Review: Priests @ Deaf Institute

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By Cass Hyde

US band Priests brought their brand of raw, yet often dancey post-punk to Deaf Institute on Friday. Beyond the critical acclaim of their debut album, Nothing Feels Natural, the band have quickly become known for their incredible live performances.

Apart from the music, the main draw of Priests is frontwoman Katie Alice Greer. It seems impossible for her to do a half-hearted or lacklustre performance. Seemingly innocuous, she emerged stage relaxed, with a cup of tea in hand. Yet, by the second song, ‘Appropriate’, Greer kicked into gear, quickly moving to the front of the stage, one leg on the monitor, thrusting back and forth. Throughout the show, she leaned firmly into the faces of an ecstatic audience, yelling her vocals with passion and intent. Never letting up!

In post-punk, bands whose music is so energetic often end up standing still, not moving to their own rhythmic sound. So, it refreshing to see the total opposite with Greer. Her stage presence is infectiously fun and intense, but it is undeniably a presence!

Priests’ energy doesn’t just come from Katie Alice Greer, however. While guitarist GL Jaguar often stood relatively still, focusing intently on his playing, he occasionally showed an almost child-like energy. Towards the end of ‘Appropriate’, he begans jumping up and down, stamping his feet as hard as he could, almost tripping over himself. In fact, he stamped so hard that his pedals began to malfunction, much to his frustration. Yet, his unguarded glee in the moment was a beautiful thing to witness.

Nevertheless, this problem kept cropping up during the performance, with Jaguar’s guitar cutting out mid performance in a number of songs. Greer and co kept it cool and carried on regardless and no one seemed to mind.

Another merit to the show was the band’s variety. ‘Appropriate’ is half fast-paced romp, half slow, dark. ‘Suck’ is Blondie-esque art-rock song designed to fill the dancefloor. ‘And Breeding’ is classic post-punk with Greer yelling “fucking and breeding” over and over, with solid vocals to match classic riot-grrl singers.

If there was a problem with the set, it would be the use of new, unreleased songs. To be clear, the new songs weren’t bad – far from it. However, when your set has a dozen songs or less, with a running time of just under an hour, it seems somewhat self-indulgent. Yet, this didn’t majorly detract from Priests’ performance.

One important part of this set that went largely unspoken was their last performance in Manchester. They played Gullivers in the Northern Quarter on May 23rd earlier this year, which is within walking distance of the Manchester Arena, a day after the terrorist attack had killed 22 people. Many of the people in the audience would have been at the Gullivers show.

Speaking halfway through the set, drummer Danielle Danielle spoke about that night, saying how it was cathartic for the band to play for the audience in the wake of a tragedy. An audience in need of an escape. The reason she brought it up was because a friend of the band had died suddenly earlier that day. Despite being in shock, an emotional Danielle said it was nice for the Manchester crowd “to return the favour”.

This moment was genuinely unexpected, and while obviously moving, it was strangely beautiful. We didn’t mind returning the favour at all, especially when the show was so good!

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Cass Hyde

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