By: Dylan Tarr
Like breaking glass, Protomartyr crashed into the Pyramid Scheme Sunday March 18th all at once jagged, loud, and wildly fun.
A lot has been said about frontman Joe Casey. During openers Deadbeat Beat and Hydropark, he stalked through the crowd drink in hand, chatting with audience members wearing his signature blazer and Tigers baseball hat; the only man to pair the combo successfully since Tom Selleck. The de facto leader and voice of the band, Casey is older than his bandmates by at least a decade, his dress and surly lyrical delivery make him a rock and roll outlier. His interviews usually hang on his cool-uncle-like worldview, equal parts pessimistic and poetic.
But when Protomartyr crammed the Pyramid Scheme stage the spotlight fell away. Casey became part of the whole that is Protomartyr, locked in the cementing tom rolls of drummer Alex Leonard and Scott Davidson’s pulsating bass lines that were punctuated by Greg Ahee’s percussive guitar playing.
Intensity marked the night. Casey has a way of making direct eye contact with everyone in the audience, nearly accosting them and only breaking his stare well after the viewer does. Maybe Protomartyr was leaving it all on the stage to end their current tour that took them across Europe and Australia, or maybe these new songs stir something deeper in the four-piece. The later seems more likely given the potency the band exuded while playing songs off their newest full-length, “Relatives in Descent”.
Opening with a shaking and downright terrifying rendition of “My Children,” Protomartyr testified to the strength of their new material, letting it stand with, or perhaps slightly above their previous releases. With each sip of beer Casey took (of which he had many), he sprayed stagelight colored mist from his mouth with every word like some kind of fire breathing English teacher.
Verbally defenestrating the current administration, Casey spat the lyric “throw him out” from Protomartyr’s song “Up the Tower” over and over again until he was red faced and his neck swollen with vitrole. Likewise, Ahee’s eyes rolled back into his head as he played the mesmerizing guitar intro to “Windsor Hum” and stayed there, trance-like, until the last chord of the band’s encore.
After their third song, Casey joked that they’d only be playing old stuff from this point on in the show. While the singer was just exercising his sardonic sense of humor, it touched on Protomartyr’s expanding reputation. They’re becoming a band that has a vast amount of songs and moods to pick from for any room. With that they have the ability to create something special in any kind of space. With a growing catalogue and a devoted fanbase, they’re making the transition from a musical anomaly to powerhouse headliner.
Just as Casey promised, the band flew head first into the old stuff. They pummeled “The Devil in His Youth”, the first track from the band’s 2015 release “The Agent Intellect” and closely followed it with the subtle build of “Come and See” and an early hit “What the Wall Said”.
Near the end of the set Casey thanked the audience for picking his band over Hatebreed and Pink, who played the Intersection and the VanAndle respectively. He joked that Protomartyr’s fanbase heavily overlapped with the aforementioned artists and it was a wonder that anyone was even at the Pyramid Scheme. Sure, it was another near-self-deprecating joke, but one wonders how Casey and his bandmates think of Protomartyr’s future. With each album better than the last, the bands days of playing 400 person clubs are numbered, it’s just a matter of time before they book a sellout tour with Pink and Hatebreed.