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Review and Photos: Protomartyr, Priests, Protect-U @ Black Cat 2.14.16

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Protect-U kicked the evening off with their brand of electronic that seemed to combine eclectic noises of dripping pipes with the soundtrack from a Sonic the Hedgehog game.

The duo was captivating as they worked their myriad knobs and dials, occasionally flirting with a beat that grabbed hold of the audience before darting on to the next soundscape. Tempos ranged from cold and expansive to chaotic and aggressive, as the musicians work gear that boasted an explosion of wires reminiscent of the 150 in One science project kits while making noise like a possessed Game Boy. That comparison may be too nerdy for many of you, but I suspect that if you are a regular listener of Protect-U’s music, that reference will be right at home.

In what was not the most natural of auditory transitions, Priests took to the stage, launching into their unique brand of music to headbutt something to. The talented rhythm section laid a varied but always compelling foundation for the manic guitar and the throat-tearing vocals to launch off.

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Priests are charged to maximum levels for every song, as evidenced by the havoc that their guitarist wreaked upon the myriad of guitars that suffered broken strings and other injuries. The band was incredibly dynamic, both in the madness of their songs and their physical presence on stage which boasts wild dancing and more high knees than a high-school football practice. Personally, Priests stole the show for me, and no matter how impressive Protomartyr was, they couldn’t live up to the barely-restrained madness of Priests.

Protomartyr was undeniably polished. Each member of the band shaped the sound in tangible ways that combined for an extremely powerful performance. Alex Leonard’s drums displayed a Ginger Baker-esque diversity while Scott Davidson’s bass and the guitar of Greg Ahee combined in a satisfyingly rock-and-roll sound. On top of this were the essentialist vocals of Joe Casey that balanced out the sound. My favorite moments were when the instrumentals swung towards unhinged madness while anchored by the counterpoint of Casey’s baritone. The band flirted with a diverse array of styles and sounds while never straying too far from the proto-punk backbone, giving the PBR-fueled performance a constantly surprising and fresh feel.

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This was a fantastic evening of music, and each act is worth seeking out if given the chance. Catch Protect-U and Priests around town, with Priests’ next show supporting Union Arts on the 19th. Protomartyr tours the Northeast through May.

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