Black Girls Launch ‘Claire Sinclaire’ at Balliceaux
Some nights just feel like an event. There was a buzz about this show that gave the impression that this night could be a turning point for this band. I arrived at Balliceaux and found a line waiting. There were murmurs we wouldn’t be getting in, that the venue was packed. A girl in front of me reassured her friend that this band was, indeed, quite funky. The line doubled in size. Word came down that we were, indeed, going to be getting in. Sighs of relief reverberated along the line. Not five feet away some guy took a piss in the alley, walked up to me and informed with more than a hint of confrontational swagger, “I just took a piss.” Like I said, this was an event.
Sleepwalkers opened the night and with their synthesis of 70’s riff-rock, soul, and the glam-rock influences that Black Girls execute so well it was easy to imagine why. Sleepwalkers build on that base though, shown especially well with show standout “Prey and Pressure”, sporting an almost stoner-rock descending riff, equal parts earworm hook and pounding tenderizer ushering in the shouted chorus with just a touch of manic energy, “I’m feeling pressure all the time!”. The back and forth between a supple rhythm section and the steady riffage made for an early highlight of the night. The sound didn’t do them many favors, though. When their lead guitarist (you’ll have to forgive this writer for not knowing which Yorke brother is which) regularly decimated songs with slashing guitar solos, they too often felt more like suggestions than star turns, a flurry of notes hiding underneath a suffocating rhythm section.
Anyways, the night continued. The line to the bathroom crawled. The guy who pissed in front of me in line made a pass at my date. Someone handed me a PBR that may not have been intended for me, but was drank by me regardless. And finally Black Girls took the stage with a trace more confidence than their typical swagger allowed. The night started with some old standbys from the excellent 2011 LP Hell Dragon. A sharp contrast to their recent shows that have been predicated on starting with the new stuff before easing into the familiar crowd favorites. The Claire Sinclaire cuts did come though, and they hit hard. The new songs show a stronger predilection towards funk and soul as disco backbeats abound while lead guitarist Mike Bryant often joins the rhythmic frenzy with wah wah stabs and staccato strums. “Low” was the standout it always is, with most of the room joining in on the chorus, “I’ve been low, but I’ve never been that LOW!” The call and response vocals on “So Sorry” ignited the crowd as well, some shouting along to both drummer Stephen Farris and singer Drew Gillihan, others choosing one or the other. The end result rather cacophonous but riotously fun.
Then the guests started coming in. First Charlie Glenn from The Trillions on keyboards, then a smattering of horn players from the NO BS! Brass Band stepping in as the horn section, sax and trombone in tow. And though they sat in as guests, it’s hard to imagine songs like “Lover” and “Broadway” without the call and response and loping horn lines they provide. The latter was, as it often is at Black Girls shows, a highlight of the night, the band locked in, horns flailing, bassist Jeff Knight ambling on the end of the maybe inch-high stage, rhythm guitarist Fletcher Babbs wandering into the crowd crossing at least half the venue, audience chanting back in response “NEW YORK CITY!! GAWWWWD DAMN!” Any semblance of band/audience separation long forgotten.
And that was it. We ushered ourselves from the mood lighting interior of Baliceaux into the night. Event over, album launched.