Raw, uninhibited chaos has always been a hallmark of the live experience for neo-psych noise pioneers Guerilla Toss, and their April 29 show at TV Eye was no exception. Their openers LLVX and Operator Music Band served as excellent primers for the audience with minimal ambient, jazzy grooves. But as soon as Guerilla Toss took to the stage, all bets were off. Frontwoman Kassie Carlson emerged with the rest of the band in tow, gently swaying from side to side with her hair flowing in the wind machine, awash in hallucinogenic fever-dream visuals that decorated the projector behind her.
The audience was immediately immersed and awestruck within the first three minutes of their set as Carlson led the band through the opening number, “Famously Alive,” a slow-building vocoder-laden track off their latest album of the same name. This was then followed by the slithering synth groove, “Cannibal Capital.” But the minute the band launched into their unhinged post-punk ode to aliens, “Betty Dreams of Green Men,” they blew the lid off the place. Carlson inched closer to the crowd and gave one of the audience members upfront a nudge and a shove as if to say, “Let the riotous moshing ensue!”
Specific highlights of the night were getting to hear Carlson’s doomsday cheerleader dance polemic “Meteorological” live, in addition to watching bassist Zach Lewellyn rock from side to side as he played like he was David Byrne doing the shaky knees in Stop Making Sense. The energy in the room was vibrantly positive as the band made their way through several of their beloved hits and deep cuts, the audience alternating between high-energy thrashing, friendly body-slamming, and belting their hearts out along with the band on songs like “Famously Alive,” “Wild Fantasy,” and their immediate, cacophonous cover of The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” that closed out their set.
So here’s the takeaway: If you go to a Guerilla Toss show, there are two guarantees. One: It doesn’t matter how many basement punk gigs you’ve been to; here you’re going to perspire like you never have before in your life. And two: if you’re upfront, the venue platform is low, and there is a mosh pit behind you, be prepared to get shoved onstage ass-backward… a lot. It’s a proper punk frenzy with schizophrenic disco synths and an overload of sleek bass grooves with wah-wah effects. And it’s heaven.
When it comes to crafting irresistibly catchy guitar pop with serious character, nobody weaves sardonic lyrical humor with ruminations on emotional detachment quite like Colleen Green. After a six-year hiatus following the critical success of her 2015 sophomore album I Want to Grow Up, Green tapped indie producer extraordinaire Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Hinds) to help bring to life her long-awaited third album Cool, a collection of fuzzy earworms that touch on isolation, adult responsibilities, and troubles with modern day communication.
Now on her long-anticipated North American tour supporting the album, Green played an intimate set at the Sultan Room in Bushwick last night on a bill with Dropper, Shred Flintstone, and Ben Katzman’s DeGreaser, three extraordinarily charismatic and rambunctious acts who served as excellent hypemen for the audience before the main act. When the time came for Green to grace the stage, she emerged wearing a simple white top and black shorts to match her signature black Strat with “Happy Birfday Jeff” scrawled on the front.
Long known for DIY minimalism and playing solo sets with a drum machine, this tour marks Green’s first time ever playing with a full live band, which includes Mike Hunchback on rhythm guitar, Michelle Tucker on drums, and Jay McGuire on bass. Green maintained a hilarious rapport with the band, and was unafraid to correct mistakes. At one point Tucker started to rip into a drum solo on “Grow Up,” until Green abruptly yelled “STOP!” and the entire band laughed it off before quickly restarting the song.
A few specific highlights of the night were “You Don’t Exist,” and “I Wanna Be a Dog,” two pop-rock ragers off the new album with twangy guitar tones and irresistible hooks, the latter interpolating the refrain from the Stooges classic “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
Before the band launched into the final song on the setlist, “TV,” Green announced that it would be their “last song” with a wink and air quotes, indicating that there would indeed be an encore. She later re-emerged by herself to play one final song with her drum machine, popping on her signature Wayfarer-style sunglasses that have now become an unmistakable marker of her aesthetic.
Green isn’t necessarily a “showy” performer, and being showy is rarely ever necessary when you have a palpable stage presence. What makes Green such a convincing performer is the fact that she plays to her strengths. Her impassioned belting, charming charisma, and emotional bliss was firing on all cylinders last night, making her performance truly memorable. To borrow a humorous quote made by Dropper’s Andrea Scanniello earlier that night: “Colleen Green fuckin’ rips!”
Like Rina Sawayama crashing a Harley on speed, SASAMI has set a gold standard for wholesale showmanship on her latest tour supporting her newest album of nu metal-inspired paeans. The former classical composer-turned-indie-icon took the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday. Her backing band were the first to emerge, three long-haired men who looked like distant relatives of Slayer, all three of them donning royal blue hooded cloaks.
SASAMI was quick to follow suit, looking like a medieval vigilante princess in a frilly white bodice and corset along with fishnets and a leather harness. Her entrance was met with an eruption of cheers from the demographically diverse crowd of indie kids and queer BIPOC pop and metal fans. One male audience member threw out a suggestive comment about her looks, which was quickly shut down by a corral of boos from surrounding concert-goers. “KILL HIM!” SASAMI jokingly sneered in response, making it abundantly clear that she’s not afraid to mobilize her following to annihilate anyone who threatens to exploit her or her fans.
After attentively tuning her Gibson Explorer, she opened her set with “The Greatest,” a slow and towering cut that immediately set the mood for a liberating two hours of SASAMI ripping and roaring through a searing lineup of hair-raising tracks off her expansively cathartic sophomore album Squeeze, which included a violent thrash cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Sorry Entertainer.” Squeeze was written to express the beauty and violence of the human condition through fuzzy walls of metal rage, with assistance from Megadeth’s drummer Dirk Verbeuren.
Throughout her raucous set, SASAMI commanded the stage with outrageous antics that teetered on the edge of self-destruction. This included bellowing and coughing through blood-curdling screams, sticking the amp cord in her mouth and gyrating as if she’d electrocuted herself, violently ramming herself into her bandmates, mounting the drum-kit to jump on her guitarist’s back, and engaging in elaborate choreography that evoked the motions of a shaman calling to the spirits in a protective ritual.
The energy in the room was radiantly positive as SASAMI clawed her way through each song, her dedicated followers relishing every second they had in her presence. In the middle of her set she beckoned her opening act Zulu, a powerviolence metal band from L.A., to join her onstage, who joyfully grooved on the sidelines for the rest of the show.
Near the end of SASAMI’s set she got close to the verge of tears, expressing her immense gratitude for the sense of community she’s found at her shows. This was topped off with a heartfelt shoutout to her queer fans who feel understood and valued through the anger and deliverance expressed in her music. There is nothing subtle about SASAMI, and this live performance only solidified her promising output.
As her name would suggest, the musical output of Trophy Wife—the solo project of 21-year-old Berklee student McKenzie Iazzetta—is inherently subversive. Her songwriting and her distinct vocal delivery constantly contradict one another, with lyrics where she leans into the role of the austere and unaffected “cool girl” trudging her way through the endlessly messy charade of daily life. Take songs like “Involved,” and “Knife Fight” for example, where Iazzetta wails through gritted teeth, “I didn’t mean to get excited, I didn’t mean to get involved,” and “I do not need it, you were only a test in the first place, try me, try me, try me.”
These lyrics function as a form of protection against ever being perceived as emotionally damaged or wounded, a similar technique employed by her contemporary indie predecessors like Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Snail Mail, and Japanese Breakfast. But don’t be fooled by the text. The strained cracks in her voice give her away every time. It is this naked vulnerability and juxtaposition of earnestness and defensiveness, hopefulness and despondence, infatuation and disgust, that makes her songwriting so compellingly sincere.
I caught Trophy Wife on Wednesday at The Mercury Lounge on a bill with Charles Irwin and Sub*T. She was the first of the three acts to take the stage, donning her best babydoll grunge getup while she attentively tinkered with the tuning pegs on her baby blue Fender Jazzmaster before leading her band through the opening number of their setlist, “Ask Me Anything.”
Throughout her eight-song set, Trophy Wife performed every song on her latest EP Bruiser, as well as an unreleased song called “Baby’s Breath” and an enthralling cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ classic lovelorn ballad “Maps,” which she was quick to deem “the best song ever written.” It was a gorgeous tribute to the NYC garage rock legends that evoked the same visceral growing pains Karen O had to be feeling when she wrote the song close to Iazzetta’s age.
One of the most enjoyable highlights of the performance was the undeniable chemistry between Iazzetta and her live band. Near the climactic end of their closing number, the seven-minute long opus “I’m Getting Better,” her guitarist Mario Perez shredded violently on his back while her drummer Michael Martelli continually thrashed his head wildly as he played, throwing his entire body into robust snare hits that would make you think he was chipping away at cement. But none of this detracted from the captivating pull Iazzetta had on the audience, her spellbinding croons and dreamy guitar strums grounding and centering the rest of the band in a divine form of dynamic synchronicity.
A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Iazzetta prior to her set at the Mercury Lounge to discuss the icky feelings of growing up that inspired Bruiser, her love of Liz Phair, and how re-recording a song she wrote at nineteen allowed her to forgive her younger self.
You’re currently pursuing a degree at Berklee. How has it been balancing school life and the responsibilities of a working musician?
Luckily it’s easier if you go to music school. It’s a lot of time management but it normally works out well since most of the shows I book are on the weekends.
If you could morph into any rock star, living or dead, who would it be?
Probably Mitski. A close second would be Fiona Apple, but she’s got enough bullshit to deal with already. I wouldn’t exactly want to live through her particular circumstances.
I understand that you grew up listening to several artists in the Lilith Fair lineup (Liz Phair, Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, Tori Amos). Who in that camp has influenced your writing the most?
Definitely Liz Phair. I had the song “Johnny Feelgood,” in constant rotation as a child because my mom would always play it. She chronicled the trial-by-fire way of navigating life in a very blunt and tongue-in-cheek way that I really gravitate to as a songwriter.
How did you go about writing and recording Bruiser?
I already had a batch of songs written and one of my roommates Micah said, “You should definitely record these.” Micah played drums on the record and got his friend who runs a studio to let us use the space. We had rehearsed the songs a bunch and showed up to the studio with a really fresh and open mind. It was all done in a weekend.
My favorite track on the EP is “I’m Getting Better.” What did the process of bringing that song to life entail?
I just sat down one day and thought “I really needed to write a longer song,” and it ended up being twice as long as I anticipated. That one came together the smoothest. All of the vocals were done in three takes before we layered them. We really just wanted it to sound like it was being delivered “through gritted teeth,” and for listeners to feel that tension and sort of hold their breath.
What made you decide to re-record and repurpose “Knife Fight?”
I just didn’t feel like it sounded like me anymore. The first one was recorded when I was nineteen. I was still figuring myself out when I first wrote it and didn’t think the song was as fully-realized as I wanted it to be.
Do you still resonate with that song now?
I wrote it a long time ago, so it’s not so much that I still resonate with it now, but more that I can better understand what I was feeling at that time. I can look back at that time with more perspective and this new version is sort of an ode to baby me. A way of forgiving my younger self.
What has been the most interesting takeaway listeners have had from this EP?
I think what’s been really cool is that listeners have made all these thematic connections between all the songs that I never noticed until they were pointed out to me. I was using a lot of sarcasm as a defense mechanism and deflecting blame in these songs, basically “cool girl”-ing my way through the trial-and-error situations of everyday life.
You’ve received many comparisons to Phoebe Bridgers and Snail Mail. Does that ever put pressure on you?
Not really. I have my own thing, but I think it would be pretty flamboyantly egotistical to claim, “No! I’m not influenced by that at all,” because that’s obviously not true. I can definitely see the parallels, because I make music that is a certain flavor of coming-of-age with a tinge of anger, which is very on brand for them. It’s certainly flattering that I’m even receiving those comparisons at all.
Finally, what’s the best thing to listen to to get hyped up before going onstage?
Definitely Wednesday. They’re a shoegaze band from Asheville, NC and I’m obsessed with their latest album Twin Plagues.