August 23, 2015
Just before Screaming Females launched into an elongated jam of "Criminal Image," from their latest record Rose Mountain, Sunday night at Fitzgerald's, one of the many devoted fans in the crowd yelled up at front woman Marisa Paternoster, "we love you! Thank you for coming back to Houston!" Truth be told, it hasn't been that long since the band last played here, but it always seems like a gift when they do.
This band has been through it all, including the debilitating illness of Paternoster in 2012 that derailed touring plans, and to see them in Houston in 2015 took me back to their earliest days. Though already on their third album, 2009's Power Move, I saw them play Valentine's Day in 2010 at Mango's with a crowd of no more than six people. For a band on their third album, that could have been the end. Instead, they're still here tearing the house down to an audience who hung off every word and guitar lick.
Much has been made of new album Rose Mountain's shift towards more melodic material, focusing less on Paternoster's guitar theatrics and screaming and more on her singing and atmosphere. To be frank, it's the most accessible record they've made. The band always skirted the line between punk and good old-fashioned '90s-indebted indie rock a la Dinosaur Jr. It's just that on Rose Mountain, they've embraced that side of their sound more than ever.
That was clear seeing them on Sunday. Only "Buried In the Nude" from Power Move and "Limbs" from What if Someone is Watching Their TV? dated from before that show at Mango's. Yet Screaming Females have always saved their best for live, so even a song like "Hopeless" off Rose Mountain, which saw Paternoster singing almost a cappella to introduce it, featured vastly more energy and emphasis than in the studio.
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The absence of "Starve the Beat," long one of the highlights of their set, the song where they really opened up for Paternoster to shred on the guitar and just jam, was completely made up for by the newer update "Criminal Image," which was one of the heaviest, most badass rock-out moments of the night.
For older fans like myself, we realized we weren't missing much in the transition from the old Screaming Females to the new. Everything fans have always loved about the band was there. It made it clear that, while their music may mature, they haven't abandoned their roots. They're still one of the wildest live rock and roll bands in the country.
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Personal Bias: I still like the old stuff the best. Give me a break! I'm getting old.
The Crowd: Not old! The best part of watching Screaming Females evolve is that, while I still enjoy the new material, teenagers are absolutely in love with it. Young, dancing, sweaty hipsters, God bless 'em.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That's a five. It looks like a six, but it's a five." Honesty in beer sales from Fitzgerald's. Always.
Random Notebook Dump: This may be the last time I see Fitzgerald's in this capacity before the renovation, and if it is, I'm glad it was with a band whose raw shredding and noisy attitude goes perfectly with the old rickety, beer-stained joint. Long live old Fitz. Bring on the nicer bathrooms.