Heartbreaking Bravery

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Watch This: Vol. 83

While the past week has been, by and large, dedicated to live coverage (a knock-on effect of moving  to a city that hosts multiple shows a night), I’ve still been keeping a wayward eye on both the present release cycle of songs, records, and live captures. It’s the latter category that this post, the 83rd installment of a series that celebrates some of the week’s best live footage, will use as its focus. As usual, there were more than five entries to be considered for a final spot and the clips that didn’t make the cut aren’t worth ignoring, either. So, when you’re done with the feature videos, double back and check out some recently posted performances by Advaeta, Izzy True, Painted Zeros, The Tallest Man On Earth, and Gianna Lauren. Until then, sit back, adjust the lighting to your preference, turn the volume up, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Mikal Cronin – Say (WFUV)

Mikal Cronin, now three records into what’s proving to be an astonishing solo career, has a legitimate claim at being one of this generation’s finest pop songwriters. While MCIII didn’t quite reach the heights of perfection that its immediate predecessor managed but it was compromised of several golden moments, nonetheless. One of those moments came in the form of “Say”, which Cronin and has band dive headfirst into here for WFUV, perfectly capturing that fleeting moment of uncertainty before being consumed by the feelings that accompany any notable dive, jump, or other drastic action.


One of this year’s more intriguing breakout acts, PINS have been making the most out of their newfound attention. They’re delivering at seemingly every opportunity, this KEXP session most certainly included. A jagged band with intriguingly sharp edges, they’ve made no qualms about embracing post-punk’s inherent rawness. In four songs, they manage to fully establish their identity and will more than likely wind up with a few more converts on their hands.

3. Hop Along (NPR)

At this point, Hop Along‘s on this list more often than not and close to all that can be said about their live show has been said in this column already. Here, they get to experiment with stripping back ever so slightly for NPR’s Tiny Desk Sessions series and the results are predictably stunning. Frances Quinlan’s vocals are given even more emphasis but the music’s intrinsically gentle qualities are also given the opportunity to be maximized, capitalizing on a dynamic that suits the band to quiet perfection. As usual, it’s a performance that’s not worth missing.

4. Tica Douglas – All Meanness Be Gone (WMUA)

Joey was one of 2015’s most welcome surprises back when it was released (and maintains that position now). In that record’s penultimate track, “All Meanness Be Gone”, nearly every aspect of Joey‘s identity-intensive narrative is spun together in a tapestry that’s as devastating as it is heartening. WMUA recently had Douglas in for a solo acoustic session that included a heartfelt performance of the song, one of the year’s best, which can (and should) be seen below.

5. No Joy (KEXP)

At this point the heap of bands fighting to distinguish themselves from each other that operate in the middle ground between traditional post-punk and shoegaze is so expansive that it’s nearly impossible. No Joy manage to make it look effortless in a commanding KEXP session that sees them playing songs old and new. Occasionally muddled but never murky, these four songs present No Joy as an unlikely powerhouse who are clearly ready for bigger stages. Heavy, uncompromising, and ultimately exhilarating, it’s both KEXP and No Joy at their absolute finest.

Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Tenement III

Toys That Kill played an invigorating set at The Acheron on June 23. Two days later, Tenement did the same on a bill where they weren’t even technically the headliner (that distinction went to Warthog, whose set I didn’t manage to catch). Nancy kicked the show off with a costumed, attitude-heavy set. Really, the night seemed to belong to the middle three bands: two of the best acts in hardcore and, of course, Tenement– a band that’s been written about on here with alarming- but entirely justified- regularity.

A night defined by aggression, tension, cathartic release, and genuine surprise (perhaps best summarized by a brief, impromptu cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”) was highlighted by Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement. Ivy played as ferociously as possible and Big Zit took that manic energy and injected their own brand of frenetic weirdness. Tenement (with Tyler Ditter filling  in on bass for Jesse Ponkamo) delivered a bruising set- that can be seen in full below- that served as a powerful reminder of why Tenement’s one of the best bands currently operating.

A gallery of photos of Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement can be seen below. A pair of performances from Ivy can be seen beneath the gallery as well as the full Tenement set. Enjoy.

Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Toys That Kill I

Over the past week, I attended two shows and saw close to ten bands, everything happened in the same venue: The Acheron. June 23 was the first of the two nights/shows, so it’ll be receiving the early focus while a recap of the show on the 25th will be posted in the very near future. The show on the 23rd opened with Hatrabbits (a band featuring former members of The Measure [sa] dutifully filling in the local slot with a very straightforward, no-nonsense take on punk. Former WI resident and DIY mainstay Nato Coles (with his Blue Diamond Band in tow) pulled out all of the usual stops during a characteristically high-energy set. An unexpected highlight came in the middle of “An Honorable Man”- a classic tune by Used Kids (a Brooklyn-based band Coles used to co-front with Big Eyes’ Kaitlyn Eldridge, who was also in attendance)- with Used Kids bassist taking over on the instrument for the song’s remainder, ultimately receiving one of the nights loudest cheers.

Site favorites Benny The Jet Rodriguez played next, with an expanded lineup boasting two familiar faces: Todd Congeliere and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor (not to mention Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital member/Stupid Bag Records founder) Jeff Bolt. Front to back, the set was nothing but electrifying highlights, including some new songs and a few particularly impassioned takes on some of Home. Run‘s best material. Shellshag followed up with a set full of the kind of off-kilter charisma that made them one of Don Giovanni Records’ most quietly revered bands (especially among the musicians who exist in the label’s circle, several of whom refer to the duo as “mom and dad”). By the time they’d pulled the plugs on their lighting rig and made a precariously balanced tower of drums, the venue had either neared or reached capacity.

Toys That Kill rewarded the crowd with an intense set that more than lived up to the hype surrounding the band’s live show (I’d only heard it discussed in awed whispers or deafening proclamations). The band’s achieved something of a legendary status after cultivating a rabid following via a string of genre classics, their live show, and the success of guitarist/vocalist Todd Congeliere’s vaunted label, Recess Records [EDITOR’S NOTE: this hyperlinked clip contains a scene of praise for Hot New Mexicans, which I can’t recommend strongly enough and still leads the pack for my personal “Album of the Decade” pick]. All of that success has been culminating in fiery, passionate performances in which the crowd reciprocates the band’s staggering amounts of energy and that was certainly the case at The Acheron. One of the only shows I’ve seen this  year that ended with a successful (and completely warranted) encore call, Toys That Kill gave the audience exactly what they wanted and more, providing a perfectly raucous endcap to the night.

A video embed of the touring bands on the bill can be seen below and a photo gallery of their sets can be seen here.