With a name like a throwback to a "parental advisory" era that today seems charmingly nostalgic, Haverhill, Massachusetts's Motherf@#kers Be Trippin' (special characters theirs) were like an open-top Jeep cruising the promenade of riotous rock and roll. Each of its four members were men; they wore black shirts with printed text. Behind them, a banner bearing the band's name was hung like a middle finger to subtlety. Before the third song, the frontman told us, "this song's called 'Don't Care Because — ,'" the last word lost as his enthusiasm boiled to a yell, which flattened inside Geno's speakers into a pancake of guttural, unintelligible sound.
Despite its roughness, MFBT's tone was rebellious to the point of optimism. And why not? It's a inarguable triumph for four people in their late 30s to embark on an interstate rock mission in the middle of January, no matter how brief. The camaraderie among the band was way high; between-song banter consisted mostly of inside jokes well over the audience's reach. After "Don't Care," the singer pointed out that the guitarist's mother was present, calling out to her by her first name. A campy laughter boiled over, and as the next song launched its barreling gallop, it was unclear if the gesture was one of warmth or merely well-honed showmanship. By the second verse the irony had subsided; "fuck you and fuck your dreams," the singer intoned meatily, the guitarist's shouts emphasizing the song's pivotal message.
After MFBT departed, no bigger man took the stage. Instead, the crowd was treated to Dementia Five, a newer psych-rock outfit featuring current and former members of Hobgoblin and Hatchetface and the Vipers. Portland is full of underheralded women with strong pipes, and Peri Broadbent is no exception. Those pipes led the way, swamped though they were in Katie Gilchrest's lurching Kyuss riffs and Charlie Bailey's seriously ravaging psychedelic keys. The most affecting moments were when Gilchrest sang harmonies, drenching the groove in high-minded melody.
Angus MacFarland is truly possessed. He and Salli Wason — another in Portland's sisterhood of powerful singers — assume twin frontperson duties in Hessian, whose set on this night was engaging and redemptive. They blazed through several Maiden-worthy riffs, blessed us with some short and fast brutalities, and were done with it. Allowing yourself to be possessed in 2011 is no easy feat, but someone's gotta answer the call.