TVD Live: Shred Fest at Comet Ping Pong, 10/19 and St. Stephen’s, 10/20

Hex Ex-6

PHOTOS: KRISTIN HORGEN | Sure, there is a budding electronic music scene here in the District, but DC was chosen as the location of Shred Fest because it is one of those towns that will never let go of its punk rock roots that bury churches under reverberated screams and grab kids by their bootstraps and tie them to their guitar amps.

Put on by She Shreds magazine, Shred Fest finds itself in DC after years in Portland and Austin. The print magazine and the festival are about highlighting female musicians. Out of 15 bands that performed, about half were local and the other half had never been to DC before.

In School-5

The two-day festival took place Friday night at Comet Ping Pong and all day Saturday at St. Stephen’s Church in Columbia Heights. On the bill for the first night were Dudes, Cry Baby, In School, Mary Timony’s new project Ex Hex, and DJ Baby Alcatraz spinning lethal 45s all night. Day Two, I’d catch Doom Town, Mirror Travel, Jail Solidarity, Southern Problems, and Potty Mouth.




First up were the local three-piece Dudes, who were releasing their first tape, called Greatest Hits. On drums was a boy in his skivvies named Luke, the only non-dudette of the band. He sang the first song as if he’d been doing this crap for years, his vocal inflections all staunch and full of character. They were the only band to leave the stage and engage the audience all weekend. On Day Two when I happened to bump into their guitarist Francy, I couldn’t help but gush about their performance. Her response was, “Yeah it wasn’t our best… It was our second show.”

Everything this band lacked in experience was made up by their amount of enthusiasm during their performance. Dissatisfaction is key to pushing yourself further, so I expect great things from these Dudes!

Cry Baby-1

Cry Baby-3

Cry Baby, a drum and guitar combo from Nashville, consists of a chick producing drum-fill explosions and a dude power-chording his way in and out of metal fuzz. They had nice tempo change-ups and pulled a lot out of their two instruments. I had to ask the guitarist what was up with his guitar, “Is that thing covered in masking tape?” He replied that he had custom built it himself. This was the first interesting musician of many I’d meet that hadn’t been to DC before.

In School-2

In School-3

The next band turned the lights out. In School, from Brooklyn, had the heaviest start to the night, before a song-and-a-half in, the power went out. Apparently, according to the bartender, there had been an issue recently when the power had unexpectedly gone out; the city had failed to inform Comet and the small vicinity around the club that they would be working. Luckily, this time, the power came back on quickly. When referring to In School afterward, the girl who stamped my hand in front mentioned that they must be “too punk for electricity.”

Hex Ex-9

Hex Ex-1

The main event of the evening would be Mary Timony’s new project Ex Hex. There are sprinklings of pop inflections in this new project, especially on the first single “Hot and Cold,” interjecting lovely rock into the punk. The crowd smelled more like Dove body wash than B.O. and weed.

Timony looks and sounds more confident then ever, with her foot up on the monitor, leading this band. What shocked me was that one of my favorite bartenders from the Black Cat, Laura, was playing drums. She had to take her boots off for the encore, she rocked so much. It just goes to show what a small town this is and how DC kicks ass.


The last time I was at St. Stephen’s Church was to catch Screaming Females, one of the shreddiest of shred bands out there today, so that felt like a good omen. What was clear about Shred Fest was that this was a festival to showcase new bands.

Doom Town-2

Doom Town-8

When I arrived, Doom Town from St. Louis were into the beginning of their set. Their bass player Ashley has this hearth of a voice that breaks out all over the place. They’re heated, chugging punk rock. Super-rad melodies are buried under fuzz that really sees the surface when coupled with her singing. She gets tomato red at the height of her singing. At points, when their guitarist sings, he looks as if he’s about to gnaw the microphone. While I’m chain-smoking cigs outside, Ashley tells me this is her band’s first time in DC, and they’re on a pretty big tour for the first time.

Mirror Travel-5

Mirror Travel-3

Coming from Austin, Mirror Travel is my favorite new discovery of the day, and it’s also their first time in DC. The singer has ’90s-radio, ethereal female vocals that are the nicest sounding of all the bands that play. A lanky bass man harmonizes with her, and their drummer has some intricate drum fills that make all the difference. The most impressive thing about Mirror Travel is that all of their songs are dynamically different yet have the same hazy feeling. They have one massive stop hook at the end of their set that releases a barrage of clatter that slowly alleviates into sweet coos. I hope this band comes back soon!

Jail Solidarity-3

Jail Solidarity-5

The next two bands that play provide the starkest juxtaposition between the sounds at Shred Fest. Jail Solidarity plays first and is verging on some kind of vicious sludge metal. Most of the hooks are full stops, with shouting vocals from the female drummer and yells from their male guitarist. The dirge is so unrelentingly ominous that the whole thing sounds as if it’s going to peter out at any minute. They’re the first band that I thought would put a stick through a snare.

Southern Problems-8

Southern Problems-4

Following them would be Southern Problems from DC, who were the most rock and most fun of the day. The bass player is the liveliest person of the whole fest, jumping in place nearly the whole time. She sits cross-legged on the amp, jumps from the top of it, and meanders around the stage so erratically I feel like she’s about to whip through some gear the whole time, but all collisions are expertly avoided.

She screams at the top of her lungs as she smashes her bass and stomps her boots. But it’s never shrill. This is also the first band where people feel compelled to clap along. I get some Ted Leo vibes from their guitar player’s high treble shreds. One of their last songs begins when the bass player says, “The owls are uncaged!” and makes winged arm circles in between bass waps.

Potty Mouth-13

Potty Mouth-12

Potty Mouth-3

When Southern Problems’ guitar player introduces Potty Mouth, he accidentally says Party before correcting himself, so naturally Potty Mouth come out introducing themselves, “Hey we’re Party Mouth.” Since I saw them a few months ago, they’ve released their first proper album, Hell Bent, and have gotten a lot tighter. Still, Abby Weems asks, “Does it sound good out there? We don’t usually play in big spaces like this.”

A big space suits their sound perfectly, and it’s only a matter of time before they know how to fully utilize those acoustics. What I notice in between their trademark smirks toward each other is that they transition between songs almost effortlessly. They are definitely most comfortable when playing their first single, “The Spins,” which has evolved into a guitar-pick-sliding wormhole of a song.

Potty Mouth is really great because there is this interesting spectrum on view when watching them. On one hand, they’re a bunch of cute girls, from their looks, to the things they say, to the way they hold themselves. On the other hand, between the hair whippage, the hunched shoulder guitar strikes, and their songs lyrics, they’re badass bitches that are only honing their craft more and more. They finish their set with the expertly crafted ’90s come-down alt-anthem, perfect Shred Fest closer, and album closer, “The Better End.”







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In School-1

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Hex Ex-3

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Doom Town-3

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Mirror Travel-1

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Jail Solidarity-2

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Southern Problems-1

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Potty Mouth-1

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