On Thursday, a crowd of 40 confirmed patrons huffed it through a lightning storm to take cover beneath the roof of Spice World, the punk scene’s latest underground venue. Bands slated to play were locals Dumspell and Big Bleach and out-of-state rock favorites Gland (New Orleans) and Plastic (Chicago). The weather, surprisingly, had no effect on the turnout.
Spice World carries the Porn Hall’s same mystique, a house venue with a slightly smaller show space than that of the latter. Though this was only the spot’s second show, Spice World has climbed the rung to be a legitimate and celebrated place of nighttime mayhem. It would seem having a sister venue to the Porn Hall has impacted the scene positively, as there are new faces who come crawling to the door, ready to groove and otherwise slam, with each new show. This relatively new spot is a triumph—another way weird strangers can come together and form meaningful connections.
The music started at approximately 7:40 p.m., with Dumspell playing the opening set. The band played during my first Porn Hall stint and have since advanced in terms of tightness and power. Vocalist Mary Spooner had us by the collar at the second number, and the band took its fullest swing by the third. Since I last reviewed this group, I’ve listened to their self-titled demo countless times. I can safely say the quintet succeeds itself when performing live. The rhythm section—Bradly Presson on drums and PJ Ladner on bass—resonated like a jackhammer. Having been so invested in their tape, the live experience was heightened. As a side note, they executed a Dumspell-branded cover of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love”—after which someone called out, “Yeah! Marilyn Manson!”—and gave the evening a killer start.
The second set saw the return of none other than local punk darlings Big Bleach, the venerable Porn Hall residents and owners. The group only just got home from a tour across the country, and they truly showed their teeth as a result. I was lucky enough to stand near guitarist Hampton Martin and observe his and drummer Zach Burton’s technique. Martin slides through his bar chords like jazz, and Burton complements by playing tight as an eel’s rear end. Big Bleach’s return to Hattiesburg was nothing less than overpowering. I can’t commend this group enough for the sheer depth and tightness of their live work—from the seamless tempo changes to the smooth song transitions. Big Bleach has quickly ascended to being one of my all-time favorite bands, hands down. And props to bass player Harley White for ripping on his respective instrument and for consistently being a cornerstone of the crowd’s ceaseless dance. It wouldn’t be a proper show without seeing his face and hearing his trademark “Hey, man!”
Gland’s set is where things got complicated. This group brought something a little different to Spice World, a sound that had the crowd grooving and listening closely for the first three or so numbers, which were quieter than previous sets but gave reason to dance. (Nobody ever said louder is necessarily better.) The quick tempos started up before long, and audience members thrashed at the first opportunity. The set was a lengthy and slow burn. Their style can only be summarized as wild, weird and cool. And I can’t help but feel the need to shine a light on their bravery as a band: they were all women, one of whom being a person of color. Punk scenes, like anything else, severely need representation, whether it be racial, sexual or otherwise. Bands like Gland are important because it’s truly in the spirit of punk for marginalized persons to play out and express themselves fiercely.
Plastic of Chicago is an interesting case in that they were initially described as synth punk. When it comes to bands from out of town, I usually stay away from hitting groups’ music profiles. (I like to stay surprised. It keeps me on my toes.) My first impressions were somewhat off-putting, if not pleasantly so. The music at first seemed a little disjointed from itself, synthesizers rolling out over strong punk instrumentation. I quickly found myself adapting and appreciating the deconstruction of what’s acceptably punk. That’s part of punk’s beauty—that you can tear it down, rebuild it and still know it’s punk.
For more information on these bands, or for a good listen, you can hit their respective Bandcamp profiles. More information on the Porn Hall and on Spice World can be found nowhere. Locations and dates are given on a need-to-know basis.