Hot on the heels of releasing their debut album Songs Of Praise on Dead Oceans, young South-London post-punkers Shame have been taking the US by storm. Their current run of tour dates, based around a triumphant and much buzzed appearance at SXSW that saw the band tackle nine shows in three days, finds Shame sharing the bill with another highly regarded up and comer, Snail Mail. The solo project of indie singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail is also riding a wave of much deserved praise coming out of SXSW. The tour recently stopped at Cat’s Cradle Back Room in Carrboro NC, and as if we were not excited enough to catch highly regarded newcomers Shame and Snail Mail, the addition of Bat Fangs to the lineup pushed this show into “can’t miss” territory.
When we last caught Bat Fangs, it was in this exact same room back in February. At that time, the duo of Betsy Wright and Laura King were celebrating the release of their self-titled debut on Don Giovanni Records. Now with a run of successful tour dates and a groundswell of support from fans and press alike, Bat Fangs returned home for a bit of a victory lap. This time their fusion of glam-rock guitar riffs, garage rock, and power pop kicked off the evening. With Laura’s drum kit pushed up toward the front edge of the stage, their performance was literally “in your face.” The stage space was a little tight, which may have toned down some of singer/guitarist Betsy Wright’s usual karate kicks, but it didn’t restrict her from delivering Bat Fangs’ hook-laden chords with her usual attitude and gusto. Drummer Laura King matched Betsy’s enthusiasm as she pounded out the beat with a galloping fierceness. Joined by a touring bass player, they ripped through a short but powerful set that culminated in a freewheeling cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me.” Bat Fangs showed that they certainly know how to get a party started in style.
Having bolted out of the gate with a wildly fun Bat Fangs set, Snail Mail was next up as the evening downshifted slightly into a less frenetic, yet every bit as intense, pace. Lindsey Jordan and her bandmates took the stage with a slightly nonchalant coolness. Originally formed as a three-piece, Snail Mail kicked off their set at the Cradle with an expanded lineup that included a fourth member. Regardless of the membership count, Snail Mail is all about Jordan and her poignant, personal lyrics and melodic guitar playing that ranges from shimmering and dream-like to fuzzed out and buzzing, and tonight’s show was no exception. The set was pulled primarily from Snail Mail’s 2016 EP Habit, but with having recently signed to Matador Records and set to release a debut album later this summer, Jordan threw in some new music as well, including an early preview of new single “Pristine.” Despite the more reflective mood, Snail Mail’s performance was captivating, and the crowd was enthralled by Lindsey’s emotional vocal delivery and melodic guitar riffs.
Following the two solid but sonically and emotionally diverse opening sets, Shame stormed the stage to deliver the knock out blow. Lead singer Charlie Steen, dressed in stripped trousers and a camouflage t-shirt casually ambled up to the microphone and urged the crowd to move in and come closer… And then the World exploded! Shame launched into their set with a raw ferocity that caught many in the crowd by surprise. Steen was immediately on the edge of the stage prowling back and forth, leaning out and into the fans at the front. He was a crackling bolt of energy filled with fire and conviction, delivering songs with an Iggy Pop-like swagger and raw power. Not to be outdone, bandmates Sean Coyle-Smith on guitar, Josh Finerty on bass, Eddie Green on guitar, and drummer Charlie Forbes matched the reckless abandon with their own sonic snarl. They played through their setlist, pulled primarily from debut album Songs Of Praise, at a blistering pace. Despite the aggressive sonic assault, the band were more than a dose of youthful aggression. They tempered any hard edges with equal amounts of self-deprecation and cheeky humor especially evident in songs like, “One Rizla,” which starts out with lyrics proclaiming “My nails ain’t manicured.” and “My voice ain’t the best you’ve heard.”
By the end of the 40-odd minute set the bare-chested Charlie Steen, having tossed his shirt earlier in the evening, is bathed in sweat as he meanders through the crowd and makes his way back to the stage. It’s a toss-up which is more of a spent force, the band, or the audience that has been euphorically hands-in-the-air cheering and moshing along. Shame may be a bunch of kids barely out of their teens, but they are playing with a confidence that belies their age. They are already a force to be reckoned with. Catch them in a small venue now while you can. One thing is for certain, with Shame, the kids truly are alright.
Shame + Snail Mail + Bat Fangs @ Cats Cradle Back Room – March 20th 2018