I was supposed to catch Detroit’s Protomartyr a couple of years back when they were supporting Parquet Courts at the fabled Horseshoe Tavern but other circumstances prevented that date from happening.
So it was comforting that frontman Joe Casey dressed up for our rain-check date. With a belly full of Thanksgiving dinner, I made my way down to a surprisingly sparse Horseshoe in time to check out a band that previously never penetrated my ears. The buzz of these garage post-punks had my curiosity piqued. It was with eager ears I approached the gig ready to be impressed.
With their recently released album, the critically acclaimed The Agent Intellect, the four-piece delivered 50 minutes of blistering post-punk, re-calling so many influences, yet making those influences their own making it difficult to pinpoint the exact influence. Early Cure or Warsaw-era Joy Division meets the Stooges swirled around my head but I’m not sure that gets it right.
Casey is my new favourite frontman. Donning the only suit on stage, he was the perfect mix of detached (picking lint off his suit, the yawns, the clutching the mic for dear life) and really feeling it (the man exuded Johnny Rotten-style passion). Drinking an impressive numbers of beers over the course of their 50 minutes, he channeled the lovechild of Mark E. Smith and Iggy Pop. If he was sleazier, he’d be a used car salesman, but tonight he comes across as solitary drunken thinker, thinking out loud.
The rest of the band all sounded great – tight and perfectly mixed, inspiring the noticeable rise in temperature of the room. The band hit the throttle right from the get go and never let off the gas with an impressively energetic set that did their hometown proud, particularly the home stretch, most notably the third-last and second-last songs of the set.
Call it a case of turkey-ennui, but more people should have seen that gig or simply were too stuffed to really “enjoy” the show. Whatever it was, at the rate these guys are playing and churning out albums, nights at the Horseshoe are soon to become a thing of the past.