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Music

Priestess @ Café Campus 6/2: For Those About to Rock...

Posted by Asmaa / June 3, 2006

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From special correspondent Omar Majeed

I was nervous walking over to Café Campus to catch the Priestess show. Part of it was wanting a cigarette and wondering if I could enjoy a rock show post-smoking-ban. The other question was not knowing what to make of local sensation Priestess, devotees of hard rock, or RAWK. One plucky music journalist described them as the “insanely loud, hook-loving, chorus-belting next big thing.” Sounds good, but I still had my concerns.

Although my first concert ever was KISS (I was five and my brother dressed me up as Peter Criss) and I grew up listening to AC/DC, Sabbath and other bands that Priestess get compared to, I get less and less of a buzz off of that kind of music these days. As I downloaded songs from their album Hello Master, and listened to the popular track, Run Home, I mostly felt underwhelmed. Was this just another nostalgia act, harkening back to a genre that has largely become fossilized on comeback tours for ’70s hard rockers? I didn’t know if I would be able to appreciate what Priestess had to offer.

But once Priestess took stage, I started to get a sense of what they hype was about. They put on a fine show. It’s a dizzying mix of loud noise, great rock hair flying all over the place, giant amps staring out at you and four sweaty, winsome guys giving it their all.

A fellow concert-goer aptly described the group and the show as irony-free. Take the wink-wink references to cheesy ’70s art rock out of Tenacious D, take the Stonehenge theatrics out of Spinal Tap, take the tongue out of cheek from U.K.’s The Darkness and you have some inkling of what Priestess are about. They’re real. Beyond the songwriting (which still doesn’t floor me), they capture the feel. I almost felt the excitement of my five-year-old self eagerly watching rock-and-roll through my caked-on make-up.

What really won me over, though, was their charisma. Lead singer Mikey Heppner’s earnest invitation for the whole audience to join them at an after party, or the impromptu riffing on the Beatles’ Blackbird. Anyone who still cares to acknowledge The Beatles is all right in my books. These guys clearly love rock and love playing for you.

If I groaned inside at the five-minute drum solo (it’s like watching rock drumming as an Olympic event) or started to feel the material get repetitive, I still felt like cheering for them. They’re just having so much fun.

The true shining moments for Priestess came towards the end of the show. They got looser and played some great extended-rock jams. Watching the four of them on stage lock into these great loud pulsing grooves, their bodies and souls right into it, the feeling was deeply infectious.

Priestess have returned from a big tour of the U.S., supporting Dinosaur Jr. There was a warm feeling in the crowd as Heppner told everyone how good it was to be back. And considering what a rock cliché that is, I was surprised by how much I believed him.

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