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Protomartyr @ The Majestic Theatre 12/02/2023 (Concert Review by Hunter J.)

In early February, the Detroit-based band Protomartyr collaborated with the multidisciplinary and experimental duo Lost Souls of Saturn, featuring on the last track of LSOS’s newest album, “Reality.” Melding evolving ambient atmospheres with droning fuzz and frontman Joe Casey’s metrical recitation of lyrics, the immersiveness and entrancing deviation from Protomartyr’s usual sound instantly caught the attention of me and my radio show co-host, Saima. As devoted fans of Protomartyr, we have made it a point to play one of their tracks every Monday since August on our show Monkey Business. While playing “Lilac Chaser” on air, we reflected on our experience at Protomartyr’s December 2nd concert at the Majestic Theatre, which we found evoked a similar excitement as this release.

A DJ set from Detroit-based artist Tammy Lakkis opened the show at the Majestic Theater, followed by a performance from the experimental noise duo Wolf Eyes. Having never heard of this group before, Saima and I were immediately fascinated by their live setup. The rhythm portion of their music seemed to be controlled by a drum machine that delivered a minimal beat and guided a bass line pulsing throughout the entirety of the venue. The low end coming from the speakers caused the stage barrier and everyone leaning on it to vibrate, creating a more tactile experience or what Saima described as a full-body dental filling, but in a good way. Wolf Eyes’ experimentation, including an effect-heavy reed instrument and spoken word over noise box improvisations, added an intriguing layer to their performance.

After around a 30-minute set, Toronto-based band Metz replaced Wolf Eyes on the stage. The trio began their performance with high energy, blazing through up-tempo rock songs that heavily contrasted Wolf Eyes’ sound. They captivated the audience with a lively stage presence, flailing their instruments and swaying energetically. Throughout their set, Metz interrupted their more traditional song structure with noise intermissions generated by guitar and bass effects. These interludes called to mind Sonic Youth with similarities in their guitar and bass drone improvisations. Metz, however, had a more directional approach as they always ended their noisy deviations by reverting to their high-energy rock songs. I overall enjoyed Metz’s set, with my favorite song being “Wet Blanket.”

Protomartyr finally concluded the night with a performance that surpassed expectations, providing Saima and me the long-awaited opportunity to witness one of our favorite bands live. Some concert attendees tend to assess a band by comparing the sound of their studio recordings to their live shows, and it was impossible to ignore how Protomartyr’s set sounded exactly like their records. The band’s playing was tight, and I detected no friction in any of the instrumentation as they consistently flowed through some of my favorite tracks in their discography. Kelley Deal was a fantastic inclusion to the lineup, contributing additional tones to Protomartyr’s live performance. She added backup vocals, as well as synth work and guitar pedal noise, giving a variable to the performance that makes seeing Protomartyr live quite a special experience. Both Saima and I agreed that the addition of Deal’s backing vocals to “Processed By The Boys” was definitely one of the highlights of their performance.

Joe Casey’s stage presence was an additional aspect of the show that affirmed our admiration for this band, as he ranged from aloofly reciting lyrics to aggressively singing choruses within the span of seconds. He continuously entertained throughout the entire performance, interacting with the audience as well as hurling beer cans behind him as he finished them. Protomartyr’s energy throughout the set was high, and they played some of our favorites, including “Maidenhead,” “Why Does It Shake?,” and “A Private Understanding” (Alex Leonard’s drums were fantastic on this one in particular). From Joe Casey’s captivating stage presence to Kelley Deal’s seamlessly incorporated contributions, the night not only met but surpassed expectations, reaffirming our deep appreciation for Protomartyr’s music.

(Photography by Saima S.)

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