TVD Live: Bleached with Hunters and Priests at DC9, 4/18

I was in New York last weekend staying at my friend’s place and noticed the first record in his record crate was Mika Miko’s We Be Xuxa LP.  I gave him and myself an internal high-five because it got me really stoked to see Mika Miko’s Clavin sisters (Jennifer and Jessica) at DC9 in their newest band Bleached the following week.  

It was going to be a fun show. Hunters, touring with Bleached, were rumored to be excellent live performers, and Dischord Records‘ Priests are local favorites of mine and should be for anyone who likes strong female-fronted punk bands.

The Clavin sisters took to the stage as an eager crowd filled around them.  Supermodel-sexy drummer Jonathan Safley followed, covered in tattoos, and limping with a cane.  “We partied really hard in Atlanta, it was his first time drinking,” they joked.  “He did a jump kick off our tour van,” Jennifer explained to us. Bleached launched into “Dreaming Without You” to an overly receptive crowd that didn’t calm down for their entire set.

If you’ve read any reviews of Bleached’s long-anticipated debut Ride Your Heart, you’ll be familiar with comparisons  that liken them to The Shangri-Las, classic RNR, and a girl-power, leather-jacket-wearing aesthetic that instantly lends the band an inherent coolness.  There’s that, and the fact that the Clavin sisters are not the poster children for teenage cool, appearing in Teen Vogue and Nylon magazines.  Jennifer’s high ponytail and form-fitting floral American Apparel wiggle dress with combat boots conveyed a tough-yet-fem girl-power aesthetic, while Jessica’s black-skinnies-black-shirt classic punk aesthetic anchored them to a more casual, cool presence.

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In other words, Bleached look and sound the part, but what sets them apart from other girl-fronted, punk/rnr-influenced bands like The Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, or Best Coast? Much like these bands, Ride Your Heart is formulaic.  Their sound is built around deliciously catchy guitar hooks, themes of crushing on someone but keeping your cool, and  poppy vocal harmonies. This has been done before, but Bleached have mastered it and re-packaged it to make it fun all over again.  Bleached are more Go-Gos and less Shangri-Las. They are fun, flirty, and fresh, and the songs are impossible to get out of your head.

At one point, Jennifer exclaimed “This is off our new album,” and I had to giggle because all the songs were, except for “Thinking of You,” their powerhouse EP release that got them buzzing. They broke the set up with a slow jam—“Here’s a slow song; if you wanna slow dance, now’s your chance”—playing “When I Was Yours.”  Then to get things revved up again, Jennifer asks someone to buy her a shot of tequila.  The whole band does a shot, and it’s back to fun-time party mode.

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Hunters really wowed me.  The Brooklyn foursome had all the arty angst of Crass, Kleenex, and Subhumans with a large dash of  early Sonic Youth, complete with dueling vocals.  Sexy pink-haired singer Isabel completely owned the stage.  All the hype around Karen O’s live performances are just an evaporated piss puddle that Hunters’ Isabel already writhed around in and evaporated out, even though Miss O preceded her.  “I Want it, I Need It,” she squeals as she climbs on the speaker and drapes her body over it.  Her dramatics extended to pulling her own hair, wrapping the mic cord around her hands, and emanating a Stooges-like swagger.  Hunters takes the nervous energy that we collect as an audience and feeds it back to us, shoving it down our throats and making us choke it down until we can’t breathe.  It’s fetish punk, and you’ll just want to writhe in it with them.

One of DC’s most exciting acts, Priests started the night off right.  I was very disappointed to miss half of their set, but they are a band I plan on seeing multiple times because they are just that good. (Get on it….Comet Ping Pong, May 17.)  A DIY-painted banner hangs behind lead singer Daniele, as she screams the pixie cut off her head, like Poly Styrene in a shouting match with Regula Sing.

The show could not have been better curated, with Priests and Hunters revving up the audience just enough to fuel the crowd with enough energy to enjoy Bleached to the fullest.  And don’t let the name fool you—while the word Bleached might convey a stone-washed, faded, or toned down vibe, the band are the bright and vibrant result of the bleaching process.  Go see Bleached for that neon pop of joy you get in your heart.  You’ll realize they’re  more than just a band crush, with a new album that you’ll want to make more than just a one night stand.

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Photos: Mark Zimin

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