Earlier this month, Screaming Females released Singles Too, the first complete collection of the band’s non-album recordings. The record spans their 10+ year career, bringing together singles and covers from their earliest to most recent recordings. The album shows the band’s range, and also celebrates the imperfections that make Screaming Females the band that they are. While assembling songs for Singles Too, Paternoster wanted to “crawl into a hole and die” listening to mistakes in her guitar parts on the band’s first singles.
But without these quirks, Screaming Females wouldn’t be the band that they are today. At the heart of their playing is an energy so visceral and unhinged that it can’t be captured in an overdubbed, sanitized recording. These songs shine on Singles Too as a time capsule of the band’s growth, and Screaming Females brought them to Minneapolis on Friday night at the Fine Line.
Minneapolis four-piece Constant Insult opened the night. Guitarists Katie Thornton and Will Olson tossed vocals back and forth to each other like a round of ping-pong, and the band barreled through energetic rock songs with tight hooks to warm up the crowd.
People were still milling into the Fine Line before Scrunchies’ set, but once the band stepped on stage, the Minneapolis trio had everyone’s full attention. Guitarist/vocalist Laura Larson and drummer Danielle Cusack are both seasoned performers, having played in local bands like Tony Peachka, Bruise Violet and Kitten Forever, and the band brought their confident, fiery energy to the Fine Line. I spent most of the set transfixed by Cusack as she tore through her drum kit, while somehow also singing backup vocals. Scrunchies also brought out new bassist Matt Castore for his first show with the band.
Next up was Dusk, who are joining Screaming Females on tour from Appleton, WI. The band formed a huddle near the front of the stage with two guitars, bass, keys, and a stripped-down drum set. In a phrase, I would describe Dusk’s sound as “retro pop with a modern Midwestern flair” — the band pulled influence from rock to country, even bringing out a pedal steel for some glistening solos. Dusk seems to have no apparent front-person — they shared lead vocals, and each singer showed off the influences that they add to the band’s musical melting pot. At the end of their set, Dusk brought out Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster for a cover of Aerosmith’s “Cryin'” that featured a scorching guitar solo from Paternoser and some harmonica shredding from Dusk’s Julia Blair.
By the time that Screaming Females took the stage, the Fine Line was packed with bodies ready to sing and mosh to the band’s volatile rock. Singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster, bassist Mike Abbate, and drummer Jarrett Dougherty stepped onstage to enthusiastic applause, and it only took a few songs before a mosh pit broke out in front of the stage during “Leave It All Up To Me.”
In between verses, Paternoster wailed on her guitar, ripping through speedy pentatonic solos, all while keeping a cool, stony expression. She wandered around the stage and would step up to its edge, staring with a resolved calm into a sea of crashing bodies, all while her fingers were flying up and down the fretboard.
The trio played through songs off of Singles Too, as well as a few favorites from their more recent albums, like All at Once’s “Glass House.” The crowd sang along with Paternoster as she growled through the line, “You always control me” in her unmistakable vibrato.
I have to admit, I’m not much of a mosher. As a hardcore introvert who feels at home in the timidly polite (albeit passive aggressive) Midwest, the idea of voluntarily hurling my body against a bunch of strangers terrifies me. I shuffled back from my spot in the crowd to avoid the churning pit, and gazed at the band to watch how each crash cymbal and guitar bend sent ripples through the crowd.
Many of Screaming Females’ songs address a feeling of loneliness or isolation. Paternoster sings about being trapped in a glass house and feeling controlled, and on “Black Moon” remarks, “We all dream alone.” While listening to that line, my eyes darted back and forth from the stage to the pit. We may all dream alone, but Screaming Females are creating spaces for us to come together — whether moshing, head-banging, or gazing at the stage — and experience something communal.