Live Concert Photography: Protomartyr with Preoccupations and Rattle at Warsaw 11/28/18

Live Concert Photography: Protomartyr with Preoccupations and Rattle at Warsaw 11/28/18

Currently comprised of Joe Casey (vocals), Greg Ahee (guitar), Alex Leonard (drums) and Scott Davidson (guitar), the Detroit, MI-based punk rock/post-punk act Protomartyr can trace their origins to when Ahee and Leonard began performing together as a duo known as Butt Babies. Casey joined on as a vocalist along with Kevin Boyer (bass, guitar). However, Boyer left the band as a result of scheduling issues with his primary gig. When Davidson joined, the band changed their name to Protomartyr. 

With the release of their first two full-length albums — 2012’s No Passion All Technique, which was released through Urinal Cake Records and 2014’s Under Color of Offciial Right, which was released through Hardly Art Records. Both of these early albums firmly established the band’s sound: a mix of 70s UK post-punk with gritty, Motor City garage rock and proto-punk.  And while some critics have compared their sound to Wire, The Fall, Pere Ubu, Constantines and Iceage, their live sound — to my ears, at least — manages to recall The Stooges. Or in other words, a primal, Neanderthal-like stomp and wail. 

Protomartyr’s third full-length album, 2015’s The Agent Intellect was critically applauded and was featured on the Best of Lists for The A.V. ClubChicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, Spin, Metacritic and Consequence of Sound among others. Adding to a growing national and international profile, the band has played sets at SXSW, CMJ, Pitchfork Music Festival and have toured extensively across the States and Europe. 

Building upon a growing profile,  the band signed to Domino Records last year, who released their fourth full-length album Relatives in Descent. The acclaimed Detroit-based act closed out 2018 with the release of their fifth full-length album Telemetry at Howe Bridge and a co-headlining tour with a co-headling tour with long-time friends Preoccupations. The tour that continues through this month included a November 28, 2018 stop at Warsaw with the Nottingham, UK-based drum and vocal duo Rattle. Check out photos from the show below. 

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Over the past handful of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Canadian post-punk act and JOVM mainstays Preoccupations. And as you may recall, the band which is comprised of Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Mike Wallace (drums), Scott Munro (guitar) and Daniel Christiansen (guitar) initially formed under the name Viet Cong — and by the time their 2014 self-titled full-length debut was released, the members of the band found themselves in the middle of a firestorm centered around cultural appropriation and the usage of terms, names and symbols associated with historical groups and actions that evoke the horrors of war, despotism, authoritarianism, fascism, genocide and the like. Ultimately, the band decided to change their name before the release of their sophomore album — and to re-issue their self titled debut with another name.

Now, as you may recall, the Canadian JOVM mainstays’ third album New Material was released through Jagjaguwar Records earlier this year, and the album further cements the band’s growing reputation for crafting dark and moody post-punk that touches upon themes of anxiety, uncertainty, creation, destruction and futility while being “an ode to depression. To depression and self-sabotage, and looking inward at yourself with extreme hatred,” the band’s Matt Flegel explained in press notes.  

Much like their sophomore album, the band met without having much written or demoed beforehand — and according to the members of the band, it was arguably one of the most collaborative writing sessions they ever had as a band, with the sessions being extremely architectural in nature, as some ideas were  (proverbially speaking) being built up while others were torn down to the support beams.

Initially they didn’t know what the songs were about or where they were going with them, they had resolved to let the material show and not explicitly not tell; however, the writing and recording sessions reportedly led to a reckoning for the band’s Flegel. “Finishing ‘Espionage’ was when I realized. I looked at the rest of the lyrics and realized the magnitude of what was wrong,” says Flegel. In fact, the murky and angular  Manchester/Joy Division-like first single “Espionage,” while being among the most danceable songs they’ve written and released, focuses on a narrator, who has finally become aware of a disturbing penchant for self-sabotage in every aspect of his life. “Antidote,” New Material‘s second single was centered around propulsive, industrial clang and clatter meant to convey a sweaty anxiety; however, the song is actually about how humans forget that they’re walking, talking, shitting animals — animals that have an infinite amount of knowledge within their fingertips but still manage to repeatedly making terrible choices. “Disarray,” the album’s third single was meditative and slow-burning single featuring shimmering guitar chords, an angular and propulsive bass line, organic drumming and boom bap-like drum machine work during the song’s bridge. And while superficially nodding at Turn On the Bright Lights-era Interpol, the song captures something much darker and uncertain — as it was centered around someone, who from their perspective, views everything they’ve ever known to be a lie. The album’s fourth single “Decompose” was an angular and propulsive track that featured twinkling synths, buzzing power chords and an eerie sense of melodicism that underlies the song’s danceable vibe.

Interestingly, their Warsaw set may have been the best set I’ve seen them play this year — the material buzzed with a palpable ferocity with the band concluding the set with an explosive and dramatic ending. 

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Opening the night was the Nottingham, UK-based drum and vocal duo Rattle, comprised of Tez, a member of FISTS and Katy, a member of KOGUMAZA. Sonically speaking, their set brought to mind Ginger Baker, John Bonham and the like — reminding listeners that the drum is a powerful  instrument that can induce a trance-like state. 

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For these photos and more check out the Flickr set here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmxdVwk7

Interestingly, their Warsaw set may have been the best set I’ve seen them play this year — the material buzzed with a palpable ferocity with the band concluding the set with an explosive and dramatic ending. 

IMG_0390 IMG_0320 IMG_0340 IMG_0422 IMG_0436 IMG_0481 IMG_0515 IMG_0503 IMG_0512 IMG_0514

Opening the night was the Nottingham, UK-based drum and vocal duo Rattle, comprised of Tez, a member of FISTS and Katy, a member of KOGUMAZA. Sonically speaking, their set brought to mind Ginger Baker, John Bonham and the like — reminding listeners that the drum is a powerful  instrument that can induce a trance-like state. 

IMG_0002 IMG_0012 IMG_0013 IMG_0026 IMG_0040 IMG_0046 IMG_0049 IMG_0055 IMG_0079 IMG_0103 IMG_0165 IMG_0203

For these photos and more check out the Flickr set here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmxdVwk7

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