April 20, 2013
The girl with pink hair is in the opening band. Later, she will sing and writhe on the stage. Her red microphone cord will be wrapped around her head and neck so tight that it will leave marks. But right now the couple working the door don’t know who she is. The are taking tickets and checking identification. They either don’t recognize her or don’t believe her when she tells them she’s performing. “I can show you my ID,” she says, “If I have to.” They tell her that, yes, that would be good. The girl with pink hair opens her pocket book and the couple at the door check a sheet of paper and wave her through. The couple at the door are with the company that is promoting the show.
I am embarrassed for the girl with pink hair, but I’m not here to write about her—even though I believe her band, Hunters, could be “the next big thing” if it weren’t opening up for the band that is becoming the next big thing: Bleached. Bleached is Jennifer and Jessie Clavin. Two sisters from Southern California who, from the sound of their latest record, Ride Your Heart, cut their teeth on bands ranging from the Misfits, and the Slits, to Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, and the Cars. The power-pop sound of Ride Your Heart has been garnering widespread praise from the major (and the minor) music magazines and websites, and their SXSW performances generated a positive buzz that has helped propel them on this tour. Tonight’s stop in Dallas is the second leg on a list of cities that tracks from the southwest to the east coast and midwest before heading back to home territory.
Club Dada is a venue well suited for punk, and power-pop acts: plenty of room for movement, a bar at one end, and better-than-expected sound system. Across the street is Trees, a larger music venue that also has a show tonight. At Trees the line to gain entrance weaves its way down the street and around the corner. At Dada, there is no wait. I don’t know who’s playing at Trees, but I’m surprised at the lack of crowd at Dada.
When Hunters take the stage the crowd is nowhere near capacity, and it will not grow much as the night goes on. But the crowd that has formed a semi circle that presses up against the stage is fully participatory. A young man standing near me has yet to stop moving. He is still a teenager and when he dances he is all hair and flying elbows. He moves with a kind of abandon and freedom reserved for the young or the very old—those who have not yet been affected by the cynical nature of life in a crowd, or those too aged to care anymore. I am more than a little jealous. I want to move like him, feel free like him when he whips his hair in circles or doesn’t care when he steps on my feet. But I am content to nod my head to the bass line and take photographs.
Isabel Almeida—the girl with pink hair—convulses on stage as Derek Walson shreds distorted sounds from his guitar. Initially her movements—the flopping, pulling at her shirt, lying across monitors—seem like an act. But as the show goes on it’s clear that she lives her actions. She is trying to inhibit and become the noise rock she and her band produce. Derek and Isabel trade off on lyric duty, and on songs like “Noisy Bitch” engage in a passionate call and response. At the end of their set, an impromptu mosh pit breaks out with Isabel the leading culprit and actor; and all the while she kept singing.
There is more sun than sneer in Bleached’s live performance. The band bops around on stage with an air of joy: they like what they’re doing. They respect the work they’ve put into writing and playing these songs. When Jennifer Clavin tells the crowd “You guys rock so fucking hard,” she means it. Her words and actions are sincere without being sentimental. It says something about Bleached that some of their strongest support tonight comes from bearded men in frayed jean jackets, with tattoos and chains. These men pump their fists, bang their heads, and seem to know every word to every song. The join in on “Waiting By The Telephone,” a driving call for a lover’s attention: “waiting by the telephone/waiting for you to call/it shouldn’t take this long…” The aesthetic of unaffected punk cool has gone out of style for this show. No one is embarrassed to sing “I’ll keep on living for that dead boy that I love,” the refrain from “Dead Boy.” No one is shamed when the song “Electric Chair” is dedicated to the whole audience.
There was something carnal about tonight’s show. It was fast, loud, and sweaty, and still, ultimately, satisfying. After, both Bleached and Hunters milled about the club. A few fans stopped by to chat, but most just went on their way, content with the experience and sure to tell all their friends.