-length albums and one live album. I don’t need to tell you they’re good. Guitarist and lead singer Marissa Paternoster was ranked the 77th greatest guitarist of all time by Spin Magazine. You know it. It’s a real publication, not like that N.J. Racket.
The point is, this band has made it. They’re kind of a big deal. They’ve played with Garbage, Dinosaur Jr., Arctic Monkeys. They’ve been featured on NPR, MTV, the aforementioned Spin. There is nothing I can say about them that hasn’t already been said better by someone better. Screaming Females do not need to be playing the upstairs room at a small bar in Newark on a Tuesday night to one hundred people. According to Spin, this show is beneath them. (Disclaimer: Spin did not say that. That is not a quote. I’m making shit up to prove a point.)
Screaming Females headlined a show that featured three other bands, notably the Substitoots, who are on their own tour all the way from Hawaii. The people who were lucky enough to be in the know about this show packed in shoulder to shoulder for a $5 cover to see one of the best New Jersey native bands of all time (I have them slotted in above Bon Jovi. Live on that prayer, Tommy and Gina!) up close and personal. When the set started, the hardwood floor started to bounce like a trampoline, probably never having held this much weight before. For a split second, I was worried, until that thought was interrupted by “HOLY FUCK IS SHE REALLY PLAYING THAT RIGHT NOW?!”
For a band that, I’m assuming, has better things they could have been doing, they really gave the crowd a maximum effort and took pride in their show. There was no holding back, no half ass guitar solos, the set wasn’t cut short after fifteen minutes. Screaming Females came to play and gave that Newark crowd more than we had the right to ask for. I can’t commend the enough for their performance. Coming back home, they played the show the same way they had done all those years ago to launch the successful career they’ve enjoyed, and that is something to truly be appreciated.
I’ve already mentioned Marissa Paternoster is the 77th greatest guitarist of all time, but during the performance I was most impressed by her voice, which is unbelievably powerful. It’s tempting to say her voice is powerful for someone so tiny, but that would be doing her a disservice. Her voice is just straight-up powerful. Compare it to whoever you want. The voice, the shredding, the overall stage presence – I’ve never seen anything like this before. I was left speechless after the set. I turned to my friends and all any of us could do was shake our heads and say “wow” over and over for a solid twenty minutes. If you’ve never seen Screaming Females, and you don’t understand the state of shock we were in, I encourage you to look into their upcoming tour dates, do yourself a favor, and go see them somewhere. You won’t be the same after.
So why did a band on this level come to Newark to play on a Tuesday for such a small crowd when they’re selling out venues all over the country? Maybe it was just because they were in town. Maybe they already finished watching Maybe they’re a group that, aside from being world class musicians, are just genuinely chill, down to earth people who can appreciate and haven’t lost sight of where they came from and thought it’d be cool. I don’t know the situation. I didn’t ask them. Regardless, whatever got them to play this show, I’m thrilled that they did and couldn’t be more grateful for the chance to experience such an amazing band on such a small stage.
Adam gave man-birth to N.J. Racket and is as close to an "editor-in-chief" the site has. He's a god awful photographer.