The Pack a.d. hails from about as far away from Washington, D.C. as you can get in North America — Vancouver — so they got a local band to open up the evening. It’s a time-tested technique, and on this Saturday night it helped fill (pack?) the room, despite an early start.
The duo consists of two women — Maya Miller and Becky Black — that together create a sound that merges the snarl of L7 with some of the instrumentality of White Stripes and The Black Keys. Their last visit to this room played out in front of a handful of fans, the intervening time has seen a new album and an increasingly active social media presence. So, whatever filled the room, tonight promises a different experience.
A sludgy guitar riff rattles the room to attention, a propellant bass drum beat double-timing us in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling empty. The vocals double-team as choruses pound their way into our subconscious, fleshing out a sound with a seek and destroy mission. That mission: eviscerating stresses and all their impetuses from our consciousness.
Vocal dexterity plays a sizable role in their songs’ progression towards emotive catharsis, Becky’s vox shape-shift with the vibrato of Jello Biafra amidst frequent shifts about the register. “Haunt You” is pulled out a few songs in, and immediately there are more kids bouncing and chanting than there were kids the last time around.
As they move to a slower number, a vixen at 1 o’clock starts doing some Penthouse Forum thing with her finger, her gum, and her mouth that demonstrates just what sort or relationship she has/had with her daddy. I’m not above being distracted by pointless voyeurism, so I indulge the baser instincts of evolutionary biology.
Thoroughly disgusted (of course) I return to the rock, Becky’s vibrato now more Alannis / Fiona than Jello before crescendoing into the full-throated roar of Janis. It’s something to see, something to hear. Their last show here featured Maya’s numerous witticisms breaking up the silent echoes of a mostly empty room afraid to get too crazy without the anonymity of a larger crowd, this one features a processional assault of rock and friggin’ roll.
OK, there was a “Murder She Wrote” joke at some point, and a play-by-play of Becky’s inter-song activity delivered with breathless alacrity. Which proved that rock and roll can be fun, and which was mirrored by the blondes raising and dipping their shoulders on the beat, joyously smiling at each other like they were teens in front of the mirror, dancing with purposeful, joyful abandon. And it’s not just the blondes, a look around the room reveals the sort of smiles that accompany a duo who might, on occasion, dress as furries. And on a bad anniversary for Pacific NW rock…it doesn’t hurt to have a battering ram of WHOO HOO! rock to pound those frowns upside down.