WERW Launch Party: PWR BTTM and High Waisted

PWR BTTM and High Waisted give energetic performances in Schine Underground

Review: By the earnest, eager response from the Schine Underground crowd, it was clear PWR BTTM and High Waisted succeeded in having a good time at WERW’s Fall 2016 Launch Party.

The message during PWR BTTM and High Waisted’s sets on Thursday night was clear: This is a safe space; we want you to have fun.

Though raucous and at times a little angry, the two bands put on performances for WERW’s Fall 2016 Launch Party in Schine Underground that combined thoughtful audience interaction with great musical prowess — and each were intimate and thoroughly enjoyable.

Photo: Rachel Kline

New York City natives High Waisted kicked the evening off with high-energy surfer rock, but not before lead singer Jessica Louise Dye joked with the audience about being back in school.

“It’s a Thursday night, don’t you guys have class tomorrow?” Dye asked.

The crowd answered with a resounding “no” and band members laughed as they launched into a song. It would be easy to write off High Waisted’s music as simply influenced by ‘60s California rock ‘n’ roll. However, the band takes the genre’s predecessors and at once pays homage to and enhances those artists’ music with a modern edge. But maybe it’s a bit of a given — you certainly wouldn’t find any songs called “Shithead” or “Nuclear Lover” on the Beach Boys’ Pets Sounds.

Dye and company played with constant smiles and laughter, and even when they delved into their sadder material, “Hey Hey,” they still retain that same quality that makes you involuntarily groove along.

If High Waisted’s songs gave the evening a mellow start, PWR BTTM amped it up just by being on stage. The self-described queer punk duo, made of Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins, is one of the most energetic, enjoyable acts touring today, and their live performances is less of a concert than a genuinely funny comedy duo who also happen to be in a band.

Their music is excellent, cleanly played with just a guitar and drums, which the two alternated halfway through. But the banter the two have — with each other and the audience — is at Abbott and Costello levels of hilarity. Or, as might be more apt, Flight of the Conchords.

“Our manager went to school here,” Hopkins announced to applause. “She told me that when we first met. I walked up to her and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I know you, and I’m very gay, and I want you to be our manager.’ And she said, ‘Go orange.’ And I said, ‘How dare you call me out on my spray tan.’”

The band debuted several new songs from their upcoming album, which they finished recording the day before the performance. The new material, weaved in with hits from their 2015 album Ugly Cherries, promised a slightly more emotionally raw experience than listeners have seen from the band thus far.

One song, which Hopkins said was written due to a disagreement with a friend, has a simple but strong chorus: “One man won't ever love me like I need him to.” It might not be the funniest sentiment, but Hopkins and Bruce deliver it with an emphasis that translates that pain incredibly effectively.

PWR BTTM and High Waisted have undeniable musicality. But it was the comfortable wit and fun that they each brought to Schine that made their performances truly worth remembering.

Plenty of bands encourage their audiences to be themselves. PWR BTTM and High Waisted feel like they really believe it — because they live it.

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