Pity Sex & PWR BTTM @ The Vera Project, Seattle 2 July 2016

pity sex pwr bttm

I haven’t been to an all ages show, well, probably since I was underage. It was a bit disorienting to walk into a room half filled with young kids. Though I’ve grown accustomed to being the oldest person at a show, it’s not usually by more than a decade. There was something quite inspiring though, to see 16, 17, and 18 year olds huddled together, singing along to every song. Smack in the middle of downtown Seattle, Washington, the Vera Project is a non-profit, volunteer run, politically conscious venue that is holding it down for the next generation.

Michigan’s emo-hero’s Pity Sex are on tour with Brooklyn’s queer-hero’s PWR BTTM. Both bands are making splashes, but in strikingly different ways. I was surprised to see the two bands on tour together, but somehow it worked out to be the perfect match.

Just less than a year ago I stumbled into a warehouse show in Brooklyn that PWR BTTM was headlining. I hadn’t heard of them, but it quickly became clear that I was the only one in the room that hadn’t. As they took the stage with their explosive presence, the crowd erupted in response. At the time I figured this was because they were local, but here in Seattle it was no different. This is a band to watch out for. Their energy, hilarity, and sincerity blend together in a way that seems to cast a spell on the crowd. Through playful lyricism and unapologetic rock and roll anthems their entire performance gives voice to the queers and gender-non-conformists out there who are struggling to make sense of life. They filled the spaces in between songs with pleasantly inappropriate banter and sex jokes. The audience was clearly enamored, stricken by the kind of charm that makes you laugh even just anticipating a joke.

PWR BTTM’s music matches their name: a constant shift between heavy, powerful choruses and soft melodic verses. It’s the kind of combination that will warm your heart in moments and have you jumping, fists raised, in other moments. If you get a chance to see them play, I highly recommend it. Their recorded material does little justice to the energy and heart that they put into their stage presence.

The night was capped off by a solid performance by Pity Sex. They recently released their 2nd full-length album, White Hot Moon, on Run For Cover Records. Everyone knew all the words. Their unique brand of upbeat emo-inspired shoegaze plucks my heart strings in all the right ways. I found myself constantly wanting to close my eyes and drift away but also not wanting to miss the show.

Their stage presence was the complete opposite of PWR BTTM, yet engaging in a totally different way. The first song was a bit rough. Perhaps the sound person was still adjusting levels. Yet the 2nd song, Burden You, seemed to instantly engage the crowd and propel us all into a dream-like state. Their shoegaze sound is raw and mesmerizing. Some people danced, even threw their bodies into each other at times. Some people closed their eyes, head in the clouds, taking it all in.

What was most compelling to me about their performance was how emotionally invested they appeared to be in the songs they were playing. The members without microphones sang along to almost every word. They played complex guitar parts with droopy eyes, barely looking at the strings, feeling into the chord progressions. The drummer’s eyes were often closed, which I only realized once he opened them to do a fast fill. There were no theatrics, just a contagious sincerity. Unlike a lot of shoegaze or low-fi bands, the vocals were not drowned in reverb; they were carried by their natural softness. In those rare moments when the two vocalists harmonized, it is nothing short of hypnotizing.

Petal from Pennsylvania and Great Grandpa from Seattle also played the show, yet unfortunately I missed their sets. I was down the street watching a free show on the waterfront with Seattle’s Telekinesis and Portland’s Summer Cannibals. It was quite the day of music! Pity Sex is currently touring around the world to promote their latest release, White Hot Moon. They will be hitting the UK in October.

Quite honestly, I expected a band with a name like Pity Sex to be made up of a bunch of arrogant dudes. But in actuality they are a band of sweethearts. The words spoken in between songs were backed my luminous smiles and conveyed gratitude and humility. After this show, Pity Sex went from being a band I like to being one of my new favorites.