The show was scheduled to start at 8pm but the band was nowhere to be found. For ten minutes I watched promoter Kim Conyers pace the room as if looking for lost keys. When she stopped by my table telling me, "It doesn't matter how many times you say eight o'clock sharp, if there are punks involved, it's going to be punk time" I wasn’t sure if she was venting or apologizing. But there was no need for apologies on this night. This evening I had already been served a lovely vegan meal in a cozy club, and now I was sitting at a booth typing on my laptop with Diet Cig playing on the PA. I could have sat another hour waiting for the opener and still been delighted. But I didn't need to. At 8:15 the four members of Rosé Perez materialized wearing clear rain ponchos over their street clothes and the show began.
Rosé Perez (that acute accent is important) are new to me, but an Internet search tells me that I'm just late to the game. The live band is four members (who prefer no last names): Carrie plays bass, Rachel plays flute, Darcy on keyboards, and Lina shifted about from drums to second (!?) flute to bass as her fancy dictated. All provide vocals in varying degrees. The quartet began the show by teaching the audience "Night Dance II," then demanding the choreography be performed to the pre-recorded minimalist beats before the foursome would play. That's a bold move for an opening band in front of a crowd still nursing its first drink. But Rosé Perez knew what they were doing, and soon the audience had their hands up and hips shaking. The show could go on.
That prologue was apropos for a project that includes a lot of performance art – both in content and delivery. During one song a dancer from the audience (a body-suited ringer in a face-concealing hood) was summoned on to the stage to serve as a human table while Carrie and Lina folded laundry on them. A nearby laptop projected video onto and behind the band. Another laptop delivered long introductory dialogue samples or additional beats during the songs. The band's lyrics are often sarcastic and satirical. It's social and political commentary – some stated more eloquently than others. The chant of "Kidnap Jeff Bezos" isn't Wordsworth, but it gets the message across without risk of misinterpretation. The most developed song of the night might have been titled "BBL" (Brazilian butt lift). Like most of the band's songs, Carrie's lead vocals are delivered in a sort of jump rope cadence over bouncing pop with plenty of lyrical punctuation from the rest of the band. Le Tigre comparisons are apt and fair. I had seen (or, to be honest, mostly heard as the venue was packed) the band several weeks before and remembered them as more punk, more riot grrrl, more Bikini Kill. Wasn't there a guitar? But this 25-minute set was perfect for The Ship. It was fun – dare I say a bit silly? – and it set the stage.
The club's corner stage was turned over quickly to the four members of Minneapolis' Gully Boys. Buzz is big for the band, and their social media following is huge. Honestly, I wasn't sure what the hype was all about. Thanks to Kim, I now had a way to find out.
Gully Boys opened with "Russian Doll" from its latest EP Favorite Son. Vocalist (and rhythm guitarist) Kathy Callahan exploded with energy. Big voice. Immediate presence. So much emotion. She was surrounded by lead guitarist Mariah Mercedes (a recent edition to the quartet), bassist Natalie Klemond, and drummer Nadirah McGill. The pop of the opening number with its big hooks and solid backing vocals combined with the huge personalities had me wondering if this was a recasting of Josie & the Pussycats. Please, let's make that happen. As the eight-song set continued Gully Boys' power-pop elements waned, and grunge grit took center stage. A bombastic cover of Hole's "Violet" solidified that connection. Callahan set her guitar aside for this one, leaving her free to bounce and stomp around the stage, her expressive face wracked with anguish. The audience felt the performance and sung just as loudly. The radio dial swung further to the right during slow burner "Favorite Son" – a song defined by Mercedes' constant leads. Their tongue-out guitar-face and cocky swagger made for excellent photographs. The band ended its set with "Neopet Graveyard" from its first EP. The song has been played 1.3 million times on Spotify. That's a big number. It was also my first introduction to the band when they were suddenly on everyone's lips. Seeing it performed with the added coloring of Mercedes' guitar licks and the emotion of Callahan left me ready to join the chorus of believers.
After hearing the last cymbal crash fade, I left the stage to reclaim my comfortable booth. On the way I ran into photographer Todd Zimmer who Kim had prodded to shoot this show over the weekend – always the promoter. Todd came with no idea what to expect and left with a CD. Although I didn't leave with any merch, I left ready to do it all over again – Cauldron Collective vegan food, the warm and welcoming atmosphere at The Ship, engaging bands – even if it means coping with nebulous punk time.