From the opening moments of “Appropriate” by Priests at 9:30 Club on Friday, the very full house could tell this was a different sort of Priests show.
Not only were DC’s reigning punks finally performing in their city’s most famous venue as a headliner, but Priests also decided to make a big show of it — and that meant adding more players to the stage. Vocalist Katie Greer led the ensemble with confidence and swagger, and everyone sounded really great. Luke Stewart from opener Mellow Diamond joined the band on saxophone, and they were accompanied by a keyboardist as well throughout most of the set, beginning with “Appropriate.”
All said, it was a fairly mellow Priests show (apologies to that opener) albeit a mellow show with bite.
The carefully paced show hinged occasionally on the guest contributors. With her cello, for example, Mellow Diamond’s Janel Leppin sat in on several songs, including “Suck,” which Priests performed early in the set at a very laidback, bluesy pace. But the performance also featured new songs, which was very exciting! New song “Control Freak” followed “No Big Bang,” drummer Daniele Daniele’s spoken word spotlight from Nothing Feels Natural, Priests debut full-length album (which closes on the aforementioned “Suck”), released via their own Sister Polygon Records in January. The band closed the set with new song “Golden Prophet” followed by their album’s title track, “Nothing Feels Natural.”
Of course, Katie and company returned for an encore that included welcome, raucous renditions of “And Breeding” and “Personal Planes” from their 2014 EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power and from their label’s first 2012 single, respectively.
Katie’s voice was in fine form as she screeched and soothed, ruffled and relaxed us. Meanwhile, Katie later said she was trying to channel Bjork’s style as if through outer space, and she certainly succeeded in appearing as an alien disco maven. Daniele was a tour de force on the drums, maintaining a tribal tempo that kept the room grooving along. And guitarist Gideon Jaguar surfed upon some excellent vibrations to stress Priests’ occasional dips into surf rock and rockabilly flavors. I’m not sure why but bassist Taylor Mulitz was absent on Friday.
Instead, guest bassist Carson, whose last name I didn’t catch, filled in. It was a little startling, but not a bad thing, to notice his deep backing vocals on “Doctor” early in the show, which is when I realized he wasn’t simply another one of the several guest musicians making up the bigger Priests band for the night. Carson was a strong performer, who clearly learned fast.
Friday marked Priests last planned show of the year, but expect more from them soon particularly with new songs in their catalog. Can a second full-length album be in store for 2018? Such a release would surely continue to build and extend the sound of Priests, who have long since demonstrated there is more to them than meets the eye, as shown on Friday and on many other occasions.
Here are a few more pictures of Priests performing at 9:30 Club on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of Ben Eisendrath. (Follow Ben on Instagram+Twitter: Insomnigraphic/GrillworksBen.)