When the four members of Speedy Ortiz stepped up to the stage at the Firebird Tuesday night, they didn't waste much time with introductions. There was no dramatic entrance or extended crowd banter. Just a quick hello, and then an explosion of convulsive guitars.
The Boston-based experimental rockers opened their set with "Taylor Swift," before launching into a run of tracks from the band's new album, Foil Deer. On the left side of the stage, Sadie Dupuis required no theatrics to command the audience. Gazing toward the back of the room, she leaned into the microphone to sing the bouncing lyrics of "Raising the Skate." "I'm not bossy, I'm the boss / Shooter, not the shot / On the tip and fit to execute," she declared, seemingly unaware of the captivated crowd in front of her.
The last time Speedy Ortiz came through St. Louis, almost two years ago, the band played to a small crowd in the basement of Blank Space on Cherokee Street. Although this time around Dupuis and her bandmates took on a much larger stage, the band still performed with all of the spontaneity and minimalism of a basement show. There were no crazy lights or eccentric props on the stage, only a black jersey draped over one of the guitar amps reading "Gender is Over." (In a recent interview, Dupuis told the RFT Music that the jersey is a representative of "people who don't align to a polar gender -- who refuse to let gender define.")
The musicians did not dance around the stage or flail their limbs, but put all of their focus and energy into the music itself. On "Homonovus," Mike Falcone thrashed his head to the beat of his drum, while Devin McKnight's whole body shook as his left hand flew up and down the neck of his guitar.
Since McKnight joined the band about a year ago, Speedy Ortiz has taken its tone in a new direction. Whereas the band's first album, Major Arcana, is filled with crashing guitar chords and driven lyrics, on Foil Deer, Dupuis and her bandmates cover a larger dynamic range, experimenting with playful tones and even some synthesizers. Last night, as the band played cuts off of Major Arcana side by side with the new material, McKnight's contributions to the new sound became clear. Although he effortlessly played along to old fan favorites like "Pioneer Tiger," it was only on new tracks like "My Dead Girl" that McKnight seemed totally free, letting loose manic guitar riffs that soared above Dupuis' vocals.
After an energetic performance of "American Horror Story," Dupuis quietly thanked the audience and took a sip from a white plastic cup. "We're going to finish up soon," she told the screaming crowd. "We're just going to play these next two songs through." Eschewing the rock-star tradition of stepping off stage only to be beckoned back for an encore, the band launched straight into its last two songs, further proving that though the venues may be larger, Speedy Ortiz's humble, no-frills approach remains the same.
Setlist: Taylor Swift The Graduates Raising the Skate Homonovus Doomsday Ginger Puffer Plough My Dead girl Pioneer Tiger American Horror Story Even Bigger Indoor Soccer