San Francisco band Grass Widow played a benefit show (organized in part by your own Jefe de Tom Tom Ms. Mindy) at Cakeshop’s West Egg borough brother Bruar Falls last weekend for the Willie May Rock Camp for Girls with Querent, Taigaa! and Pterodactyl. Unfortunately I missed Querent, who is Natalja Kent, formerly of The Good Good’s current project but I did catch Taigaa!, whose keyboardist Jee Young Sim becomes more fun to watch every time. And though Brooklyn’s new favorite sons Pterodactyl put on a good show as usual in their reincarnation as a three piece after bassist Zach Lehrhoff’s departure the scene stealer was definitely Grass Widow. Hell yeah Grass Widow!
photo by Brian Krueger
The all women trio features ex-members Hannah Lew and Raven Mahon on bass and guitar from old school SF four piece Shitstorm and drummer Lillian Maring and they gave us an impressive and long set at Bruar Falls. Grass Widow had just embarked on a two-week east coast jaunt and they already sounded tight. The first thing we noticed is how nonchalant they were with their instruments: relaxed but precise, energetic without being too loud. These girls were good. Live their sound was a hypnotic, lulling combination of surfy-sweet singing with interesting, angular rhythm and edgy guitar work thrown in that perhaps reference obscure Portland girl punks Neo Boys, who are purportedly Hannah’s ‘favorite band ever.’ The songs had a lot of turn-on-a-dime melody and tempo changes with drummer Lillian always seemingly effortlessly pulling the band through the twists of Hannah’s intricate and to me, very Slint-y bass structures without losing a beat so to speak. The anchor to Lillian’s drums was the vocals, and the vox duties which were shared all around really completed the overall sensibility. The revival of comparisons to Raincoats/Tiger Trap-esque vocal stylings in reference to the current crop of lady bands are matched only by the revival of twee itself and by now a bit well-worn but let that simply be a testament to the disarming and enduring power of a stripped-down yet saccharine harmony section. Bless you Gina, Ana, Rose and Heather. For me the set stunner was the closer “Rattled Call” which live had Raven’s guitar turned up louder than on the album and was strangely reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane, Sabbath and an almost proggy drum style all topped with those haunting vocal harmonic transitions. It works awesomely, especially as the whole group evokes a sort of 70’s Grace Slick vibe if not in the vox department then at least in Lillian’s kick-ass wavy shag!
Lillian in Seattle
The eponymous album is an addictive listen and just as good as the live show, retaining their cross of spritely pop chops and multilayered post-punk instrumentation. Ps – Raven plays a cool trumpet. By now Grass Widow are almost halfway through their east coast tour with Querent so can you imagine how tight they probably sound? We all bought tee shirts after the show (which also had very nice screens I might add) and I suggest you do the same. But let me say that before you buy any shirts, get thee to a Grass Widow show and throw down some love for their excellent debut 12” out on new Bay Area label Make a Mess. I promise you won’t regret it.
Grass Widow play Friday 6.05 at Don Pedros (90 Manhattan Avenue Brooklyn) and two shows Saturday 6.06: at noon at the Hillstock Music Festival and again at 9pm at Papabubble (380 Broome St NY).
Cathy and MM