“Fuck Trump! Fuck Pence! Fuck Jeff Sessions! Fuck Betsy DeVos! Fuck Steve Bannon!” Priests vocalist Katie Alice Greer yells, arms stretched high above her head, middle fingers extended. The crowd at Beat Kitchen cheers loudly in agreement. It’s only a couple songs into the band’s set, but even before that explicit statement Priests have already revealed their rebellious spirit. They tear through songs like someone throwing a tantrum, and it is loud and exhilarating and profound and life-affirming. And that’s so very important, especially in these challenging times.
Later in their set, Greer clarifies her position: “Lots of people want to call us a political band, but we’re trying to distance ourselves from that label. I said those things earlier not because it was a political thing to do, but because it was the human thing to do.” Therein lies the power of Priests. Their music connects because it pushes back against the status quo and encourages exploration beyond our current reality. It asks us, with the subtlety of a baseball bat to the side of the head, to wake up from our complacency and fight for the betterment of ourselves and others. Or, summed up in lyrics from their song “Puff”: “My best friend says, ‘I want to start a band called Burger King,’ and I say, ‘Do it! Make your dreams a reality!'” Oh yeah, and they’re funny sometimes too.
The blistering roller coaster ride that is their debut album Nothing Feels Natural becomes amplified to its extreme when rendered in a live setting. Daniele Daniele’s drums pound with the force of a heavyweight prize fighter. G.L. Jaguar’s riffs blur the lines between punk, surf and no wave as he thrashes about like a fish caught on a line. Taylor Mulitz’s bass sneakily weaves through the open spaces in every melody, often lending them a post-punk groove you can dance to. And Greer does dance, not to mention spin, stretch, stomp, jump, kick and punch her way across the stage with the sort of vibrant energy that brings to mind everyone from Iggy Pop to Karen O. Her voice is what sells it though, imbued with the malleability to yell and growl one minute, then achieve a syrupy sweetness the next.
In case it wasn’t already apparent, Priests are confident and forceful. They had everyone at Beat Kitchen completely rapt and at full attention for 50 minutes as they blasted through most of their new record along with an assortment of singles and EP tracks. The cheers got louder and the movement more aggressive as they rocketed toward a fiery conclusion. As the best bands do, they left the crowd wanting more. There’s a certain thrill, the kind that makes just about every hair on your body stand on end, that comes when a band realizes their power and does their best to grow and share that spark with everyone that can hear and see it. Priests are quickly evolving into their best selves, and you’d be foolish not to pay attention.
Opening for Priests were Chicago’s own Blizzard Babies and Detroit’s Stef Chura. While I was unable to make it in time to see Blizzard Babies’ set (though for the record they’re great), Stef Chura managed to deliver a very solid performance that largely pulled from her debut record Messes. While Chura’s garage rock sound feels very familiar on the surface, her fingerpicking style and versatile vocals are wholly unique and remarkably compelling to watch. There’s a rawness about her music too that sometimes exposes a degree of inexperience, but every indication suggests those rough edges will quickly be sanded down the more shows she plays and songs she writes. Keep an eye on her too!