Kansas City punk group Phantom Head headlined at the Porn Hall Monday night with Hattiesburg bands Dumspell, Big Bleach, Nap and the Secret Wands and The Villetown Mountain Army Brigade opening respectively. The show saw a turnout of at least 50 confirmed attendees and lasted from 8 p.m. to approximately 10 p.m.
The gig had been scheduled to start at 7 p.m. But the headliner was late coming in from New Orleans, where they’d played a generator show the previous night—which is all fine and perfectly understandable—so I and the other attendees huddled together in the Hattiesburg heat and swapped stories about past shows. There I was, my first time visiting the Porn Hall, and everyone was content with making my acquaintance. I felt welcome. The few patrons who’d seen Phantom Head before sang their praises readily, so everyone tolerated the wait. After all, there was plenty to discuss.
Dumspell rolled out their set opener at 8 p.m., saving the event before anyone grew impatient. The instrumentals were thunder—guitars set against former Printz staffer Bradley Presson’s drum support. Vocalist Mary Spooner had a stage presence that was ideal for an opening act, a kind of authority that could excite. The dancing began at the second number, and their set was a fine mix of fast- and medium-paced songs. In my experience, it’s always been something of a curse to play an opening set because of the awful pressure: crowd hesitance, setting the bar, getting people to interact and more. But Dumspell handled their position expertly. I even bought a tape.
Where Spooner’s vocals were precise and added a hint of elegance to Dumspell’s set, Big Bleach vocalist Sarah Krock played Spooner’s foil, and that is in no way a negative thing. Krock’s rapidfire vocals kept pace with every beat, and she sang each piece with power. The crowd moved at the first number and for good reason. The tunes were bright, fast and fun and Hampton Martin’s guitar work crashed over the audience in waves. Big Bleach presented a core energy necessary for fueling the night’s momentum.
Nap and the Secret Wands followed and were a special case in the sense that they were keenly unique for the Porn Hall’s usual sound, as the person standing next to me put it. Their set consisted of an array of girl-themed songs such as “Gurl” and “Gurl Party.” The show was better to have something different that offset the norm, and Nap did well for themselves in their willingness to draw laughs and in their pure musical ability. Vocalist Dylan Kern twisted the punk genre with melodic singing and even guitar solos. The results were odd in the most charming possible way.
Up next was The Villetown Mountain Army Brigade. You wouldn’t believe how big a sound a mere two musicians can produce, but this band was evidence that less can be more. Playing as a pair means tightness and flexibility. Villetown showed their progressiveness through dynamism and their not-necessarily-rock-but-not-necessarily-something-else sound, garnering fanfare from all patrons.
Finally, after four sets, it was Phantom Head’s turn to play. Their numbers were thick with distortion and bass. In the middle of their performance, crowd movement reached its peak—a high-octane twister of bodies that could have pulled the floor up. A few of their songs were slow like stretched plastic with a sandpaper sound that swayed. This seems like a negative critique, but it’s not. The audience reacted with an electric intensity. The band’s low, grinding songs were perfect for ending the evening. Phantom Head is currently subsisting on a tour of over 15 stops, and they are entirely deserving of that.
For more information or a good listen, visit these bands’ Bandcamp profiles. Drop a dollar if you like what you hear.
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