Prissy Clerks at the 7th Street Entry, 12/8/12
Photo by Erik Hess
With Alpha Consumer, Jim Ruiz Set and Nallo
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, December 8th, 2012
The Black X's. The red badge of courage for every rock 'n' roll kid that slowly becomes more of a scarlet letter by the time you turn 20 years old. But yet, there Clara Salyer is, already something like 6 years deep in the local music trenches and she still can't even share a Primo. There's something really wrong about that, but there's something very right about those x'ed out hands ripping through lead lines on her shell-pink Fender Jazzmaster. Hands that used to grip an acoustic the last time many of us saw her play the Entry.
The Black X's that could have lightly strummed their way into twee stardom now wrench the guitar's neck to coax wailing feedback out of her blasting amp. That's right folks, Clara picked a side, and she chose rock 'n' roll.
When the Jim Ruiz Set took the stage, it appeared that things were going to take a turn for the terminally mellow. While the scene veteran guitarist has some really pretty jazz tones and a Jonathan Richman-esque quirky flair, he tends to keep things pretty tasteful and restrained. Alpha Consumer moved things into the right direction, shattering crowd-pleasing garage rock grooves with blasts of angular post-punk guitar heroics. There are few pleasures in the Twin Cities quite like seeing J.T. Bates, Michael Lewis, and frontman Jeremy Ylvisaker bounce off one another.
Nicely primed, the mostly-full Entry crowd gave Clara and the Clerks a warm welcome, and while the band's youngest member might have seemed a little nervous during the intro, stage fright seemed to melt away whenever the amps were on full-blast. Prissy Clerks seemed determined tonight to emphatically make a statement about the new record they were selling: Bruise or be Bruised is not Total Babe's re-warmed leftovers. In fact, Prissy Clerks live doesn't even sound a whole lot like their new album material. Stripped of the slick production elements, the band sounds positively punk rock.
Photos by Erik Hess
Photo by Erik Hess
The real charm of Prissy Clerks, relative to Clara's previous work, is in her choice of collaborators. Long-time co-conspirator and drummer Tim Leick Jr. wailed on his kit with a new sense of bombast and urgency. Similar credit should go to axe-man Dylan Richie, best known for his work with post-punkers Teenage Strangler, for injecting some raw, raucous power-riffing into arrangements that sounded much cleaner as singles on the Current. Bassist Howard Hamilton barely requires mention at this point, as a veteran of so many amazing local groups including Busy Signals and Red Pens, but he was shredding on the four-string too. The leading lady's no slouch either, and it's obvious that she's been working towards this show for a good long time. The unexpected guitar interplay between Dylan and Clara turned out to be one of my favorite features from the set, evoking a Moore-and-Ranaldo vibe during a couple of downright noisey solos.
Honestly, this side of Prissy Clerks seems to make the band happier as well, During the explosion-moment of new slow-burner "Wisest" Tim bashed his crash cymbal so hard that he simultaneously lost his glasses and broke the stand. This was sort of equivalent to watching one of the geeky kids at school doing a Hurricane Kick. In fact, Prissy Clerks seem to enjoy themselves the most when they put the whole "Prissy" think on the shelf and just embrace their inner rockstars. Smiles all-around during the sped-up-and-rocked-out take on their new album's track betray how much fun the band has together on full-blast. Even the sometimes timid Clara was moved to start Bruise or Be Bruised's deep-cut gem "Psychic Love" with a badass count-off that still managed to sound adorable out of her "Disney character" voice.
So now that Clara's a total rock star and Prissy Clerks has evolved into a tight, new wave attack machine, it's time for someone in the group to start acting the part. Still a bit nervous in the spotlight, the frontwoman needs to seize the carp and start talking the talk between tunes. It's already obvious she's more than capable of singing and playing circles around a lot of her contemporaries in the vaguely surfy-shoegazy-indie scene, but the Clerks will only get stronger if they let themselves be the candy-coated wrecking ball that they are deep-down.
Photo by Erik Hess
But even if things got a little Minnesotan, the night still ended off with the true goal of an album release: a run on the merch booth. Copies of the fancy new blue vinyl were going like hotcakes, out into the fresh December snow, and the best part of all is: Clara's only got a few more months left on those X's of hers. Don't worry kids, it gets better.
The Crowd: Pretty well-attended, tough to say if any of that was overflow from the Beatles tribute in the mainroom, but most seemed to be familiar with the group's radio singles.
Overheard in the Crowd: After Clara's admission of shame for daring to leave the stage before an encore, a couple of "Woo! Embrace it!" cheers went up.
Random Notebook Dump: Bands: You only having 11 or so songs to your name is no excuse to play a short set. Learn covers! Play something old! Anything!
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.