Chastity Belt have made their mark on indie rock through their tight-knit bond, an over-the top social media presence, and giving zero fucks.
In their set at the Entry Saturday night, the last stop of their month-long U.S. tour, the Seattle-based four-piece delivered an hour of uncomplicated tunes about the existential struggles of life as young women trying to do meaningful work in the face of a mind-numbingly mundane reality. From the opening chorus of their first song, “Complain,” Chastity Belt lulled a packed 7th Street audience into a beachy post-punk bliss, relieving our anxiety by making it cool not to care for the night.
The band’s focus on material from their 2017 release I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone highlighted how Chastity Belt have matured lyrically, musically, and emotionally since their last album. Where their early material skewed punk, their current album lands somewhere between post-punk, slacker rock, and shoegaze. Gone are the carefree house party days of frontwoman Julia Shapiro and company screaming “Pussy Weed Beer!” and imagining themselves as giant vaginas. They’re experimenting with more fuzz and distortion effects on guitar, and attempting lyrically to balance self-care with self-control.
Shapiro’s deadpan alto has always been central to the band’s sound, channeling the complex anxieties and pressures of a generation with normcore coolness and flat detachment. Her combination of emotional sharing and disinterested affect creates an irresistible tension in her delivery.
Shapiro has expanded her range in both register and style on the new album. On “This Time of Night,” she delivers the distressing opening lines “Fucked up, anxious/ Full of fear/ How, how did I get here?” percussively, but in the chorus, she sings with gentle sweetness in a higher register about escaping into the comfort of her bed after the kind of unsettling day that makes you question everything about your life. By the last refrain, as Shapiro “pulled the sheets over her eyes,” determined to comfort herself, the gentle warmth of guitarist Lydia Lund’s soothing backup harmonies assuaged our anxieties like a meeting of ‘90s pop group the Murmurs and Pieces Of You-era Jewel.
The band is also rotating lead vocal responsibilities a bit more, with guitarist Lydia Lund taking the lead on a fresh new song (written just a couple weeks ago), and drummer Gretchen Grimm switching places with Shapiro for “Stuck.” While Lund’s song was disappointingly plagued with sound issues that eclipsed her usually elegant vocals, Grimm’s voice leant an unadorned sweetness to “Stuck,” the band’s most shoegazey song of the evening, her luscious reverb-drenched guitar tritones akin almost to Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.”
Throughout the show, the band’s overall mood seemed a bit melancholy, and Shapiro acknowledged the band was sad because it was their last show of their tour, and the last with show opener Darren Hanlon. The band had clearly become good pals with the Australian singer songwriter, dedicating songs to him throughout their set. (He did the same in his set, tenderly dedicating songs to each individual member of the “Chazzy Belt” family.)
Melancholy aside, these women still know how to have a good time. They opened their encore set with “Seattle Party,” from 2013’s No Regerts. Through her characteristically flat vocals, Shapiro slurred phrases together about fun and friends and parties, whose deepest concern was the eternal question “Are we having fun?” The answer from all in attendance was a series of resounding head nods.
The show closed on a high note with “Joke” from 2015’s Time to Go Home, a song about blowing off your troubles by getting stoned with your friends that argues if lighting up makes us feel better about life, why not light everything on fire? (And if lighting up isn’t your style, lightening up in general might have the same effect.) The band had become increasingly comfortable onstage as Lund, Shapiro, and Truscott cozied up with Grimm in a late-song extended jam. It was the onstage version of all those band promo pics where the band is posing senior picture-style in stonewashed jeans and scrunchies, or cuddled up together in bed under a plush hotel comforter.
The crowd: Simultaneously younger and older than expected.
Overheard in the crowd: Lots of discussion about the skyways. Between songs, Truscott had asked earnestly what the deal was with all the “above ground tunnels” here. Do they go somewhere? Do they connect? All good questions, Annie. The truth is, it’s complicated.
Critics bias: This show sounded about 150 percent better than their Triple Rock debut in 2015, when a monitor issue fostered some hugely distracting intonation problems from Shapiro. There were still some pitch issues (most notably from the bridge to the chorus on “On the Floor”), Shapiro and company have improved a great deal in this regard.
Random notebook dump: I would be sad to say goodbye to Darren Hanlon, too! What a charming opening act. An Australian singer-songwriter and hilarious storyteller á la Robyn Hitchcock, a good 20 minutes of his 35-minute-long opening set probably consisted of banter alone. The highlight was towards the end of his set, when he invited a 12-or 13-year-old superfan on stage with him to sing Shelley Short’s line of the endlessly sweet duet “All These Things.” (This was their second performance together; apparently she had joined him onstage at the previous night’s show in Iowa City as well.)
You’re Caught In a Lie
Time to Go Home
On the Floor
This Time of Night
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