Girl Guts, Caparza, Black Mesa, Dec. 22 at the Shakedown

Local hardcore/punk show alert! Having reviewed Girl Guts’ latest release and coming away really impressed and excited to see them, I expected excellence from their live show as well. Also, I drummed for the opener for like two days earlier this year, so I wanted to see what they were doing now. Starting the night, Black Mesa kicked off with a consistent style set, but it was of varying quality. For their style of angsty, loud, and atmospheric post-music-core, you need hooks and polish, or you need some impressive musicianship display. Sometimes they demonstrated all of these. Sometimes there were none present. This mix was better and they played better, and the good parts came across as really actually good, but the lapses were awkward and distracted from the promise of the other parts.

Caparza set up and I couldn’t help but think, “these guys don’t look like what I would expect, their drummer uses a rack, and yada yada, I’m skeptical.” Whoa man I was so far off-base with any doubts I might have had. As soon as I heard lead vocals I lost my austere, critical facade and cracked a smile. A wall of energy rushed from the stage, seemingly lost on the standing crowd, but I was not dismayed. The sound was like Clutch’s Blast Tyrant for the first time, but with Trash Talk gang vocals and better songwriting than one should reasonably expect. That goofy rack-toting drummer was an absolute hurricane, the two guitarists played off each other subtly, and the bassist really filled things out in a way that most don’t appreciate enough. The three-part vocals were perfect, and I really can’t say enough about how much I liked Caparza.

Girl Guts. Alright, I gotta say, I may have built things up a bit beyond what a band can realistically deliver. Their album sounds like thrashing, gnashing, pure rock fury. The live translation seemed like a half-volume demonstration rather than an impressive, gut-busting party that I had expected. My assumption was that they would seem out of place and kick just too much ass, like that time Ty Segall played with Mikal Cronin at the Cabin. Instead, Girl Guts seemed like a really good local band. I’m still convinced that they are more than that, but that show isn’t what makes me hold that impression. Caparza stole the show that night and maybe their root chakras were aligned while Girl Guts’ weren’t. Either way, it was a killer show on all fronts. But man, Caparza. Wow.