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To start, Joe Casey clutches his PBR tallboy like any other loner in the crowd—firmly waist high, ready to be lifted for quick, repeated sips. This unassuming man doesn’t set up at the bar for the night, however. Everyone at Gasa Gasa NOLA soon learns this is what virtuosity looks like.

There may be overlap between “punk” and “blue collar,” but Protomartyr skews towards the latter. This band captivates through a workmanlike expertise of its craft—creating supremely-controlled chaos. A lot of punk accelerates beyond reason to grip an audience, but these guys defiantly stay right on the edge. So even though the live rendition of a song like “The Devil in Youth” starts noticeably in hyperspeed, guitar, bass, and drums never lapse out of sync. The fills in “Pontiac 87” or string back-and-forth from “How He Lived After He Died” demonstrate clear expertise at play.

While those bandmembers consistently move a little throughout the night, Casey remains stoic. Banter stays at a minimum, songs artfully bleed into each other to keep pace. The frontman doesn’t even take the mic off the stand until 10 songs into the set, and his hands only catch your eye as one puts the PBR down and the other leaves its pocket to grab a High Life.

Make no mistake, though: Casey enraptures this audience. The level of feeling (whether disdain, empowerment, joy, sadness, etc.) he emotes solely from his face seems astounding. “Scum, rise!” produces chills. His lyrics make you want to read his notebook as if it’ll be some lifechanging book of poetry. The slightest break in Casey’s stillness takes on increased meaning, and this juxtaposition against the frenetic instrumentation pushes the band to another level live.

I already questioned if I underrated Protomartyr—“Solid, but this LP landed in everyone’s Top 10?”—but tonight only confirms it. Like some of their modern post-punk forefathers, this band could be your life.

Setlist

1) Cowards Starve
2) I Forgive You
3) Boyce or Boice
4) Blues Festival
5) Pontiac 87
6) How He Lived After He Died
7) Scum, rise!
8) What The Wall Said
9) The Devil In Youth
10) Ellen
11) Come & See
12) Pagans Lyrics
13) Dope Cloud
14) The Hermit
15) Clandestine Time
16) Why Does It Shake?

This review originally appeared on my Instagram.

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