Sad Girl Justice

What was your chatroom username back in the day? Maybe you went with a super chill CODchick123, or perhaps a more badass Sk8erboiAnarchy365

In the case of this sugar-punk rock group, it’s Sad13.

It’s December 2nd and Sad13 of the band Speedy Ortiz, (previously hosted by Pressuredrop.tv http://pressuredrop.tv/artists/speedy-ortiz), is about to perform their livestream in the “Secret Bunker.”

Pressure drop.tv is an unconventional music organization that finds new and original artists to livestream in offbeat places — specifically chosen for the artist’s sound.

The creator of Sad13, Sadie Dupuis — rocking glitter eyeshadow and big hair scrunchies on her wrist — begins the set with mistakes. She cues the computer beat and out comes a brief — Boom Bah CUT. She apologizes and jokes, “That was our first song.” She tries again — Boom Bah CUT — the same musical mishap, twice. “That was our second song.” The other members are relaxed, they seem unfazed and chuckle at the singer. If “three times a charm” has any validity at all, this should be the try that triggers the music.

And it does! The song erupts in an upbeat melody while Sadie claps her hands into the mic and loops the sound. I immediately think to dub their music “pop,” but that would be selling it short. The song is intriguing in the way that it moves and transforms. It oscillates between happy and predictable then dips down to a sharp, uncomfortable center — like a lollipop from one too many licks.

Dupuis’s ultra-girly voice is susceptible to flashes of hysteria, the guitar unabashedly scratches away at discordant riffs, and the lyrics fearlessly drop this sort of message:

I say yes to the dress when I put it on/ I say yes if I want you to take it off.”

And

“You still wanna lick my asshole, man.”

There’s no mistaking Sad13 for your typical top 40 pop-band.

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The easy-on-the-ears synth guitar and sickly sweet vocals gives the music a sort of “I want to be popular, pretty, glamorous and wanted,” feel. But it seems things always go amuck; the drums have a thrash attack, the synth gets bitter and spits at your ears, that pretty-girl voice convulses and the whole damn facade falls apart.

No one ever said being yourself was easy, and Sad13 is musical proof of that.

The bunker is decked out with dangling, dim lights, colorful streamers and dark punk posters on the walls; there couldn’t be a set more fitting for this band. As I watch them play, I can’t help but feel I’m witnessing a bunch of prom queens toss out their tiaras and go completely mad together, in the privacy of their basement hangout spot.

It’s almost like they are performing their diaries — maybe in some alternate reality, to avoid people’s stares. I take a look at the guitarist sporting some VR looking sunglasses and my hypothesis feels even more concrete. 

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They may be regular, fleshy humans, chalk full of normalities in real life, but when they are united, they are a k(l)ickass team of chatroom super heroes, using their instruments of choice to fight for sad girl justice.

Their livestream is short and sweet, just 20 minutes, but they get their point across — Don’t mess with my heart or my head, I’m not what you expect.

“Thank you,” the lead singer squeals delightedly. “Sad13. So happy! So tacos!” They all laugh with some sort of taco-fueled, superhero wisdom and strip themselves of their weapons.

The Witch of The Shipping Container Garden

It’s Tuesday, December 13th and Shannon Lay of Feels — a punked out girl group that Pressuredrop.tv hosted last October http://pressuredrop.tv/artists/feels — is about to perform her solo set.

Pressuredrop.tv is an unconventional music company based in San Francisco that handpicks new and original artists to livestream in offbeat spots, specifically chosen for the group’s feel and style — giving the online audience a musical viewing experience unlike any other.

For Shannon’s performance, they decided on a tiny, seemingly claustrophobic shipping container previously used for a Tarzan Movie promotional video; a miniature jungle awaiting the arrival of one musical mamma-jamma. It wasn’t exactly a cakewalk getting up there, either.

The container sits upon another container, which Shannon and just two camera people had to scramble up to get to. And even then, the space was too cramped for all three of them, so she performed the entire set alone inside while the stream was recorded by the camera, outside.


“Hello, I’m Shannon. I’m gonna play some music today,” she says. And with a quirky, if not completely sarcastic smile: “Let’s have some fun!”

She begins her first song with a melodic finger-picking progression, which she layers with high-pitched scales; almost reminiscent of chiming clocks in a big, echoey building. The camera captures her feet, revealing the pedals she’s working to loop the sounds.

She takes me on a sweet, wonderland type guitar journey, through lush greenery and twinkling lights, when all of a sudden her voice makes its entrance.

It is clear, but soft, relaxing but intriguing, heavy but light — all at the same time.

Like bubbles of air floating towards the surface of the water.

Her eyes stay closed. I can see the muscles in her forehead creasing, contorting from the emotional response to whatever is happening behind her shut lids.

It’s hard to decipher all of the lyrics, through the dense reverb clinging to the sounds.

“I think I’ll just stay here in my garden / The flowers are all weeds / There’s no fruit on the trees / But it suits me just fine.”

As I listen, I feel like a wide-eyed child in an enchanted forest, sitting legs crossed, looking up at a Cantadora, an oral storyteller.

The shots taken by the camera fade in and out: her fingers, her black boots, the concentration playing across her face — an artist, lost in her own spinning performance.  

*Abrupt and loud SCREEEEECH*

I am snapped back to reality at the end of each song, when she slides her capo in preparation for the next, the amps still buzzing.

But not to fret, (pun absolutely intended), as soon as I think I’ve been robbed of sound-canal euphoria, I am lulled back into my awe-stricken, childlike daze as the music begins again.

“This song is for everyone going through a tough time right now because it’s been a hectic year. It’s called ‘Life going down.’ It’s about the wonder that we keep going and still do it. I’m proud of all of you,” She declares kindly.

At first, I couldn’t help but think her appearance versus her music was somewhat contradictory.

She rocks a slap of red locks with the sides of her head shaved, cat-like black eyeliner, a septum piercing, some funky pants and kick-ass boots. A statement, for sure.

Her solo music, on the other hand seemed just the opposite: soft, slow, calculated, well kempt, almost shy at times.

But as the set progressed, I realized it wasn’t a contrast at all — it was perfectly fitting — she’s a goddamn steampunk fairy queen!

“This song’s about a witch,” she says.
(Or she’s a witch. Either works).

There are mirrors set up behind her in the container, making the space look less claustrophobic than I initially anticipated and more personal, like I’m right there with her. I can’t help but tumble into those mirrors as her lyrics lead me to visions of a steampunk, fairy, queen, witch-woman composing in her garden and effortlessly plucking at the heartstrings of music lovers like me.

“The things that fear can do,” the last lines from the bruja tune, descending like a broomstick from the sky.

“Two and a half more songs! Thanks for watching, This is awesome. Oh! There are trees in here — crazy,” She chuckles.
  

It suddenly dawns on me why, perhaps, Pressuredrop.tv chose this unusual location for Shannon: although her music is not on the soundtrack of the new Tarzan movie, it could very easily be used in another film with similar scenery.

Throughout my listening experience, her soundscape triggered rich imagery, complete in its earthiness.

“Have a good day, wherever you are,” she peeps into the mic and proceeds to play the half of the “two and a half songs” reference earlier — a short and hypnotic guitar progression to end an all around magical set.

“Thanks so much, stay safe, hang in there, guys!” She finally looks up with a big, witchy grin, right into the lens.



Lovin’ the Taste of #TerryMaltsLive

The warehouse of Timbuk2 is big and open with natural light tossing itself in through the abundance of windows.

On the wall I notice a painting of a giant flower: kaleidoscopic, multicolored and sharp-edged, much like the group performing in front of it.

Once the band gear was locked, loaded and ready to fire — Terry Malts was given the green light.

Their first song, “Come to Find You,” begins with Nathan Sweatt, the group’s drummer, walloping a heavy beat on the tom and snare — I feel my heart thudding along to the dense and energetic intro. Next, a high pitched scream from the guitar of Correy Cunningham; the sound gradually falls and lands on a tight, fast rhythm. And finally, the thumping of bass, accompanied by Phil Benson opening his mouth to release a deep ripple of vocal vibrato.

As the noise increases, I notice a curious outsider cupping their hands around their eyes and pressing their face against the window to get a glimpse of what in the hell this glorious event is all about.

I’ll let you in on the secret: It’s about the camera capturing a parade of picks on the string’s taut, shifting rhythms, Benson smiling casually because – let’s face it – these guys are so on point with their sound! They play with an effortlessness that only comes from hours of painstaking practice in a room together. A repetition of the lyrics “I’m neurotic,” finds a snug place in your brain to hang out for awhile.

How do these musical blokes distinguish themselves from all the other musical blokes? In the case of Terry Malts, it’s definitely their ability to conjure the right bit of mania in that screeching guitar and rolling drum, but also to hold it down low for an easy listening experience by the recumbent croon of Phil Benson’s voice.

The crowd cheers after each song, but the group seems to pay no mind and jumps face-first into the next jam — that, right there, is true musical comfort. With their upbeat, accessible rhythms and elevating melodies, it isn’t hard to imagine Terry Malt’s audience rallying their lovin’ bones to these tunes.

The group performs their song “Gentle Eyes,” and their lyrics, “I know I’m hard to read / at times I’m cold as ice / but when you’ve had enough / you still give me gentle eyes,” bring about the sensation of purity and taintedness — like even if I’m not exactly a perfectly shiny person, you’ll still dig me. A spanking of splendid, if you will. This moves you even further into the uniquely boisterous, punked-out, heart-wrenching style that is Terry Malts.

“…Blink of an eye and the curtains close…”

When they finally take a moment to stop playing music, the band says something jokey about cat piss and then nonchalantly moves on to admit to their lack of presence in the last few years. Guitarist, Cunningham, claims, “#TerryMaltsLive — We’re not dead, we’re alive!” They all have a quick laugh, then dive back into it, almost ironically, with the beginning lyrics “I’m no good for you.”

As the music plays on and the time starts running out, I say a silent prayer that it won’t. The fresh environment and lo-fi, poppy sounds have me wanting more. Not only is the music fun and addicting, the setting itself is just as enticing.

But alas, all good things (shouldn’t) come to an end.

They complete their live set with “I Could Be Happy,” a very fitting Altered Image cover. The lead singer wipes the well-deserved sweat from his brow and tosses a “That’s all she wrote” at the crowd before walking away. 

…But that’s not entirely true. “Terry Malts” has heaps of music waiting to bless your ears. After this treat of a performance, you know you want to check out the rest. Oh! and be sure to follow — #TerryMaltsLive.