Corin Tucker squinted a bit before apologizing to the audience.
It was a brief moment that would have gone by relatively unnoticed if she didn’t make such a point about the feedback she caused when kneeling down for a sip of water from a bottle resting on the stage floor in front of her. The microphone’s proximity to her monitor caused the short-lived, piercing sound.
Tucker explained she wasn’t used to holding a microphone in her “other band” because she’s used to playing her guitar when singing. Even as a seasoned veteran of the “riot grrrl” rock trio Sleater-Kinney, she’s ready to admit she has a lot to learn.
Tucker was very much the front and center of Filthy Friends, a newly-minted rock supergroup which made quick work of dazzling the audience during their sold-out out show at The Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.
The band boasts a stunning pedigree. In addition to Tucker, the self-described-tongue-in-cheek “David Bowie cover band” includes iconic R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, Kurt Bloch (The Fastbacks, The Minus 5), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, The Minus 5), and Linda Pitmon (Steve Wynn and The Miracle 3, The Baseball Project). Add album drummer Bill Rieflin (Ministry, King Crimson) with the occasional appearance of Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic and it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by this group of musicians.
And yet, this supergroup smacks of hungry musicians who greatly enjoy their bandmate’s presence. The quintet displayed a rich exuberance as they powered through songs off Invitation, their album which they released mere weeks ago.
Filthy Friends have not been on a full-fledged tour; rather, this primarily Pacific Northwest contingent has done just a handful of performances.
The evening provided Tucker an opportunity to take the lead while Buck hunkered down on stage left to effortlessly churn out his singular sound that defined R.E.M.
While Buck was clearly locked in, his poker-faced expression set him somewhat apart from the conviviality especially evident between bassist Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch’s vivacious guitar acrobatics. Bloch mischievously paced the stage, both feeding back into his amplifier and sputtering off Pete Townsend helicopters throughout the night.
Linda Pitmon’s drumming held down the rhythm tightly. While not immediately evident, Pitmon’s percussion and McCaughey’s bass make for a sinewy rhythm section.
Underneath the vibrancy of their live performance exists an album both raw and catchy, anchored by extremely political songs. “The whitest jock on this land is about to disappear,” sings Tucker on their song “Despierta” which leads off their album. “Holding on to the past won’t make it repeat / It’s time to get up, I think you’re in my seat.” The song originally appeared on the anti-Trump music collection, 30 Days, 30 Songs.
“The Arrival” is also notable — a snarling, infectious, and tight song which features Corin Tucker’s familiar Sleater-Kinney howl. In turn, Buck holds down a contained, confident rhythm which Bloch weaves above, below, and in between.
The band capped off the evening with David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel” when they returned for their second encore. They were both loose and confident, letting Bowie’s song do its work. Their acumen made the impressive evening feel effortless.
Also of note is the band Versus, who opened the evening with an impressive set redolent of that “loud-quiet-loud” alternative rock sound of the 1990s. Their complicated tunings, tempos, and harmonies serve as an excellent reminder of that pleasurable and lush guitar-heavy sound.
And something must be said about the continuously welcoming and comfortable Bell House. There’s not a whiff of the attitude all too present in many concert venues. Very few music spaces in New York City are this inviting.
Set List from Wednesday, September 6, 2017 at The Bell House:
Tears Are Falling
You and Your King
No Forgotten Son
Come Back Shelley
Only Lover Broken
Any Kind of Crowd
Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)