Evangelicals, Parenthetical Girls @ Rock and Roll Hotel

The Evangelicals

Photos: Evangelicals, Greensboro NC (right); Parenthetical Girls, Portland OR (below)

Coming all the way from Oklahoma, Evangelicals finally made a trip back to DC. Fog machines and neon spotlights in tow- maybe the fact that we’re in the month of October isn’t the only reason it feels like Halloween. I noticed a Jack-O-Lantern resting on a stand behind the white-wife-beat-ed bassist. Spooky trans overlapping hard-rock guitar, echoing into each other to bring you out of your element: the vocals of Josh Jones are distinct, but fade out and bleed into synth-y trails. (Think the bastard child of MGMT and Panda Bear).

The entire week before the show, I had ”Skeleton Man” on repeat, digging the catchy intro tapering off into a more psychedelic conclusion. Live, they do it justice, but unfortunately, it follows the recorded version almost to a T. Towards the end of their set, the energy really picked up. ”Another Day” was played with a lot of instrumental breaks (props to Todd Jackson on his performance here), progressing in an unexpected way. The set resolutely ended with a bang. Their latest album, The Evening Descends is definitely one I enjoy and recommend. Although they didn’t surprise me, they surely did not disappoint. Fulfilling my expectations is just fine. Evangelicals stick to what works.

What I found in their opening band, however, was something innovative and staggering.

Parenthetical Girls w/Orchestra -- CaroleZoom

Parenthetical Girls’ Zac Pennington says something along the lines of “let’s see if we can make this a complete train-wreck” (referring to his microphone that came unplugged during one of his impassioned tantrums). When he begins to sing, his body gracefully drifts across the stage, flying off to stomp his way through the crowd. He brings a pair of drumsticks with him, using the linoleum floor as an instrument, breaking apart its beat with heartbreaking yodels of his verses, a sound much like Colin Meloy if he sang for a cabaret show, singing: ”soiled my jeans lie in heaps beneath me/ blood marrs the sheets and they stain so easily/ swollen wrists, knees, and you swelled inside me/ and it took nine months to destroy my body” . When referencing this Portland troop, ”performance” is an understatement. This was an interpretive dancing porcelain doll wearing a little burgundy vest, crying out with confessions, raw and harrowing like that of friends Xiu Xiu. I don’t thnk the crowd gave a shit about the audio glitch.

Rachel Jensen plays the glockenspiel with a serious expression, following suit with the theme of the production. I take note of its unique incorporation into the sound. Who knew he had (keyboard flute) lined up for the next song. “The Weight She Fell Under,” Pennington explains, tackles the true event of a friend being hit by a train. His grieving voice, matched with his honest, unrestrained speech are tormenting without question. Parenthetical Girls’ ability to make their act into stronger than just vocals and percussions, deserves more credit than I can verbalize. Their work is spectacular.

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