TVD Live Shots: Protomartyr at the Teragram Ballroom,

PHOTOS: DANIEL GRAY | Examining a post-punk dystopian landscape with all the appropriate trimmings: working-class suffering, government failings, and the compounding existential dread facing us all, Detroit’s Protomartyr took over downtown Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom on a rain-drenched Wednesday night. Out on tour in support of their pandemic release Ultimate Success Today (2020), the venue set in a seedier part of town was the right place for the dissonant power rock four-piece.

LA-based opener Immortal Nightbody, the moniker of rapper/ singer/ producer Sim Jackson, brought in an unusually large crowd eager to see the cross-pollination of rap and dark wave, two subversive genres in their own right. By the time Protomartyr opened with the dark bass and airy surf rock of “Maidenhead,” the crowd had uncomfortably swelled as frontman Joe Casey yelled at us, “Don’t feel nothing for anyone, Don’t feel no love for anything,” their post-apocalyptical sphere taking shape.

Greg Ahee (guitar), Scott Davidson (bass), and Alex Leonard (drums) alongside Casey, referred to as one of the great punk poets of our generation and the band’s “Drunk Uncle,” barreled through Protomartyr’s 16-song set. Casey held a beer in one hand, and microphone with a poetic style baritone—often compared to The Fall’s Mark E. Smith—in the other for the entire night.

The beginning of the set featured three unreleased songs from their upcoming release Formal Growth in The Desert and the newly released track “Make Way.” For the new songs, a pedal steel guitarist joined the band on stage and transported the venue with the kind of dark noir that only a pedal steel can create. Pulling indiscriminately from their five-album catalog and reaching back over the last 16 years the major hits “The Devil in His Youth” and “Processed By The Boys,” were present. “Scum, Rise!” and “Why Does It Shake?” closed out the encore. It’s hard to imagine IDLES “I’m Scum” without its predecessor “Scum, Rise.”

Stalwarts of the post-punk scene, their catalog is safeguarded by a loyal fanbase that can only be won over by a band who approaches their creativity with the same level of hunger to succeed. “We approach it as clocking in and clocking out. We have to live off of this,” Casey told Sterogum in an interview. Being at a Protomartyr show is like listening to a white paper being yelled into the ether from a dais as these ruffians of the anti-establishment constrain the crowd with their bleak aggression. Amid the rubble, Protomartyr is delivering salvation to some great fucking rock music.

Catch them on a European tour followed by a Canadian/North American tour after the release of Formal Growth in The Desert out June 2nd.

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