Schuba diving for Perfect P—y

In Chicago, concertgoers will inevitably encounter many beards. Each beard is indicative of a different demographic: Big beards represent seasoned mosh veterans and little beards express the spry Wicker Park beatniks, among the red, patchy and pubescent beards that frequent the live music scene. Interestingly enough, at relentless lo-fi punk rockers Perfect P—y’s potent Jan. 22 show at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., all beards were equally represented.

A searing fusion of riot grrrl and classic American hardcore, the snarling noise-rock five piece—made up of guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski, bassist Greg Ambler, noisemaker Shaun Sutkus on synths and lead singer Meredith Graves—provided an unadulterated punk show suitable for any crowd, facial-haired or not. Exciting yet fleetingly quick, Perfect P—y, a band not yet in their prime but heading there fast, played with incredible intensity, making them a must-see for fans of hardcore and punk alike.

The band’s four-track demo cassette, I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, released in April, is a brilliantly chaotic mess of sound perfectly punctuated by Graves’ poignant lyrics and the band’s loud-louder-loudest dynamic. Each track was given a Roman numeral and therefore a sense of anonymity because of it. The songs are defined by the individual feelings, whether it is abandonment or anger, present in each track. Their debut album, Say Yes To Love, will be released March 18. 

Their single, “Driver,” has the sound of a band finding their comfort zone, dialing back their youthful cheekiness and figuring out who they are by polishing the fuzzy edges of their signature sound. Restricted but not in any way commercial, “Driver” is bombastic and tightly arranged with the perfect amount of charm and crust, a preview of what Perfect P—y will offer with their next release. 

Although punk rock has long been linked with hyper-masculinity—the kind of sweaty, impulsive manliness bad decisions are made of—Perfect P—y is redefining the standard. Graves, sporting a pixie cut and polka dots, waltzed confidently onto the stage, bringing a new brand of manic femininity reminiscent of the early CBGB crowd and the couldn’t-care-less attitude of punk’s first wave. 

“You guys are really nice,” said a sweaty, breathless Graves with a smile half-way through the band’s all-ages show at Schubas. “Bless your hearts.” 

Perfect P—y’s lo-fi sound is one of their assets. An opaque wall of white noise leaves listeners and their imaginations to fill in the gaps left by auditory abstraction. Digitally distorted drums and guitars are undercut by a pounding electric bass sound that is cut through with the intensely melodic synthesizers that color their music. The night hit a high point with an impassioned performance of their song “I.” Graves’ distressingly personal lyrics are refreshing, indicative of the band’s focus.

Articulately spitting into her microphone, Graves screamed, “My best friend is back in town/ There’s a bad taste in my mouth/ Her eyes fell low and heavy with shame and c-m/ She must have been desperate; she must have been lonely/ She is deserving of affection, I am glad that she found love.” 

The only downside to the concert was how hard it was to decipher the lyrics. For a band that is lyrically strong, the vocals were unfortunately inaudible. 

Perfect P—y was preceded by bands Split Feet, an all-girl Chicago-based act that sounds like a synthesis of Joy Division and X, and Broken Prayer, another local band that tied up the aggression of grindcore with the complex rhythmic interplay of Fugazi and hellish Greg Ginn chromaticism. 

Schubas’ wooden floors, dull lighting and conveniently placed coat hangers provided both a cozy atmosphere and an unusually fitting setting for the packed show. It wasn’t the music that fit, but the people, all part of a large and welcoming community coming out to support the strange, noisy music they love.

All three bands played a minimal set lasting about 30 minutes. Fans congregated at the front of the stage, moshing relentlessly. A tumultuously churning Charybdis of fans circled around a sturdy woven fence of arms and legs, throwing themselves at one another with increasing tenacity. 

As bruising and vicious as punk shows can get, they are also where many of Chicago’s nicest folks go to blow off steam. Immediately after Broken Prayer’s set, one fan halted the pandemonium and held up a white iPhone. “Anybody lose a phone?” The phone was quickly claimed by the thankful owner. 

By the end of evening, in a room full of ringing ears and scabbed knees, the crowd members politely gathered their hats and coats from the walls and benches, already lamenting a concert that felt like it ended before it began. Few shuffled back home without making a new friend or having a great experience. They got a workout at the very least.

“We have played 42 shows in 51 days,” said a visibly exhausted Graves in a raspy voice. “This was by-and-large one of the coolest.” 

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