Daniele Withonel ignited the show with a rain of drumbeats from the back of the stage as she started belting out the sing-song words to “No Big Bang,” a newer song being played by her band Priests.
Bassist Taylor M. jumps in, and the main stage at the Black Cat on Sunday night is full of deep, driving, urgent beats as Priests begin their set. Guitarist Gideon Jaguar stands to the side, throwing in some sparkly chords here and there. Toward the end of the song, it combusts, and vocalist Katie Greer shrieks into her microphone as Gideon’s guitar explodes with a wave of surf rock.
I don’t know what Daniele is saying in “No Big Bang,” but it’s surely something in the array of causes from Priests, who typically champion the disenfranchised. And it’s a welcome collaborative effort, as with a batch of new songs the band has been introducing to audiences since their last formal release in 2014 with the album, Bodies and Control and Money and Power via Sister Polygon & Don Giovanni Records.
It’s the nature of punk musicians to press for social change, of course, and music often galvanizes people in support of specific efforts! And so Katie later calls for support to combat plans to demolish Union Arts, the art collective space in a warehouse at 411 New York Ave. NE, DC, in favor of a 178-room boutique hotel with a rooftop lounge and pool.
Priests will play an impromptu show with other bands at Union Arts on Friday, Feb. 19, in support of the collective space prior to a second hearing on the matter before the DC zoning board on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
“I went to the first zoning hearing about it, and listening to the developers talk about it was the most dystopian sci-fi shit,” Katie said at the show. “Listening to these people talk about how they thought this was going to be beneficial to the arts community here by downsizing the number of studios and keeping artists on display for the patrons of this hotel, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
Activism aside, you’ll enjoy the show at Union Arts because Priests are nothing less than awesome performers. Sunday night, they whipped through a great set of about 11 songs, mixing some new numbers with the familiar.
Watch Priests perform “Modern Love/No Weapon” live at the Wilderness Bureau for WAMU 88.5’s Bandwidth on May 28, 2014:
The new numbers sit well beside the published Priests catalog, such as “Modern Love/No Weapon,” the burst of wailing from Katie that rides Gideon’s surf. The song blows up on stage, and then fades out, leaving band and audience alike to catch their breath.
New song “J.J.” follows a similar pattern, but it undertakes more of a leisurely trot, relatively speaking, than the full-throated gallop of some other songs. In the past, Katie has introduced another newer song, “Pool Party,” as a number about wanting to have a good time at a party but finding it hard to relate to other people.
Throughout the show, Priests hit some crowd-pleasers like the skeptical “Doctor,” and they close with the popular “And Breeding,” a sort of frenzied lament against cultural expectations and I suppose against “fucking and breeding” as the song goes.
Watch Priests perform “And Breeding” live on The Chris Gethard Show, via Manhattan Public Access, on Dec. 10, 2014:
Priests will soon launch a major month-long tour with Ought, the outstanding art punk quartet from Montreal. That tour will hit, among other places, the Black Cat on Tuesday, May 10. Go see that bill! I don’t want to overstate it or draw one-to-one comparisons, but seeing those bands right now is akin to seeing the early glory days of Blondie and the Talking Heads if they were to have mounted a tour together in 1978 — that’s how exciting I think it is.
Tickets for that show in May are available online. (Doors @7:30pm; $15! What a steal.) If you live outside DC, seize the opportunity to see Priests near you!