Monday, February 27th 2012
Shows: Dirty Ghosts
Standing onstage at San Francisco’s Brick and Mortar Music Hall last Thursday night for what doubled as a Noise Pop 20 set and the first show of Dirty Ghosts’ four-date mini tour in support of their newly-released debut LP Metal Moon, lead singer and guitarist Allyson Baker and bassist Erin McDermott started off with a bit of comedy to cut the tension in a room that had been buzzing with anticipation through three opening acts.
Breaking into campy Canadian accents, the two Ontario expats introduced the band and the tour, let the crowd know that they would be hearing most of the new album before the evening was over, and wasted little time diving into Pretty Face, a driving song combining a raw early punk rock swagger with an indie rock vibe – a sound that permeates the entirety of Metal Moon.
Next up was album opener Ropes That Way, a Gang of Four-influenced stomping post-punk anthem with Baker (who previously played in Toronto’s Teen Crud Combo and SF’s Parchman Farm) providing catchy, bouncy vocals and muddy guitars that melded with keyboardist and percussionist Nick Andre’s work, yielding an irresistible odd couple that got the normally too-cool-for-school Noise Pop crowd moving.
Shout It In, the band’s first single, followed with its Clash punk/reggae feel. Like many of Dirty Ghosts’ tunes, it was recorded when the band was a two-piece comprised of Baker and her former Parchman Farm bandmate and bassist Carson Binks working over beats created by Baker’s husband Ian Bavitz, better known as hip-hop artist and producer Aesop Rock (Binks left near the end of 2010, and Baker has since been joined by McDermott, Andre and drummer Nick Tuttle).
After cruising through the unmistakably 90’s-tinged No Video, Dirty Ghosts lit up the room with a searing rendition of Katana Rock, driven by relentless beats before Baker left no doubt as to her new band’s intentions to take the rock world by force behind her dirty riffs that conjure images of Slash – only with a more overt punk influence – and her ridiculous pipes.
Beast Size was methodically paced by Tuttle’s drum work that would accelerate from a deliberate tapping into a thunderous outburst of sound, despite Baker introducing the song by noting they were “slowin’ it down.” The ripping 80’s metal-laced guitars of 19 in ‘71 followed, with Baker again erupting into a filthy guitar solo that got the SF crowd hopping.
For set closer Battle Slang, Dirty Ghosts trotted out three female friends to provide backing vocals on this jam that was introduced with the police sirens that accompany it on Metal Moon, as well as Baker’s recognition that this was the band’s “first big show”–a comment that brought cheers from the throngs of friends and fans in audience. Those cheers only grew louder when the band wrapped up its set with a simple “thank you” to the crowd, before they left on the rest of their tour.
Dirty Ghosts’ gig at Brick and Mortar was part of Noise Pop, the San Francisco independent music festival celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2012. Shows ran from February 21st through the 26th, and the lineup included the likes of Built To Spill, Bob Mould, Sleigh Bells, Die Antwoord and the Flaming Lips (who performed their 1998 classic The Soft Bulletin on opening night) at many of San Francisco’s best venues including The Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, The Independent and underground punk club Bottom of the Hill. What started as a one-off show with five bands for five bucks at the Kennel Club (now The Independent) in 1993 has grown into a nearly week-long festival featuring more than 100 bands at 20-plus venues.
Opening for Dirty Ghosts on this, the third night of Noise Pop 20, were Carletta Sue Kay, Chapter 24 and Bare Wires (who continued with the band through the rest of the weekend’s mini tour). Kay’s performance called to mind Mike McCready’s commentary on Andy Wood during the Pearl Jam Twenty; that is, she (well, he) played this tiny club like it was a coliseum, giving a stirringly histrionic vocal performance over a backdrop of fuzzed-out metal-blues guitar riffs. Londoners Chapter 24 are a half-male, half-female post-punk quartet with a brooding and doom-filled sound influenced by bands like The Gits and The Plasmatics (minus that band’s theatrics and a half-naked Wendy O Williams simulating sex acts onstage). The last band to take the stage before Dirty Ghosts, Oakland trio Bare Wires, thrashed through a dirty 70’s-groove-filled set reminiscent of the MC5.
While these three acts each demonstrated rock chops not often found at some of the smaller Noise Pop shows, they were merely priming the pump for Dirty Ghosts, who seem to be enjoying their ride on the rock roller coaster – one which is just beginning to gather steam.
Dirty Ghosts’ mini tour in support of Metal Moon continued Friday night at the Bootleg Bar in Los Angeles, followed by shows on Saturday in San Diego (Bar Pink) and Sunday in Costa Mesa (Detroit Bar). Keep up with the band at their website, Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to check out Antiquiet’s earlier coverage of the band, including their performance at our Axis of Audio show with Consequence of Sound, Rock It Out! Blog, Some Kind of Awesome and TwentyFourBit at last year’s SXSW.
Photo: Misha Vladimirskiy/ButchershopCreative.com