Review: Screaming Females; December 7th, 2009; Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh

Screaming Females

8:31 p.m. on a Monday night. The three members of Screaming Females appeared on stage: Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, Mike Rickenbacker on bass, and Jarrett Dougherty behind the kit. Though it was a sold out show, so far only about half of the attendees had shown up. As I scanned the room I noticed that the crowd was very young looking, mostly in the 15 to 18-year-old range, and all clamoring toward the stage to stake out a good position for the headlining Arctic Monkeys.

At 8:32 p.m., Marissa Patermoster walked up to the mic and proceeded to stun the barely legal crowd with her feline screaming and scorching guitar work. With her Sgt. Pepper-esque dress and bowl-cut hairstyle, the New Brunswick, NJ, native was officially the only screaming female in the band. Unassuming and petite, Patermoster let loose a stunning combination of wailing and Jack White/Jimi Hendrix-inspired guitar playing.

Screaming Females

Screaming Females’ sound is an edgy mix of punk, blues, and even a little heavy metal. Similar concoctions have been tried before, but Females managed to make it sound and look new, thanks to some excellent musicianship and the divergent appearances of each member.

Standing at least 6’4″, Mike Rickenbacker dwarfed the diminutive Patermoster, and the imbalance gave the band an interesting visual dynamic. Rickenbacker played tight bass lines that nicely complimented Patermoster’s furious guitar work, while Jarrett Dougherty’s funky drumming propelled the band and lent a danceable sheen to each song.

Once the initial shock from the opening song “Starving Dog” had worn off, the crowd began to warm to the band. You could see heads turning and people wandering toward the stage with a what-the-hell-is-this look on their faces.

I was one of those people. I had read reviews of their past shows and heard about the band’s tireless touring, which included a staggering 300 shows in 3 years and opening gigs for major acts like Dinosaur Jr. and The Dead Weather. I had even purchased their new album, Power Move, and was familiar with the material. But none of that had prepared me for the intensity Screaming Females brought to the stage.

By the time the band finished their second song “Skull”, a gritty punk song overflowing with epic guitar solos, the crowd had been won over. Led by Patermoster’s captivating playing, Screaming Females tore the place down and left everyone stunned by what they had witnessed: no special lighting effects, no fluff or glamour, just three people with instruments flooring a crowd with some good old-fashioned rock n roll.

By 9:07 p.m., 300 new Screaming Females fans were born.

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