The blog hype machine is a funny phenomenon.  If you spend a lot of time inhabiting that space, its easy to get sucked into a the hype vortex in which certain cultural stuff—bands, movies, actors—take on more than their share of significance.  Right now, the Northampton based punk band Potty Mouth is riding that hype wave, with lots of love from various blog lists, favorable write-ups in Pitchfork and SPIN, and heavy rotation on indie radio stations across the country. If, like me, you place a fair amount of stock in these kinds of rubrics, a band like Potty Mouth can feel like a really big deal.

But the band’s record release show at Great Scott this Monday reminded me that for all their buzz, Potty Mouth is still just coming up. They are still playing shows in small venues where before their set they’ll be mingling with the crowd and bobbing their heads to the opening bands (friends of theirs in this case). They man their own merch table and they get pretty darn excited about their parents’ presence in the audience.  

When they finally took the stage around 11, the band ripped into a lightning quick set of songs from their new album Hell Bent, starting with “Wishlist,” a knowing and slightly jaded look at small-town restlessness.  Driving the band’s breakneck pace was the merciless and technically awesome drumming of Victoria Mandanas.

Mandanas is the band’s oldest and most experienced member.  While bassist Ally Einbinder has been playing in various punk bands around Western Massachusetts, the other two members were teaching themselves to play as the band was formed.  Despite this fact—or maybe because of it—Potty Mouth’s set at Great Scott was impressively tight, and very confident.

The most kinetic performer of the group is vocalist Abby Weems.  The youngest member of the band, Weems is just out of high school. Before joining, she had never written music or played guitar.  Still, Weems is completely at home in the rock star role, swinging her rail straight hair, scrunching her nose for emphasis, and doubling over dramatically to shred between verses of the album standout “The Spins.”  

Weems’ voice is low and throaty with a monotone that occasionally recalls early grungy Liz Phair. She also can’t project much and at Great Scott, Weems’ defiant and extremely relatable lyrics mostly got lost, taking a back seat to the band’s infectious sound, noisy and catchy with hook after irresistible hook.  

The marked exception was the band’s closer “Better End,” whose lyrics are crystal clear, shout-sung by lead guitarist Pheobe Harris.  High pitched and loud, her voice is a satisfying contrast to Weems’ delivery.  There’s something exhilarating about Harris’ performance, eyes flashing as she screams, “Here’s the thing, I’m the best.  I know it’s hard to digest.”  It’s a fitting closer for a band like Potty Mouth.  Though technically the song is a bratty kiss-off to an X, it also reads as a statement of purpose. Potty Mouth has arrived and they more than stand up to the hype.

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