It’s rare that I receive a press release in my inbox that contains a free download of a new album, but it’s even rarer that said download immediately grabs my attention and forces me to open my windows and grab my megaphone to announce how important it is that everyone else listen to the album as well. I want to say the event happens maybe two or three times a year, and I get pretty vocal about these albums to the point that I appear in other blogger’s articles.

Detroit’s Protomartyr managed to snag one of those two or three spots this year. From the cheeky cover art to the excellent collection of post-punk tracks found on the disc inside, the band’s sophomore effort, Under Color Of Official Right from Hardly Art Records, gets a lot of things right and makes them seem effortless, resulting in one of the most entertaining and thoroughly satisfying albums of the year so far. It was only natural that I jumped at the first opportunity I had to see the band live in Los Angeles.

Protomartyr 1
Photos by Spencer Showalter

Protomartyr showed up to The Bootleg Theater last Saturday, and in hindsight, it was the most appropriate venue I could have chosen for the band to play. With fervent drumming, crunchy guitars, and genuinely punk vocals, it only made sense that they perform in a warehouse with a crowd simultaneously next to a bar and the stage.

While I could say that the band looks nothing like they sound, I can’t deny how harmonious they are when they play. Lead Joe Carney geared up with a beer in his hand while the band began the set with “Maidenhead,” and when it came time for him to lament the line “Shit goes up/shit goes down,” you could easily see the band was at ease with itself, acknowledging its peaks and faults without concern, and giving as much to this performance as every performance that came before it.

Protomartyr 2

Protomartyr was touring in support of the new album, but they also fit in a number of tracks from their previous effort, No Passion All Technique, which displayed more aggressive post-punk tendencies in the vein of The Fall and Wire. These tracks were greeted with applause by band devotees in the audience, as the older album isn’t as readily available as it once was.

One of the set highlights came in the form of the track “Jumbo’s,” which best exhibited each member’s strengths. Joe Casey was probably at his most animated for this part of the set, drummer Alex Leonard was at his most focused, and Greg Ahee’s guitar switched from screeching chords to eerily crystal-clear repetitive strums to drive home the song’s bleak undertones. The song made me realize how committed the band is to its punk roots while still carving out a unique path of their own.

Protomartyr 3

Protomartyr is certainly the best discovery I’ve made this year, and I’m placing my bets that they’ll be gaining a bigger following thanks to Under Color Of Official Right. They’ll also likely perform at bigger venues in the future, but for now, I’m happy to have seen them at the Bootleg Theater, where they will undoubtedly always fit in my mind. They thrived in the loud atmosphere that befitted their genre, and the performance only solidified my initial sentiments of the band from when I first laid ears on that download.

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Hardly Art