TVD Live: Filthy Friends and Dressy Bessy at U Street Music Hall, 5/20

FILTHY FRIENDS PHOTOS: JOHN CLARK | Women rule the world, or at least they did at DC’s U Street Music Hall in a rockin’ Monday night show by Filthy Friends with Dressy Bessy.

The oddly named Friends are a kind of supergroup led by Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney that also features Peter Buck of R.E.M., Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch of Young Fresh Fellows, and the ace drummer Linda Pitmon who worked with Buck and McCaughey in the Baseball Project.

Great to see such adept musicians in such close confines. And as solid as the musicians’ credits are, it was clear that it was Tucker’s band, as she tore through songs that seemed especially changed and pointed as performed a couple of miles from the White House. The proximity seemed to add extra punch in her delivery, wringing emotion in the opening accusations of “November Man” sang with the spite of a “Masters of War,” about a leader for whom “we don’t have no love.”

Then there’s the inhumanity of child separation at the border in “Angels” (“What monster holds their fate tonight?”) and the sheer surreal state of contemporary American life in “Only Lovers are Broken” (“My head spins and the world turns madly are we almost on the brink?”).

Much of the band’s new Kill Rock Stars album Emerald Valley has to do with environmental warnings, from the title song to “Pipeline” and “The Elliott.” about the desecration of forests. But Tucker has a way to make the personal political too from the urban story of “One Flew East” to the more tender lines of “Hey Lacey,” which began the three song encore backed by just two guitars.

Like the appealing “Come Back Shelley,” which looked back at the world of a 15-year-old in 1988, or “Windmill,” about the music scene in Athens, Ga. — both from the band’s 2017 debut Invitation, Tucker’s songs can evoke the personal, largely politics-free, tales. One of the night’s strongest songs, though, the anthemic “Love in the Time of Resistance,” is on neither of their albums (but appeared on a 2017 compilation Battle Hymns).

As Tucker changes her performance approach—with guitar or without; hard-driving vocalist with a yelp, or slower, more sensitive crooner—the musicians provide a pleasing intertwining guitar patterns with Buck providing the rhythm and Bloch, who also plays of The Fastbacks, handling most of the solos. Great to see a trim McCaughey back in action on bass and backing vocals after his heart attack last year. And often you’ll be distracted just paying attention to the interesting patterns Pitmon brings to her drumming on nearly every song. It’s a solid group with a lot to say, and an urgency to be heard.

Out front for a lot of the headlining set, bopping along, was Tammy Ealom, the irrepressible singer of the opening band, Dressy Bessy. She’s a pistol, too, heading her band with fast, tuneful songs, sold with an animated performance that has her smile, sneer, roll her eyes and comically grimace all in the same song. The Denver band’s been around 20 years now, the other lanky mainstay is John M. Hill on guitar. Craig Gilbert has been drummer for a decade, but new in the revolving slot of bass is Eric Allen, who was also part of the Elephant 6 collective as member of The Apples in Stereo.

Ealom had a salute to a former bassist, Rob Greene, who died suddenly last year, in the new “Mon Chéri,” for which they were joined by Filthy Friends’ Bloch. There was a nod, too, to Pete Shelley who also died last year, with a cover of the Buzzcocks’ “What Do I Get.” Both will be on the upcoming Fast Faster Disaster, due in stores on June 12 via Yep Roc Records, as will “Tiny Lil’ Robots,” which is about mother-daughter relations from the mother’s point of view, which may be something new in punk rock.

Dressy Bessy’s zippy, thoroughly enjoyable 15-song set spanned their five albums and while generous, seemed to come and go too quickly.

November Man
The Arrival
No Forgotten Son
The Elliott
Emerald Valley
Come Back Shelley
Love in the Time of Resistance
One Flew East
Break Me
Only Loves are Broken
Hey Lacey
Any Kind of Crowd
Last Chance County

This May Hurt
Side 2
Tiny Lil Robots
Make Mine Violet
Just Like Henry
Mon Cheri
Stay True
Girl, You Shout!
Honey Bee
Big Vacation
Lady Liberty
What Do I Get
Better Luck

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