For as many shows as N.J. Racket has covered in the past couple of months since our inception, it’s unfortunate that Carrie, the site’s invaluable editor, has been unable to attend any of them, as she currently resides in Lancaster, PA in 1693. Luckily, the indie rock gods smiled down upon us and routed The Screaming Females and Moor Mother’s tour through the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA. When I realized this, I immediately got Carrie’s husband, a childhood friend of mine, on the phone and demanded that we all go to the show.
Moor Mother, aka MMGz, joined the tour following the release of her album Fetish Bones in September, 2016. She is a remarkably cerebral artist who focuses her music on the history of social and racial injustices both near and distant. The performance was one of the most intense and impassioned I had ever seen. Moor Mother was previously involved in a group known as The Mighty Paradocs, which was much more heavily punk-influenced, and while they excelled at delivering a politically charged message, this current project conveys the rage and unrest in a way that is so much more succinct and eloquent. Moor Mother has such a raw authenticity. Her music is confrontational and thought-provoking in a way that may be uncomfortable, but is markedly powerful in its ability to do so.
I got the impression most people in the audience didn’t know what to expect or how to react to the set, which really fucking sucked because she deserved a far better reaction than the one she received. I commend her for the effort she gave through till the end of the performance. The aggression, passion, and energy never dissipated. She was engaged with the crowd between songs, and even came out into the crowd after her set to watch the Screaming Females and rocked out with all of us up front. I’m looking forward to catching another of MMGz’s shows where the crowd kinda sucks less, and is more responsive to her killer performance.
The Screaming Females’ set was ridiculous as always. I’m always amazed by their performances, not just because they are unbelievably talented musicians, but because they have played an absurd number of shows in the past several years and yet every time I’ve seen them, they are still working their asses off and giving every song, every night, every ounce of energy they have. Bands don’t achieve this level without genuinely loving what they do. I’ve never loved anything that much. Not even Spicy Nacho Doritos. But watching the Screaming Females on stage gives me hope that such a love is possible.
They’re a true touring band. Sure, the albums are great, all of them are great, but the Screaming Females are a band you need to see perform live. All three members blend together flawlessly with a level of chemistry that is only reached from having played more than a thousand shows together over the past ten years. They have the ability to open up these songs, elaborate and improvise on them: Marissa Paternoster rips a solo, King Mike comes up with a fill and adds some flair on the bassline, Jarrett Dougherty keeps everything tight while everyone’s going off script. I’ve felt like Mike often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the bass’s contribution to the Screaming Females’ music. There’s a reason they call him “King.” He doesn’t lay back on a single note line playing root, fifth, octave, which he could probably get away with doing while Marissa’s shredding the lead guitar. The bass on these tracks is intricate and layered, often carrying the melody rather than simply supporting it. He manages to be innovative without being overpowering.
All of these artists were so gracious and humble the entire night. I mentioned prior that Moor Mother came out into the crowd to interact with everyone out on the floor and after the show was talking to anyone who was left hanging around. Earlier in the night, I saw Marissa hanging out on the floor during a sound check. She was just kind floating around, checking her phone, and I didn’t want to be pest, but still felt like I had to say hello, so really quickly I went over and just said that I’m a big fan, wanted to say hi, and that I was really excited for her set. She was super chill, didn’t seem bothered, shook my hand and said thanks for coming out. I’m aware that I probably sound really lame in that story, but fuck it, whatever.
These last two Screaming Females shows almost seem like a gift. I had written a few months back about having seen them play in bar’s attic in Newark for a $5 cover. This show had a $10 ticket and I got to stand front and center, right up against the guard rail, to see two such immensely talented artists. I compare that to when my buddy asked me back in July if I wanted to go see Radiohead play at Madison Square Garden and sit in the nosebleeds for $150. No, I didn’t. But, I genuinely feel like the experiences I’ve been given at Screaming Females shows are monetarily so undervalued that it’s like I’ve stolen them. To me, it seems like that’s just who they are as a band. What’s most important is the music, the performance, the experience, the appreciation. Obviously, they have to make a living, but if the Screaming Females were about selling out they would have done it a long time ago. Bands don’t get more real than this one.
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.