By Ziggy Merritt
Thursday night at PhilaMOCA started off as many nights do within the stark confines of this particular venue: with a slow, steady trickle of guests filling in the limited space well after the show began at 8pm. Performing for a crowd greedily consuming the Earth’s supply of Narragansett was the Cardiff-based noise punk outfit, Joanna Gruesome, with additional support from Mercury Girls, King of Cats, and Aye Nako.
Mercury Girls started things off with their pure and jangly C86-inspired sound, something not often enough revisited in our retro-obsessed culture. Bonus points in this performance go out to vocalist Sarah Schimineck, who took the most gloriously unsubtle swigs from the flask she brought on stage.
Max Levy as King of Cats followed soon after, joined onstage by members of Joanna Gruesome. Frustrated screams and dissonance accompanied Levy throughout the performance with a subset of charm pervading throughout thanks to the wonderfully strange content of the lyrics. The delightful awkwardness of Levy’s occasional dialogue with the crowd also did its part in endearing himself to anyone who might have doubted his capabilities as a truly talented songwriter.
Aye Nako pitched up the intensity following Levy’s exit with songs covering the vast swath of social inequities too often pushed to the margins of the American consciousness. Coming off their latest album, The Blackest Eye, was the sonic warfare imbedded deep into tracks like “Killswitch” and “White Noise.”
Joanna Gruesome’s eventual turn at the stage (and partially off it, in the case of two members of the cabal of Gruesomes who spilled out into the audience for more breathing room, understandably) amped up the momentum with their own brand of socially conscious hardcore punk overtures. Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan amply filled the role that Alanna McArdle played before the latter’s departure in June to focus more on her mental well-being. Each half of the new duo carried the same bittersweet rage and intensity McArdle eschewed, something made even more apparent after the release of their recent album Peanut Butter, the large swath of which was played for the audience with a few notable additions from their previous release, Weird Sister.
As a whole, each band that evening expressed similar topics within the wide scope of a refreshing intersectional feminist discourse. Each of them did so not just as a politically charged call to arms but with a sonic display capable of venting frustrations that might otherwise be left unsaid. From jangle pop to noise punk, the night’s proceedings gave at least a little hope for a future society not wholly undone by dogmatic phobias and prejudice.
All photos by Ziggy Merritt