Show Review: Protomartyr @ Barracuda (10/20)

Last Friday night we welcomed Protomartyr to Barracuda for a night of dark post-punk tunes. Coming up on a decade of existence, Protomartyr have become a staple of the genre, the current dark state of the world giving them the perfect backdrop for their brooding tunes. On their latest effort, Relatives in Descent, they took the post-punk to a greater height, giving audiences moments of aggression followed by great cathartic release. These new tracks played well in the live setting– read on for some brief thoughts on how the evening unfolded.

Protomartyr are sight to behold. As this was my first time seeing the band do their thing in the live setting, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Joe Casey, vocalist, looks like the average middle age man you’d meet at a dinner party. Donning a jacket and a button up, he strode on to the stage, immediately pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and began to chain smoke, the cigarette a then permanent fixture between his index and middle finger for the rest of the night. His delivery is dead-pan, stoic, matching the bleakness in the recordings. Somehow, this increases the intensity of the band’s live aesthetic–the front man teases the crowd with his solemnity while the rest of the group is furiously playing their instruments.

The band ripped through the majority of the tracks from their new album, which I quite enjoyed, as that record is a real winner. My favorites from the evening included “Windsor Hum,” which served as a perfect expression of discontent and instrumental catharsis. Casey repeats “everything’s fine” over and over, while eerie guitar riffs convey the exact opposite of this sentiment. The band did a great job of building the tension in this track, Casey’s vocals breaking from deadpan to a full on belt and the rest of the band throwing their full bodies into the final chorus.

Another few perfect moments of the night included tracks “Here is the Thing” and “Night-Blooming Cereus.” “Here is the Thing” showed the band’s mastery of the genre– Casey’s borderline spoken-word poetry atop the gliding guitars and throbbing bass line and simmering drums gave the crowd something to dance to. “Night-Blooming Cereus” was a moment of dark beauty from the band, where they took a minute from raging post punk and showed a softer side. This track allowed Casey to show off a little delicacy in his vocals and gave the set a bit of variety from each high energy tune.

 

It was a great night of music–if you have any opportunity to catch Protomartyr live, be sure to do so.

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