For a minute, it looked like Philadelphia wasn’t going to brave sub-freezing temperatures to see Protomartyr. Lord knows it’d be hard to blame someone for not wanting to hang out in the cavernous basement that is Underground Arts on a single-digit evening, and it wasn’t until midway through show opener Taiwan Housing Project that bodies started to fill out the black-box theater.

I can only imagine what those who came mid-set thought of the Philadelphia art-rock project. The five-piece band, which includes saxophone, keyboard and the banshee-esque wailing of Kilynn Lunsford, offered a sonic texture that is a far cry from the burly post-punk of Protomartyr. It is tempting to say that Taiwan Housing Project suffered from sound issues, seeing as only the bass and drums were ever really able to rise about the atonal din that was wafting off the stage, but I suspect that even with pitch-perfect fidelity, the band’s specific definition wouldn’t have improved. Say this for them; they came with a great deal of energy and poured it over a half-empty room. People walked to the bar after the set, either dazed at the spectacle or armed with a new favorite band. They’re that kind of group.

Tour mates Priests made more sense for the show, at least in genre similarity. Their music offered visceral yin to the controlled chaos of Protomartyr’s yang. Falling more on the “punk” side of the equation, Priests vocalist Katie Alice sneered and screamed at the crowd, egged on by the heavy drumming of Daniele Daniele and the swirling, screeching guitar of G.L. Jaguar. They’re a funny collection of individuals on stage; Alice is a steely-eyed, scathing blonde, Daniele’s drumming is at odds with her friendly demeanor, Jaguar looks like a science teacher and, due to his slight frame, bass player Taylor Mulitz looks a bit like someone’s brother. The four of them delivered one of the more arresting punk performances I’ve seen a while, retching up the aggression and lightly antagonizing the crowd for not being rowdy enough. They seemed downright delighted when a mosh pit broke out.

Like Priests, half the fun of seeing Protomartyr is watching the band interact – or in this case, not interact. Bassist Scott Davidson, drummer Alex Leonard and guitarist Greg Ahee looked like a live rock band; they bobbed over their instruments, jumping around, doing their best to show they were feeling the rock music they were playing. Those outbursts played out while lead singer Joe Casey, dressed in a suit and looking like a middle-manager who had gotten out of work and gone right to the bar, stood emotionless and even in front of the mic, barking out his lyrics with a beer in hand. It served to highlight the tension of the band’s most recent album with the hopelessness of its lyrics.

The group spent most of the night running through it’s excellent 2015 record The Agent Intellect, with songs like “Uncle Mother’s” and “Why Does It Shake?” benefitting from the energy of live performance. Album highlight “Dope Cloud” was especially well performed; on record, the song is a tight wire of cascading guitar thunderclouds. Live, it’s a joyous outburst of cracking snare and driving bass. Toward the end of the band’s set, even Casey couldn’t keep his stone face any longer. He was grabbing the mic and, if not quite screaming like Priests, preaching and straining his spoken delivery. It was frozen outside, but sweaty at the front of the stage.

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