By Gabriel Mathews (Seattle) and Hollister Dixon (Portland)
Seattle, WA – Barboza, November 1st
Early shows are weird. Especially early punk shows. Neither you nor anyone around you has time to get sufficiently drunk for a show that starts at 7:45 sharp. My Concert-Going Companion and I missed openers Vexx entirely because we were trying to navigate heinous Capitol Hill parking. I was relieved, though, that we made it just in time for Stickers to take the stage.
A young Seattle act, Stickers are fronted by Gabi Page-Fort, who wields a saxophone and stands relatively still for being in such a noisy band. Guitarist Colin Dawson’s guitar is slathered in the customary reverb of the age, and rhythm section Troy Ayala (bass) and Emily Denton (drums) are perfectly serviceable. Where Stickers stand out from the mass of similar, “youthful” garage acts is through their dedication to the weird sexiness of monotony, which mostly plays out in Page-Fort’s vocals. Generally singing in a low-level bellow, Page-Fort will frequently jump several octaves in what’s almost a yodel, singing lyrics like, “Let me slip my dick in your wound / You’ll feel better in no time” and “Take me / Take me / Take me Mr. Rodgers.” In between verses she skronks around aimlessly on her sax, bleating over Dawson’s atonal jangle. Stickers are doing a full west coast tour with Pissed Jeans, and I hope they meet some success along the way. We could use more playful twists on what’s already become a stale genre.
Pissed Jeans took the stage promptly at 8:30—So goddamn early! It was alright, though, because Matt Korvette was wearing leather pants and a chain-coated jacket over a white t-shirt with a drapey black vest printed on it (in other words, the best possible version of the tuxedo-tee). “Seattle,” said Korvette. ”When we were booking this show, a few months back, I said to our booking manager, who’s a very powerful man, I said, ‘Find us the hippest, coolest, most awesome venue in Seattle, and then have us play in a small room directly underneath it.’ And so they built this place, just for us.” Mocking Barboza is always a good way to start a show.
I was super excited to hit the pit, especially as guitarist Bradley Fry got started on the opening riff of one of their fastest, most popular songs, “Bathroom Laughter.” Korvette sang the first line—“Bathroom laughter always leads to kitchen crying / I hate to say I told you so” as “Bughrah lahhgha alwah ludduh kutchahn cruhgn” and then his mic cut out for the entire second verse. But that wasn’t the saddest thing:
NO ONE WAS MOVING! Let me rephrase that: several people towards the front were bouncing in their own private two-foot squares, but no one was even remotely beginning to touch each other. I was so weirded out by this that I almost missed the next few bruisers—“Chain Worker,” “You’re Different (In Person),” “Pleasure Race” and “Romanticize Me” all made appearances, as did the glorious “Health Plan.” Somewhere in there I managed to get up close and found a gagued-ear, shaved-headed punker type to shove around with, but he was the only one. Everyone else seemed pissed that we were even in motion whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Korvette stole the show from his band by being one of the best stage banterers I’ve ever seen. “There are like six people in the front row wearing glasses. I think that’s a new record for us. Guess what, you’re all handicapped. But it’s okay, so am I. I’m wearing contact lenses. Maybe I’ll take them out later in the show, make things a little weird.” “There’s a lot of debate as to what the sexiest type of stomach is. I think it’s the male stomach, two weeks after being shaved,” he said, rubbing his belly lasciviously. “It’s not hairy, but it’s not hairless. Guys, you should try this sometime. If you’re not a guy, grab one, they’re all around, they’re everywhere, even when you don’t want them to be. There are probably three or four next to you right now.” After borrowing a fan’s phone to take a picture of his own genitalia, Korvette went on a long tangent about how huge his penis, and the rest of the band’s penises were: “This guy, [gesturing at bassist Randy Huth], his entire self-esteem is based on the size of his dick. And he has very high self-esteem.” At one point he high-kicked over the squat Fry, who spent the set launching himself around the stage like a pinball. Drummer Sean McGuinness pummeled the skins while throwing pieces of banana into the crowd between songs. When someone threw one back, he shoved it down his pants.
Pissed Jeans borrow a lot from fellow pigfuckers The Jesus Lizard, but the influence probably most apparent in Korvette’s stage presence, which was just one exposed penis and a few crowd-surfs shy of a David Yow. He leered, he moped, he ranged about the stage. He stared dead-eyed, he squinted like a furious rodent. The man is a true showman, and it was a blast to watch, even if I had to mosh by myself. (It was hot enough in Barboza that night that even with minor physical contact I managed to sweat about three gallons.) It was only during the last song of the main set, which I couldn’t place as anything other than a squalling din, that a pit got going for real. The band seemed to take this as a sign that they should end the set then and there.
After literally not leaving the stage at all before for the encore, Korvette returned with a set of chains and a bucket. “You know the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well this is the Chain Bucket Challenge. No money is exchanged, it’s just a bunch of chains dumped on your head. Anyone who wants can partake.” (No one did.) As Fry hit the same note over and over again, Korvette said “We’re going to play this perfect note now for as long as necessary. . . There, that was enough,” he continued, as the band slogged into Honeys highlight “Cafeteria Food.”
Korvette wasn’t done yet, though. Holding up a shot glass, he said, “Hey, make sure to stop by the merch booth, we’re even selling Seattle condoms. GET IT?!” He proceeded to launch into a one-man, falsetto bluesy R&B song with the repeated line “I’ve got the Small Dick Seattle bluuuueeessss,” as Huth pounded his bass repeatedly on the ground. An entertaining close to an entertaining night that was all done by ten o’clock.
I really wish Seattle knew how to fucking mosh, though.
Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge, November 2nd
Once in a blue moon, I double book myself. The evening of Pissed Jeans was one where, a short bus ride away, Scottish geniuses The Twilight Sad were performing at the Wonder Ballroom. Because of this, I missed Vexx, and all but two songs performed by Stickers. However, I caught enough of Stickers to know two things: 1) I will absolutely need to see them the next time they perform here, and 2) Saxophone deserves to be respected as a punk instrument, because holy shit, Gabi Page-Fort can play.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Pissed Jeans, but somehow only managed to catch them once before this, at Sub Pop’s Silver Jubilee festival. To get the full Pissed Jeans experience, seeing the band perform is absolutely essential. Recordings cannot capture the bizarre intensity of Mark Korvette, as he stalks the stage, looking like a leather-pantsed, long-lost McPoyle brother. He immediately removes his shirt, and makes grand decrees about segregating the audience into different sections, with all of the straight folks in the back of the room, and only women in the moshpit. Oh, right, before we go any farther: there was a fucking moshpit. Have you been to the Doug Fir? It’s not a room for moshing. And yet, a nice, big, rowdy pit formed down there, and those motherfuckers went apeshit. It was truly spectacular.
Mark Korvette is one of the most spectacular performers on the planet. He howled like a madman, he posed gratuitously for photographers, he went on a long rant about being unmarked by tattoos (“The next time you see a tattoo parlor, you tell it to fuck off!!!” he shouted, pacing the stage frantically). He demanded that all of the most enthusiastic people in the crowd be escorted out of the room, because there’s no point in playing to people you’ve already won over (note: nobody was removed). He squirted a lime in drummer Sean McGuinness’ eye. For the band’s last song, he gave the mic to a shirtless dude in the front row, so he could jump around the room while their lucky fan attempted to scream his way through “Boring Girls”. This is what happens when a band decides that their best mode of attack is to be as totally, remarkably unhinged as they can possibly be. And, if the music were bad, at least they would be playing entertaining shows.
But, that’s the thing: Pissed Jeans are a fucking awesome band. As Gabriel Mathews pointed out in his review above this one, this is a band that pulls a lot of things from the Jesus Lizard, and that’s never a bad thing. These people are entertainers, but they’re also fantastic musicians, and it’s absolutely evident during songs like “Bathroom Laughter” from last year’s Honeys, or the aforementioned “Boring Girls”. These songs are punishingly weird, and masculine to the point of being comical (see: the angular sonic assault of “I’ve Still Got You (Ice Cream)“), but those that make it through the gauntlet of bizarre rants (I’m still waiting for the chance to see the band play Hope for Men deep cut “The Jogger”) come out the other end as exactly the kind of people you’d want to pogo around a 100-degree basement with.