Los Angeles – After several opening bands took turns pummeling audience members at Jewel’s Catch One last weekend, headliners Naomi Punk put on a dynamic and loud performance. These three gentlemen from Olympia, Washington have been churning out noisy, chaotic noise rock since 2008, producing two full-length albums, 2012’s The Feeling and 2014’s Television Man. In July of 2014, Best New Bands were among the first on the Internet to share the band’s lead single from Television Man, “Firehose Face.”
The band is just now putting the wraps on a West Coast tour after spending some time in Europe at the beginning of the year. As the band took the stage, they added a little bit of personalized décor; the bass drum and an amplifier were adorned with a black-and-white computer printout of Frida Kahlo that featured a message of hope that the audience will “enjoy the show.” Despite the opening bands’ sets pushing Naomi Punk’s start-time back to a quite-late 12:30 AM, the band was ready to perform, and they ripped through songs from both of their albums. Evidence of this noise mastery was produced when the Frida Kahlo on the bass drum gave up the fight after only two songs, flying off the stage and into the churning circle pit in front of the stage.
Naomi Punk consists of guitarists Travis Coster and Neil Gregerson and drummer Neil Luempert, and despite the lack of a bass player, the band had absolutely no problem garnering ample low-end. Coster provides all of the vocals, and as he bellowed out simple hooks of songs like “Television Man” and “Firehose Face” he appeared to commit all-out assault on his Fender Jaguar. At times it appeared he was taking calculated jabs at the guitar’s bridge. As a counterpoint, Gregerson offered a much more subdued stage presence as he rocked back and forth along with the songs’ rhythms, which were enthusiastically pounded out by Leumpert on drums.
It is easy to liken Naomi Punk to grunge luminaries and fellow Washingtonians, Nirvana, but they are not the most apt comparison point. Nirvana brought a healthy helping of pop-punk to their sound’s formula, while for the most part Naomi Punk forgo hooks, instead choosing to supplement their sound with heaping portions of hardcore attitude and noise. There were moments in the set that bared a resemblance to tidbits of Nirvana’s debut, Bleached, but there was nothing as catchy or pop-oriented as later-era tracks like “On a Plain” or “In Bloom” – though as a three-piece from Washington that features a long-haired, eccentric, blonde lead singer, the comparison to Nirvana is altogether too tempting.
Instead, Naomi Punk are much more like their contemporary peers in Metz or Pissed Jeans, riding a line directly between the straightforward song-structures of Mudhoney and the schizophrenic energy of Unwound (both also from Washington State). While it is nice to try to reach into the past and find a well-known comparison for a newer band, the sound that Naomi Punk puts forth is much more modern than early 90’s Seattle grunge even if it borrows some elements from the scene.
For the most part, their short set was a pure wall of distorted guitar squalls enveloping Coster’s mostly unintelligible vocal delivery. However, there were a few moments such as the electronic instrumental interlude of “Plastic World no. 6” which provided a nice break from the barrage as the guitarists tuned up their instruments. The band was mostly focused on playing new songs but they could not resist placing The Feeling’s standout, “The Spell,” right at the middle of their set. As Coster and Gregerson hammered out its stilting, unsure opening riff, the audience went wild as they recognized one of the band’s most accessible tunes and the circle pit in front of the stage started to stretch further and further out.
Before Naomi Punk took the stage, the audience was blasted with noise by two openers – experimental metal duo Wreck And Reference and noise-punk collective PC Worship. Armed with just a strapped-on drum machine and a drummer, Wreck And Reference plowed through some dark and surprisingly heavy metal. Meanwhile PC Worship packed the stage with members and showcased some extremely experimental and downright bizarre rock music, but beneath all the layers of sound and feedback there were actually some very well-crafted songs.
As noted earlier, Naomi Punk is putting the wraps on their West Coast tour with PC Worship. There are no additional live dates planned in the near future, but keep an eye on Naomi Punk’s website for any updates.
Photo of Naomi Punk live by Matt Matasci