Dischord/DC supergroup, Hammered Hulls, recently put out their debut full length, Careening, and embarked on a short tour to promote it. The band members—Alec MacKaye, Mary Timony, Mark Cisneros, and Chris Wilson—have all been in numerous influential bands: Helium, The Make-Up, The Faith, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The Warmers, Autoclave, Kid Congo, Titus Andronicus, and Wild Flag to name but a few. And for this tour at least, you can add Fugazi to the parade of legends too, because Brendan Canty was filling in on bass for Timony. While I was bummed to not see MT playing herself, getting to see Canty out from behind the drum kit and playing another instrument certainly was an unexpected and very cool surprise and I’m sure for more than just me.
Opening band, Clear Channel, also hails from DC and features Mary Regalado of Downtown Boys on bass/vocals. I saw them in 2018 (see pics) and described them then as “groove-heavy echo-drenched space punk” and I’m still pretty pleased with that description! They for sure know how to drive the grooves and get the crowd fired up, and it was a pleasure getting to see them again. I was also pleased to pick up a copy of their record, Hell, which has a silk screened cover reminiscent of the punk flyers of yore (so right up my alley, obviously) and I apparently now own #203/500.
NYC’s own Skull Practitioners hit the middle slot and I admit, they were a band that I had been totally unfamiliar with before the show. I’m glad that’s a thing of the past though because I absolutely loved their set, a wonderful symphony of noisy, loud controlled chaos on verge of, ahem, careening over the edge but always managing to pull itself back at the last second. All three members of the band contribute vocals and the band also features Jason Victor of The Dream Syndicate on guitar. They self describe as “post-punk-psych-garage” and it definitely sums them up, with elements of all of this weaved throughout their sound. I most definitely will be keeping my eyes and ears open for more from this band in the near future.
I first saw Hammered Hulls almost four years ago now, in January of 2019 (see pics) when they were pretty much brand new and had only played a handful of shows at that point. Later that year they put out their first release, a three song demo and after that we all know how things shaped up. So their debut full length was probably a longer time coming than perhaps it would have been otherwise but it was definitely worth the wait. (Spoiler alert, I plan to include it on my “favorites of 2022” list.) In that time the band members all kept busy with various other things as they were able to depending on conditions, most notably for me Cisneros in the jazz project Zach Barocus Freedom Sound (also featuring of course Barocus and J. Robbins of Jawbox) which released one of my favorites of 2021, and Timony reissued her 2000 solo debut album, Mountains, which is still a huge favorite for me all these years later. (I saw her play on the tour in support of that album twice, once in 1999 and once in 2000.)
So you can imagine that I was more than delighted when HH announced they were finally releasing their debut full length and touring in support of it. And on the night of the show, I was even more excited that they played the entirety of the album (plus two songs from their earlier EP), highlights for me being “Needlepoint Tiger” which they opened the set with, “Abstract City,” “Staggering Genius” and “Rights and Reproduction.” As far as my overall feelings on the band, I’m not sure I can put it any better than Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto did when the album was announced, so I’ll let him take it from here:
“Alec MacKaye has been a source of inspiration to me since I was 15 years old when his bands the Untouchables and Faith made their massive crater-sized impacts on me. “Inspiration” doesn’t do it justice – in the chaos of his performance and the power of his voice, Alec was always to me the distant horizon of what any singer could aspire to be. It is surely the only debt you can incur that feels like a gift.
That he now continues to provide that same energy to me 42 years later with his band Hammered Hulls is not really a surprise but it is wildly welcome. Mary Timony, Chris Wilson and Mark Cisneros, three musicians of absurd pedigree, sensitivity and skill, create a weave that’s both tough and lithe, the ideal setting for Alec’s singular voice and words.”
Indeed, to echo Picciotto’s sentiment, these four musicians (well, five if you count Canty and I think it’s fair that you do) more than live up to the praise and the status of their pedigree. After a long year of seeing many incredible shows (including seeing Canty drum in person of the first time ever when I saw the Messthetics in June), this one was very high on my list to make sure I attended, even turning down a high volume/well paying merch gig to make sure I didn’t miss it; hey a middle aged punk nerd has gotta do what a middle aged punk nerd has gotta do! I reaped the rewards of that decision in spades though, being immersed in the musical landscape laid out before me by these three dynamic groups that, each in their own way, challenge listeners, provoking deeper thought and reflection through their music. No dollar amount could replace being able to be front and center for a night like this.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos, pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
Setlist: Needlepoint Tiger, Boilermaker’s Notch, Pilot Light, Not Gone, Abstract City, Hardest Road, Self-Inflicted, Looking After You, Bog People, Staggering Genius, Sounding The Sea, Written Word, Rights and Reproduction, Mission Statement