18 July 2012
In The Lab’s basement-sea, there we were: blasted adrift by the real American Punk Band™, Slut River. Sandwiched between my sweaty shipmates--all of whom were chugging some soft brew by family Pabst or Hamm--I sipped champagne from a bottle’s neck, damning my finicky gluten intolerance for accentuating what may be perceived by others as a loathsome economic disparity. Rest assured, dear reader, I was not claiming the mantle of “captain” with my choice of beverage that fateful night. Like my associates, I was and will only ever be a deckhand, albeit one who feels a slight tightening of throat and tummy when imbibing beer. Thus, I include this minor detail only to be forthright in my daintiness--the sad fact of my dietary weakness will only reinforce the absolute truth of this tale--and to draw your attention to the vessel which occupied my hand that glorious eve.
Indeed, it was that very bottle of Cook’s finest brut which lent me portal to a most powerful vision. With each tip of that green glass-canteen to my lips, I imagined it filled with this scene in miniature, thereby replacing its ever-diminishing libation: the unrestrained, graceful power of the band, the crowd’s smiling faces and pumping fists, every one of us drawing the ship’s sails to ride the winds of sonic-camaraderie. If only I could freeze this joy in time! Capture forever our collective excitement at those fierce tides which jostled us mercilessly. After all, we did not come here for mercy; we came for thrills, and thrills we received. These are the very thrills you, dear reader, will be presented with when Slut River plays Total Fest XII. I promise.
But I realize I have provided you with very few details regarding the sounds experienced by myself and the other attendees of this most excellent show, instead focussing on the experience itself. For this I apologize, and will now slip out of the stupid character I created above to reward you with some musical cartography. To these ears, Slut River combines my favorite elements of Los Angeles’ storied punk milieu--in particular, that of the early 80s--without appearing anachronistic. Sure, it’s a throwback, but a welcome and extremely well executed one that feels resolutely modern. Their songs have the scrappy intensity of pre-Rollins Black Flag, but never fall neatly into straight up “hardcore”--there’s always that skewed, Ginn-esque take on rock guitar that keeps things from feeling too by-the-numbers (it helps to have an incredible front-woman and rhythm section, too). In an interview with Noisey, singer Anna McDermott nicely summed Slut River up as “ripping loose, not giving a fuck, and probably looking as unattractive as possible,” which is awesome, because being ugly and having fun is awesome--especially when there are awesome tunes to be ugly to. I anticipate about thirty minutes of unparalleled, gleeful ugliness when Slut River returns to Missoula in August.