Northside 2014: Swearin', Radiator Hospital, Flesh Wounds, Bent Shapes
Swearin' by Jesse Riggins
Brooklyn, New York -- The four bands I saw at Glasslands Gallery on the fourth and final day of Northside don’t subscribe to the “slow and steady wins the race” philosophy. They are firm believers in the “fast wins the race, duh” mantra. I don’t think I heard a song on Sunday that reached the four-minute mark. Bent Shapes, Flesh Wounds, Radiator Hospital, and headliners Swearin’ make short, punchy statements with no room for fluff. Here’s how the fluff-less bands performed.
Boston trio Bent Shapes are clearly fans of the 90s indie scene. Their sound also incorporates the rougher edge of punk/indie/power-pop mainstay Ted Leo. While the band certainly had some catchy songs, the highlight of their set was when lead singer Ben Potrykus sang into a telephone hooked up to his microphone, which gave his voice a cool distortion effect. Also it was probably the first time in a long time a lot of the young Brooklyn crowd had seen an honest-to-goodness telephone.
I was predisposed to liking Flesh Wounds if only for the Monty Python reference, and the North Carolina four-piece added some solid music to accompany their great name. They ripped through a barely 20-minute set with a garage-punk sound in the vein of Ty Segall. The band’s frontman, who wore his guitar so high up it looked like he was choking on it, was interesting enough to listen to. He introduced the last song as a song about “crickets and jack-rabbits,” although from what I could tell it wasn’t about either of those things. Like I said, they were interesting enough.
“We’re a rock band” is the way frontman Sam Cook-Parrott introduced Radiator Hospital. That covers the band’s sound pretty succinctly. On a more specific level, Radiator Hospital, like Bent Shapes, had a 90s indie sound. Cook-Parrott’s voice in particular sounded straight out of the Elephant Six era.
In between bursts of music that were never longer that 180 seconds, Cook-Parrott spoke with a self-deprecating charm. He made fun of the notion that the band barely knew their songs and that he was a “professional” musician. Humility and opening bands is always a good mix.
Swearin’ is fronted by Alison Crutchfield, sister of Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee). The similarities between the two are undeniable, with Swearin’ adding a punk-rock energy to Waxahatchee’s confessional songwriting. Having now seen both acts live (both of them at Glasslands, oddly enough), it’s clear that each sister brings their own unique vision to their respective bands.
On their records, Swearin’ play short, fast surges of punk influenced indie rock. Live, their music takes on a more melodic sound. The songs may be short, but Alison and her fellow band members pour a lot of feeling into them. This is exactly the kind of band I would have loved in high school. When introducing the song “Kenosha,” Alison said it was a song about “hating someone you don’t know.” If that’s not the perfect summation of high school, I don’t know what is.
The last two songs of the night, “Dust in the Gold Sack” and “Movie Star” were particularly strong. Alison and company ramped up the energy to close the set with the crowd wanting more, and there’s no better way to close out the Northside Festival.
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