Ought with Flasher @ the Entry!Mar 31, 2018
Ought had been on tour for 24 days when I caught them at the 7th St. Entry on Friday. They had been in Winnipeg the night before, at the Good Will Social Club some 700 miles north.
They had a hundred reasons to sound exhausted. By the time they took the stage at 10pm, it had already started snowing outside, and I cringe thinking they had to take on 3-4 inches the next day for their Saturday night performance in Madison… Fortunately, the band was as alive in Minneapolis as ever.
Flasher, on tour with Ought since their Arizona show, is a punk trio from D.C. who hadn’t been to First Ave before opening that Friday.
They sound like something you already know from somewhere; you recognize the driving bass, woozy guitar and searing drums from other contemporary punk groups like Downtown Boys and Sheer Mag, but you probably haven’t heard it all together like this before. You certainly haven’t seen it before; Bassist Taylor Mulitz (you know him from Priests) made it nearly impossible to sit back and enjoy the music with his demanding visual presence. Audience members were leaning forward in their barstools and stomping their feet for Mulitz’s clenched smile, his bouncing shoulders and eyebrows that leaped from his forehead every time he made performer-viewer eye contact.
Four or five songs in, guitarist Daniel Saperstein introduced the song “Winnie.”
“Like Winnie the Pooh,” Saperstein said. “But not. There’s a town in Texas called Winnie. If you ever watch the news.”
Flasher released “Winnie” on a 7” last year with “Burn Blue.” In a press release afterward, the band said they wrote the song from a motel in the Texas town after a May 2016 plane crash over the Mediterranean Sea. Lyrics came from two different TV perspectives, the press release said—CNN’s "pontificating pundits” and “ecstatic sale pitches” from pharmaceutical ads.
The song’s refrain, “these feet want to keep the beat moving,” comes from a diabetes medication commercial, the press release said.
Much like Ought, who released the similarly caustic “Disgraced in America” earlier this year, Flasher balances politically relevant tunes with stuff more relatable and angsty, like “Make Out” and “Erase Myself.”
There wasn’t much of an intermission between the two bands—almost immediately after Flasher’s last song, Ought emerged from back stage. Even as they were just setting up, people were migrating in mobs to the front. As the band sound checked, viewers were captivated by Tim Darcy’s lofty vocals and Matt May’s tight, chirpy keys.
“You’re seeing the process,” Darcy told the audience. This was after joking a soundcheck medley of “These Three Things,” “Disgraced in America” and “Beautiful Blue Sky” was the whole show.
As it is with seeing any band live, as soon as the show started I realized I’ve been missing a key dimension to Ought’s music. Something clicked for me while watching Darcy throw his head back and sing with a mouth so wide open, audience members could surely see his molars from the back of the room. Directly under the stage, I could see the muscles emerging from his neck as he wailed during especially powerful songs, like “Desire,” and he seemed to light up when taking on a preachy persona for mock-didactic pieces like “Disgraced in America,” during which he wagged his finger at random viewers around the room.
Despite being on the tour for almost a month now, Ought was so engaged with their audience it felt like the first night. The audience was just as engaged in return—you would not believe how many people were singing along to tracks hot off the press from Room Inside the World, which just came out last month. That, and people could not stop moving! Even people sitting down were tapping their fingers along the bar counter and bobbing their heads to those bright cymbals and that commanding bass.
And, news flash—“Beautiful Blue Sky” is a banger.
“If you came here to get down,” Darcy said, casually adjusting his mic, “this is your opportunity.”
Photos by Trevor Squire and Sylvia Jennings