Bottom of the Hill
April 8, 2023
Photos by Tyler King
Screaming Females is a band that I’ve been a fan of for nearly a decade, but have missed every headlining appearance of theirs for various reasons ever since familiarizing myself with the band. I knew that I couldn’t make that mistake following the release of their latest album, Desire Pathway. They brought their tour in support of the album to the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, their first headlining show in the Bay Area since the COVID pandemic, and it was a packed house.
Taking the stage around 10pm and setting up their gear themselves, there was a casualness to the atmosphere that was soon replaced with controlled frenzy as the band launched into “Glass House,” the opening song on their 2018 album All At Once. The audience was in the grip of front-woman/guitarist Marissa Paternoster, screaming back at her during the closing coda of the song, “My life in this glass house / Impossible to get out.”
The twelve songs that followed gave only a few rare instances for the band to let up, as the band played mostly blistering, fast-paced songs like “Ripe” and “Tell Me No.” Even the more restrained songs, like “Wishing Well” and “It’s All Said And Done,” were given a harder edge during their live performances. One of the things I noticed by following the setlists for the band’s tour is that it changes night after night, so I was always guessing what song that band was going to play next.
A lot can be said about Marissa Paternoster and her shaky vocals and fierce guitar solos, but I think that equal attention should be given to the rhythm section of King Mike on bass and Jarrett Daugherty on drums. With the band maintaining the same line-up over eighteen years, all three members are perfectly locked in together, with Mike and Jarrett able to hold down a breakneck rhythm while Marissa shreds away. This tightness was most evident during the last song of the main set, the nearly eight-minute long “Doom 84.” The song saw the band stopping and starting frequently throughout the course of playing it, the audience seemingly never knowing when exactly it was going to end. Once it did and the band started walking off of the stage, the crowd was already shouting for an encore.
And an encore there was. The three musicians came back onstage, played “Desert Train,” and then Marissa and Mike began turning off their amps and tearing down their rigs. But the audience hadn’t had enough, “One more song! One more song!” being shouted at the stage. Mike looked at Marissa and mouthed the name of a song. She shrugged and nodded in agreement. “We usually only do one song as an encore,” she told the now calmed crowd before singing “I’ll make you sorry” over Mike’s bass and Jarrett’s hi-hats, the song eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. Marissa soon launched into the song with the other two band members, the song acting as the perfect ending to a show that had me grinning from ear to ear for the duration of it. I won’t make the mistake of missing Screaming Females again. Neither should you.
Los Angeles punk outfit Smirk opened the show with an invigorating set. I had heard their latest album, Material, earlier this year and wasn’t particularly impressed by it, so color me surprised when they put on a fantastic opening set. Starting out as a solo project by front-man/guitarist Nick Vicario, the music leaned a bit more into post-punk than straight-ahead punk, with Nick occasionally slamming on his Boss Delay pedal to create sharp sustained textures. Their opening set was a treat.
Following was another Los Angeles punk band, Generación Suicida. I have one of their albums and was casually familiar with some of their catalogue, but I feel even a hardcore fan would be pressed to have named all seventeen songs that they powered through over the course of 35 minutes. You read that right. Seventeen songs. While I enjoyed the frenzied energy and impressively fast drumming of Kiwi Martinez, I do feel like the lack of spacing between most of their songs made a lot of their material bleed together.