Hometown heroes Priests wrapped a US tour with a smashing, sold-out show at Black Cat Saturday. Billed a record release party, Priests actually released their full-length debut, Nothing Feels Natural, at the end of January via their own Sister Polygon Records.
At the start of the show, vocalist Katie Alice Greer said simply, “Let’s play the record,” and she and her bandmates launched into the first several tracks from Nothing Feels Natural, starting with “Appropriate.” The brutal rhythms of the song hit the audience as Katie entered her punk-rock shouting mode, decrying commercialism and artificiality. Drummer Daniele Daniele bangs a mean tribal drum as the song builds in intensity, allowing it to fade into a languid listlessness before firing it back up again toward the end.
Next, Priests play “JJ,” and Gideon Jaguar lets fly the surf vibes of his guitar. That terrific surf guitar is a hallmark of Priests’ songs, and Gideon is really quite masterful as he literally rocks across the stage as if guided by the instrument in his hands. Like many new Priests songs, it has a softer edge, allowing the band to fill out their space a little bit more rather than bursting forth in short bursts of frenetic motion.
“No Big Bang” from the new album gives Priests a chance to do something different as Daniele raced through a monologue about coming to grips with disappointment over other people, or perhaps yourself, and a failure to connect and understand. The catchy, minimal instrumentation bubbling up through most of the song give it a beatnik quality that differentiates it from many other Priests tracks.
Priests did not neglect well-honed favorites from their 2014 EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power, hammering out the disdainful “Doctor” and the scathing “And Breeding,” among others. Dancing about the stage in a backless pantsuit and leopard-spotted heels, Katie certainly held your attention as she screeched like a banshee or cooed like a bird. The very full house at Black Cat clamored for more as Priests continued to dish it out.
It’s important to emphasize that Priests really are growing rapidly as a band in their interests and versatility at the moment. Most (if not all?) of the members have side projects where they explore territory beyond Priests, and I suspect this is contributing to their growth. The title track “Nothing Feels Natural” is evidence of this growth as Katie sang calmly, almost serenely (although with conviction), of feeling dispossessed while bassist Taylor Mulitz set a steady groove to pace the band. Everyone gelled together very well for the show, and the audience could see that Priests’ time on the road has been good to them.
Lest we forget: Priests are a band meant to be experienced live, and Saturday was simply more proof of that. The band has a tremendous stage presence, and each member has a connection with the other that strengthens their greater whole. As strong as their new album may be for a listen, seeing is believing in the case of Priests.
Priests are off to SXSW for some shows in Austin this week, and then they tackle Europe in May and June. The quartet are well worth seeing again whenever they schedule another DC show, whether at Black Cat or elsewhere. If you haven’t seen them yet, make it a priority, and if it’s been a while since you last saw them, go see how much they continue to thrive.
Buy Nothing Feels Natural by Priests on Amazon.
Here are some more pictures of Priests performing at Black Cat on Saturday, March 11, 2017.