SAN FRANCISCO — PVRIS‘ powerful foundation of grungy guitars and thumping rhythm section was contrasted by electronic vibrations and sparkling guitar melodies at the Massachusetts band’s show at the Great American Music Hall Saturday night.
The centerpiece of the show was frontwoman Lynn Gunn and her vocal prowess. Gunn commanded respect as she stalked back and forth on the stage and led the band through a selection of songs from its 2014 debut album, White Noise, and 2017 follow-up, All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell.
The shows highlights included “You and I,” which culminated in a ‘woah-oh-oh’ call and response between the band and audience; “Heaven,” which was a vehicle for Gunn to brandish a sustained and dark vocal melody; and “Death Of Me,” which was a tight and ferocious force of nature.
Drummer Justin Nace was a large presence at the back of the stage, his arms, drumsticks in hand, reaching for the ceiling as he kept pace with a thundering attack of snares and splashing cymbal accents. Gunn joined him on drums during the second portion of “Half.”
The band’s biggest strength was its ability to combine the heaviness of its core sound with just a touch of pop and electronic elements to shine through the cacophony. While the rhythm section pushed momentum, a synth or frosted guitar line would float overhead. This textured tapestry of sound maintained a high level of energy while keeping things interesting from song to song.
Before “Holy,” the frontwoman asked the audience if it could keep phones pocketed for a song and instead focus on being present in the moment and connect with each other. Most played along and the only noticeable light in the room was the pulsing stage production that followed along with the most intimate song in the band’s catalog.
Following an encore break PVRIS returned to play some fan favorites like “St. Patrick” and “My House” before concluding with a massive frenzy of sound.
Phoenix-born, Los-Angeles -based up-and-comer UPSAHL opened the show. She came out wearing a glowing neon outfit draped in lace, flanked by two bandmates on guitar and drums. They quickly launched into a set of infectious pop tunes wrapped in thick bass grooves.
While Upsahl’s music is based in vocal pop, ’90s alt-rock elements were also present, giving the songs a unique spin. She breezed through tunes about moving to L.A. and doing her best to fake it ’til she made it. Highlights included singles “Drugs,” “All My Friends Are Rich” and new song “Wish You’d Make Me Cry.” The vulnerability she shared about her journey contrasted nicely with the tight songwriting and powerful vocals she brought to the table.
— Josiah Skallerup
Follow photographer Joaquin Cabello at Instagram.com/joaquinxcabello.