Last Friday, the Philly band delivered a refined performance that felt inherently punk.
Shuffling casually on stage and picking up his guitar with no acknowledgement or nod to the audience, Kyle Seely launched Sheer Mag’s Montreal performance with a series of crunchy guitar chords that would have fit snugly on any AC/DC album.
The band’s performance at La Sala Rossa on Sept. 1, in support of its new record, Need To Feel Your Love, was brimming with colossal riffs and bruising political flare.
The audience’s anticipation was apparent. Before the show, there was little to no room in front of the stage, and the banter was kept to a minimum. This set the tone for the rest of the night.
Ignoring any sort of mindless pretense, pauses between songs were reserved strictly for the audience’s passionate cheers. Drummer Allen Chapman played in front of a banner that displayed Sheer Mag’s endearingly dated logo. That was about the extent of the show’s production value—no flashy flourishes, no glitzy showmanship, just uncompromising rock-and-roll swagger.
Throughout the performance, Sheer Mag aimed to cram its ambitious sounds into a short, yet unyielding 45 minutes, combining all the attitude with riffs ripped straight from Thin Lizzy’s songbook. It was a perplexing mix to witness, sure, but this is revivalism we’re dealing with. And yet, it’s revivalism edged with a brawny and confident type of artistry that feels both honest and bold.
Sheer Mag’s crux, despite all their vintage 70s adornments, is keeping its sights fixed firmly on the future. While “Button Up” pushes at breakneck speeds with a blast of fiery Southern rock and harmony-laden melodies at the forefront, it remains an anthemic protest song about refuting societal oppression. “I know they don’t like the way that I talk / Don’t like the way that I walk,” sings vocalist Tina Halladay. The lyrics act as a comment on the backseat role women have historically played in rock music, especially in the 70s. Sheer Mag’s army was the denim-clad misfits assembled at the front of the stage, grooving uniformly throughout the night.
The show wasn’t all politics, however. “Nobody’s Baby” counteracted the band’s raw, firebrand politics with glam-sensible power-balladry. “Meet Me In The Street” was a call to arms, with Halladay’s prickly vocals consistently roaring through like sandpaper. All the while, her lyrics emphasized the importance of compassion and empathy in a bleak, unforgiving world.
Typically, you wouldn’t think to mesh 70s proto-metal aesthetics with a biting political agenda—but that’s what makes Sheer Mag such an exciting project. The band inverts rock and roll expectations by churning out muscled guitar music that resonates with elements from then and now.
With a swarm of primal energy leading its performance, Sheer Mag’s sound is more closely associated with a classic rock radio station than a DIY punk outfit. Still, they cast off any and all expectations, pairing lo-fi textures with studio-polished 70s rock. This band has rooted itself in the very fabric of rock and roll and revamped it to a vehicle of escapism for misunderstood rockers.