Gig Review: Daughters Live at the Button Factory
Hailing from Rhode Island, Daughters have consistently pushed the envelope with each new release since their formation in 2002. Switching up their genre with every entry in their discography, 2018’s You Won’t Get What You Want settled on horror-tinged noise rock, garnering glowing reviews across the board. This album was a progression of the more experimental sound explored on their 2011 self-titled – their previous efforts, Hell Songs and Canada Songs were heavily indebted to mathcore and grindcore respectively. With a history that’s almost as tumultuous as their music, they’re no strangers when it comes to making noise, and on the 2nd of November they brought one of the most brutal, engaging sets I’ve ever experienced to the Button Factory.
A hush descends on the crowd as the band begins to set up. After opener Jerome’s Dream almost took down the ceiling with their deafening wall of noise, there’s an expectant energy running throughout the decently sized room. Daughters are well-known for their confrontational and intimate live performances, and tonight proves to be no exception. Frontman Alexis Marshall steps on to the stage, briefly surveys the crowd and without wasting a second jerks his head towards the floor as the band launches into a lurching, cacophonous rendition of ‘The Reason They Hate Me’. It’s even louder and more violent than the studio version, which is highly impressive considering just how raw the album sounds. The audience hangs on his every word, reciting the lyrics with perfection as he stomps across the stage. Like a diet version of GG Allin, he slams the microphone into his forehead repeatedly, drawing blood as he resentfully snarls “don’t tell me how to do my job”. The bassist hunches over the crowd like an angel of death, swaying and eventually falling into their waiting arms before being catapulted back on to the stage, continuing to play the entire time. The band blazes through their setlist at a blistering pace, giving us no respite from Marshall’s erratic howls and discordant screeches from their guitars – I can’t even imagine how beautiful their pedalboards look.
Each track they go through is a highlight in just how genuinely energetic their performance is, making it difficult to pick out specific shining examples. ‘Less Sex’ sounds like Nine Inch Nails undergoing a severe psychological break. Marshall gently croons the lyrics rather than leaning into the all-out vocals he normally adopts. Their rendition of ‘Guest House’ is genuinely haunting, and the few songs performed from their self-titled act as a violent foil to their later, more atmospheric work. A notable omission is ‘The Flammable Man’ from their latest album, which is a strong callback to their early days in its style.
I can barely recall any moments where the crowd actually stopped moving – it was one heaving mass embroiled in a constant moshpit. The front row, where I had decided to post up early – an excellent decision – was essentially a warzone, but the looming chance of getting my nose broken felt completely worth it when my hand was grabbed by Marshall as he reached towards the crowd. It’s a profound experience having someone scream directly into your face as they lock you in a death-grip handshake. This sense of intimacy and Marshall’s constant audience interaction elevates the performance far beyond most others – during the first and only lull in the sensory assault, he kneels down, sweating buckets, and begins to monologue. Midway through he stops, eyes locking on someone who’s caught his attention – it’s an unassuming man with exceptionally curly hair. He’s beckoned forward and he obligingly steps towards the front, beaming. Marshall begins to muss the man’s hair violently, and without missing a beat launches right into his next dirge.
‘Ocean Song’ was a perfect choice for a closer, especially considering that its ending consists entirely of guitar feedback – there are none of the typical calls for encores or ‘one more tune’. The band simply abandons their instruments without a word, leaving guitarist Nick Sadler to drone his way through the song’s final minute before exiting the stage.
One of the most impressive qualities of the performance is just how much Marshall manages to resemble a cult leader – the jostling crowd clamours for a chance to touch him, reaching towards him as he leans in to howl into their faces. His preaching takes the form of an intense, almost primal rage running throughout the music. He self-flagellates with his own belt, leaving harsh red welts on his shoulders. The microphone stand becomes his sceptre. If you ever have the good fortune to catch Daughters touring again, you’d be a fool to miss them live – it’s an all-out, uncompromising set that feels more like a hellish sermon than anything else.
Matthew Derwin – Music Editor