Refashioned post-punk quartet Priests really grooved to their appealing new songs at 9:30 Club recently in front of a very crowded hometown audience. In a very welcome development for a rapidly maturing band, the new songs proved the most fascinating in live performance.
On June 15, frontwoman Katie Alice Greer and company hit 9:30 Club in support of their latest record, The Seduction of Kansas. It’s their second studio album, published in April by their own Sister Polygon Records, and it concerns itself with the sort of things that Priests like to be concerned about — a worldview in which people with limited vision cannot see past the ends of their own noses.
To wit, the title track of the sophomore record tackles that subject head on by exploring the concept that Middle America is not more interested in anything than football and Applebee’s. But Priests addressed the subject matter with a delightful groove that makes the song itself an addictive listen. And in concert, it truly succeeded — in particular because Katie camped it up in a catsuit and boots, gyrating across stage as she cooed her case to the people around her.
Some of those people around her were her bandmates — Gideon Jaguar, the cowboy surf rocker whose fantastic guitar riffs constitute half the instrumentals of priests, and Daniele Daniele, whose furious but concise drumbeats constitute the other half. Along for the ride was bassist Alexandra Tyson, apparently not yet a full member of the band but with a steely savoir faire that certainly suited them well!
Stream The Seduction of Kansas by Priests on Spotify:
Priests began life as a band more interested in producing furious energy than sophisticated songs. This was a great strategy actually, as it sprung them into the heads of a still-loyal audience with songs from their early EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power. And they are still happy to perform those furiously energetic songs as demonstrated by a surprise and welcome encore of “Doctor” on Saturday. (Katie said Priests don’t like encores but were happy to make an exception for their homebase.)
More interesting however is to chart Priests’ growth over their last two full-lengths and to project where they may go from here because growth is their musical middle name. On new songs like “Good Time Charlie” early in the set and “Texas Instruments” later, Priests kept their wit subtle but sharp while highlighting a keen interest in extended grooves. Priests don’t want to jam per se, but they do want to dance, and their interest in expanding their sound relies on the versatility of Gideon and Daniele, who are more than up to the task.
In seeking different sounds, Priest also put Daniele upfront more often. For a few fascinating songs, Daniele took the mic while Katie minded the drums. Daniele sang “I’m Clean” from The Seduction of Kansas at the front of the stage; later she sang “No Big Bang” from debut LP Nothing Feels Natural while at the drums. From the start to the middle of the show, she lost a glossy party wig to reveal tussled rocker hair and in a small way that spoke to the bigger metamorphosis of Priests.
Priests have some time to play and experiment with new sounds while they hang out with us in DC for sure, and now they are off on a second leg of a US tour to shop their music to the Southwest and West coast. But where do they go from there? Wherever it will be, it will surely be interesting, as suggested by Priests’ disco-inflected cover of “Mother” by Danzig, dropped a week prior to the 9:30 Club gig and performed to the bemused enthusiasm of the audience. The entire show gave Priests a presence of being a little out of step with the present — which was terrific.
The band out-of-time sensation was accentuated by an odd light show that seemed to set flares on the group, making them difficult to photograph but also displacing them from the physical stage. Between the lights, Katie’s catsuit, Daniele’s wig, and Gideon’s hat, you had enough props to begin filming the DC equivalent of Twin Peaks.
Here are some pictures of Priests performing at 9:30 Club on June 14, 2019. All photos snapped while fighting those flares by Mickey McCarter.