Live Review: Wussy @ Barboza 6/15

photos by JB Bonifacio

Midway through their hour and fifteen minute set, Wussy co-frontman Chuck Cleaver messes up an intro, prompting co-frontman Lisa Walker to playfully rib his bandmate, “Well, it’s not like you wrote the song.” It was definitely a laugh-out-loud moment, and one that Cleaver took in stride;  that being said, it was but a mere hiccup in an otherwise rocking set last Saturday at Seattle’s newest (and most neon) music venue, Barboza, located underneath Neumo’s in Capitol Hill.

Earlier, KEXP covered Wussy’s set at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop as part of our SXSW 2012 broadcast and they quickly endeared themselves to those in attendance with their earnest and engaging alt-country sound, which marries elements of noise rock ala Sonic Youth and traditional Americana.

I’m happy to report that their set on Saturday lived up to the bar set by their SXSW 2012 set.  Fan’s of Wussy’s most recent effort, Strawberry, will be pleased to hear that the tracks sound superb live.  After showcasing their male/female vocal harmonies with a  heartfelt performance of “Waiting Room,” “Pulverized” really churled the crowd into a giddy frenzy, most due in part to Joe Klug’s thundering drumming.  During the song and throughout, bassist Mark Messerly was uninhibited (and unchallenged) in his stutting and in his swaying.  If you’re gonna wear a t-shirt that says “Ohio Against The World,” you have to own it, and owned it he did.  But, as a personal preference, I geeked out most at the entrance of John Erhardt on slide guitar, whom, by the way, arrived fashionably late to the stage, beer in hand.  In the hands of lesser musicians, the presence of a twang-tinged slide guitar during more noise rock-like songs like “Pizza King” would be out of place and frankly, distracting; however, in Erhardt’s capable hands, it’s organic and it’s revelatory.

This is not to say that co-frontmen Cleaver and Walker were unengaging; in fact, their repoire called to mind the great male-female duos like Frank Black/Kim Deal of The Pixies and Kim Gordon/Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, as well as more contemporary examples like John Dragonetti/Blake Hazard of The Submarines, and Brian Aubert/Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups.  So it is with no disrespect to Cleaver’s own outstanding solo moments during “Grand Champion Steer” that the night’s most sublime moment belonged to Walker’s emotional crooning during “Little Miami.”  In a night that spanned the gamut between raucous and intimate, epic and minute, it was an earnest moment that crescendoed beautifully as the song reached its climactic end.

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