When Screaming Females lead singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster weaved through a herd of people in order to reach the stage on May 25 at the Bishop, many of the bystanders failed to notice. She seemed to be a foot shorter than most, and the eye-catching part of her look was the white guitar case she carried, which was painted to look like a coffin. Even on stage, she barely stood over the height of the crowd.
But when she started to play — without so much as an introduction — her tenacity made her the largest person in the room, with the exception of bassist King Mike, who likely towers over most people he meets.
King Mike, Paternoster and drummer Jarrett Dougherty's chemistry clearly shows that they’ve been doing this since the mid-2000s. On Wednesday, the overdriven low tones of the bass and guitar blended together into one sound that must be a product of years of practice. Screaming Females blanketed the audience with hard rock punch and punk rock vibrancy.
The set began with a brief jam that evolved into “Foul Mouth”, the opening track from 2006’s Baby Teeth. Paternoster repeatedly showcased her pension for nasty guitar licks, and that tousled mop top rarely stayed in one place for more than a moment.
The New Jersey natives released their sixth full-length LP Rose Mountain in early 2015, and Paternoster, King Mike, and Dougherty explored their entire discography in the setlist. By the time the chorus “I Don’t Mind It” began, the crowd was screaming lyrics right back at the lead Screaming Female. A few of the Rose Mountain singles did make it on stage, like “Wishing Well” and later “Ripe”, but the set felt more like a greatest hits compilation. Songs from Baby Teeth, 2007’s What If Someone Is Watching Their T.V.?, 2009’s Power Move, 2010’s Castle Talk and 2012’s iall were included.
Paternoster’s shrill vibrato is much more at
home in packed live setting than on an MP3 ecording, and the crowd knew it. Standing room? What standing room? Well over 100 audience members bounced shoulder-to-shoulder all night, and Paternoster’s unrelenting energy wouldn’t let them disengage for a second.
Well, maybe just for one second. Between the packed house and sweltering May weather, the Bishop became a sauna powered by body heat. After the third song of the set, Paternoster spoke for the first time.
“Usually I just start playing the next song, but it’s real hot,” she said in an unexpected mild timbre.
After the water break, it was time for Paternoster and her guitar to trade screams once again. The Rose Mountain singles teed up “Doom 84," which elicited cheers of recognition as soon as its melody began. The nearly eight minute song gave Paternoster yet another opportunity to blow some minds with her wailing guitar improvisation. She nailed it every time.
When all was screamed and done, a sweat-drenched Paternoster thanked the crowd for enduring the heat and had one request.