by Scott Wilson
The first thing you notice at a PAWS show is that all three members – the guitarist/lead singer, the bassist, and the drummer – are right at the front of the stage, yes even the drummer, and they all have microphones, ready to banter together with the audience as equals between the songs. Here’s an example:
Guitarist: We always tell you our names but we never get to hear your names.
Drummer: You, what’s your name?
Guitarist: How about this, on the count of three everybody just yell out their name at once… One… Two… Three
Guitarist: That sounded horrible.
Bassist: Did somebody say their name was “Go Home You Scottish Fucks”?
PAWS is a Scottish trio composed of Phillip Taylor, Josh Swinney, and Matthew Scott. They opened this night at Chicago’s most bro-positive music venue, Lincoln Hall, for indie-pop rockers We Are Scientists. The crowd is an even mix of men and women with a significantly large number of backwards baseball caps and American Eagle ¾ length shirts. PAWS, however, is not a bro-band (not that bros are bad people. My own brother is a bro). Their music is a little punky, a little prog-rocky, reminiscent of Husker Du or one of the better 90’s alternative bands. They play fast and their topics range from selling out and getting paid to how it sucks when your friend gets cancer.
If you’re going to play to bros (again, perfectly fine people) who don’t really understand your music and head bang, mosh, or raise their drinks at inappropriate times (assuming there is ever an appropriate time) you could do worse than Lincoln Hall. The sound quality there is excellent and the second floor balcony seating provides an opulent refuge from the scumbag music reviewers in the pit. Plus the lighting guy was spot on, “It feels like I’m in the ocean while sharks are feeding” said an audience lady during one of the more intense songs where the band is bathed in red light.
As musicians, the PAWS guys are very tight. Their instruments are beat-up and well used from years of touring and practicing, but they never miss a note and don’t even need to watch each other for cues. Though between songs they get a little sloppy: the bassist tripped over nothing and fell over at the beginning of the set. Regardless, the general feeling from the audience seems to be that it doesn’t matter what PAWS says or does because Americans just like to hear Scottish accents. And as the guitarist explains the difference between America’s Funniest Home Videos and the UK’s version, You’ve Been Framed, we hang on to his every word.
PAWS’s new album Youth Culture Forever debuts soon and we get to hear a few songs off it tonight, but there will be another US tour in October where it will be pushed a little harder, so they say. Check back for the tour dates to see if PAWS will be in your hometown.