Screaming Females and Mardeen at the Silver Dollar

A six-string sorceress and Cape Breton melody-makers add up to a sweet night


SCREAMING FEMALES and MARDEEN at the Silver Dollar, Friday, April 10. Rating: NNNN

It’s one thing to listen to Screaming Females‘ fiery power punk on record and quite another to see the trio pull it off live. Marissa Paternoster is far and away the star of the show – basically a six-string sorceress, pulling off jaw-dropping, speedy fretwork wizardry while hollering hooky melodies and seething lyrics. She’s unstoppable, backed by a competent, much less flashy rhythm section.

Songs are catchy, ferocious and to the point, and the New Jersey three-piece packed a ton of them into their headlining set at the Silver Dollar, a follow-up to their opening slot for the Julie Ruin one year ago. They stuck mostly to material from their sixth album, Rose Mountain, with Paternoster also taking requests. That move helped with crowd interaction but pushed the set length toward the too-long side. A person can only take their sonic bludgeoning for so long.

Cape Breton natives Mardeen – cited by Alvvays’ Molly Rankin as a major influence and whose pop gem Telephones was covered by Mo Kenney on her recent album – played smart power pop earlier in the night for a large crowd who only partially returned the love. Their insider-joke banter fell a bit flat but their hooky guitar rock is exceptionally muscular, brilliantly melodic and full of arrangement twists and biting lyrics.

Telephones and Silver Fang (from their recent Joel Plaskett-produced EP) were standouts, though the former is a good example of how they might be too smart for their own good. Whereas Kenney’s achieves immediate liftoff, Mardeen’s bare-bones, fuzz-bass-heavy deconstructed-pop version leaves us begging for a payoff that doesn’t come. Destined to remain musicians’ musicians forever? Let’s hope not. Get on board, people.

carlag@nowtoronto.com | @carlagillis

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