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Live Report: Nails, Woe, & Couch Slut

Nails by Chris Harrington
Nails by Chris Harrington

Nails, Woe, and Couch Slut played an Invisible Oranges presented and curated show on Saturday (11/18) at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, part of the venue’s 30th anniversary celebration that also included a This Will Destroy You / Sannhet show earlier in the week.

I need to eat my shoe. A year ago I argued that the legacy of Nails may have been better served if their brief “indefinite” hiatus had been a permanent breakup. I goofed. It’s great having Nails around, especially as a live act. Despite the fact that their live shows last longer than any of their albums, they’re surprisingly more manageable in person. The vibe isn’t as punishing as you’d expect… it’s more communal and celebratory.

Don’t get it twisted though: Nails aren’t writing campfire singalongs or anything. Live, they are astoundingly intense, like an armored truck moving at the speed of a Ferrari. Over the course of three records, they’ve condensed the dynamic range of heavy metal and hardcore to their heaviest moments and written exclusively from that. Each song is a finishing blow.

Finding a way to challenge a crowd that actively signs up to be bowled over by Nails is no easy task, but Brooklyn’s Couch Slut were the perfect band for the job. The bands share little outside of their sheer intensity. Couch Slut’s lurching, sludgy approach to noise rock is custom-made to confound moshing. Instead, singer Megan Osztrosits patrolled the venue floor, confronting the audience directly, but also asserting control over them. Couch Slut will not allow you to experience them passively. They aren’t part of the ambiance at a party. As the band slowed down over the course of their set, they only became more punishing, finishing a skin-peeling crawl.

It speaks volumes about the two bands that sandwiched them to say that Woe felt like a breather. Unlike the rest of the bill, Woe aren’t a physical band — more like a gust of wind than a rolling boulder. Their style of black metal is heady without being overly brainy, i.e. compositionally smart but direct. Drummer Lev Weinstein, free to blast his way to oblivion and back, was a force to behold. Especially so on a brand new song that the band debuted. While they still had a few performance details to tighten up, the underlying composition was the most thrilling of the entire set. By the end, even the most ardent hardcore Nails-bros were nodding in approval.

Because the first two bands denied the crowd cheap thrills, the raw power of Nails lit the room up like it was a powder keg. The band ripped through their material at a startling pace. Calls for a circle pit mostly fell on deaf ears, but the crowd needed no coaxing to get rowdy. While standing at the lip of the pit, I received a hit that literally spun my beer full circle through the air and back into my hand. Nails inspires that kind Looney Tunes-esque absurdity. They leave you feeling like you’ve got keys for teeth after standing under a falling piano. This shoe tastes delicious; long live Nails.

Browse more photos from the show, by Chris Harrington, in the galleries above.

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