Just last month I was told about a band called Religious Girls from the East Bay in California. I checked out their MySpace page & thought they were pretty good, forgot about them for one reason or another but later learned they would be playing a dirt cheap show here in the city. I had to check it out.
After one show I had to check out another. They are like Noise done right or like Animal Collective on Peyote & PCP. I went to the first show last Thursday; it was hosted by The Tower 102.5 FM an up & coming college radio station here in SF--who did a great job by the way--@ Sub-Mission. The second was Friday--yes, the very next night--@ El Rincon.
They start off sound checking just like any other band--w/ the addition of one member providing grease paint to the others--& slowly it starts to come together. Even after seeing these guys two nights in a row I'm still unsure how much is actually sound check versus a planned transition from chaos to harmony to harmonious chaos. Soon enough the legion of floor toms sets off the inductees in convulsive dance & as quickly as it starts it stops, & so to do the fans. Religious Girls control the crowd like a skilled puppeteer. It's clear many of the inductees are only paying attention to massive noise of so much percussion & chants, oblivious to the the well weaved textures & atmosphere this band creates. It's easy to get lost in so much adrenaline; it's easy to lose your sight & speak in tongues. But for me seeing a band live is so much about getting a better understanding of the nuances of their music & never has any band made me enjoy the turning of knobs & the pushing of buttons like this; never have two players of the same simple arpeggiation back & forth put me in such a frenzy; never has affected voices surprised me so & made me think "that sound isn't a sample, but that guy right there." The followers are so devoted they seem to become part of the show, from the knocking over instruments to catching them before they hit the ground, to make-shift mic-stands, to the visuals of crowd surfing--which I generally find more annoying than entertaining--to the lifting of Dylan into the crowd as he plays his who-knows-what. It could be argued that these fans are part of Religious Girls. The shows are indoctrination & baptism comes by paint. During the end of the second to the last song Nick passes out paint and dishes a fair amount on to his drum set. By this time Guy has already moved into the audience & Dylan has come back to solid ground. As paint is laid down on a floor tom in the middle of the audience, a small young lady--maybe even a 16 year old w/ a fake--says, you might wanna move or you'll ruin your suit. I position her in front of me which seems well received. Band members take paint from their instruments & smudge the faces of the crowd. The girl in front of me reaches in herself, turns to me & marks my left cheek. I remember falling in love w/ Ester on a train, two marks on her cheek, looking like a pale stick indian. (I'll do something for the first one to call that reference, I'm not sure what, but something.) She turns back around just before high-hats quite everyone down. Drums come in & the room is rocking again waiting for what's to come. The music breaks & the band howls a chant to the heavens, the roof disappears & it's not long before everyone is involved in this call & response between floor toms & chanting. Nick has also moved into the crowed favoring an arched back posture as he holds his mic to the followers. Howling, slamming, paint splattering, we are taken to another plain, a new kind of high, this sort of peace from momentum; we are all Religious Girls.
When it's over you are happy, you are connected to everyone & everything, faith in humanity is restored, & you can't help but smile @ everyone you see & they can't help but smile back because you know something that they know & you both know that not everyone knows what you now share.
After both shows I made contact w/ members--both very nice--& hopefully I will be doing a proper review of their EP in the near future. Religious Girls' next show is on the 26th of September @ The Plea for Peace Center in Stockton, California.
Photo Credit: © Collin Sensesenbaugh