Protomartyr performed in Baltimore’s Metro Gallery last Saturday to fifty-odd fans who had come to welcome the group on its second trip to the city.
The visit came as Protomartyr rides a wave of positive press from its third and latest album, The Agent Intellect. The praise for the rising stars in punk rock comes from both local and national outlets, with The New York Times calling the album the band’s best work so far, while The Michigan Daily paid tribute to the album’s ability to tug at listeners’ heartstrings.
There’s certainly no shortage of emotional charge in The Agent Intellect, or either of the group’s earlier albums. Formed in 2008 by singer Joe Casey in part as a coping mechanism for a double trauma, the band has produced a string of songs spanning all three albums that address loss and inner turmoil.
In “Pontiac 87” Casey sounds jaded, a middle-aged singer hardened enough by death to take a long-term perspective on it. “There’s no use being sad about it,” he laments while guitarist Greg Ahee slows his tempo accordingly, “What’s the point of crying about it?” It’s a continuation of the passivity introduced from the album’s first song, “Why Does It Shake.”
“False happiness is on the rise,” Casey opens. “See the victims pile high.” But this isn’t just an emo group dwelling on a singer’s lingering depression—if anything, the message is about moving on. And in other songs like “Boyce and Boice” the band’s energy is barely contained, almost off the wall.
The Metro Gallery is about the size of a basketball court, small enough that it’s easy to interact with the band members as they wait for the opening group to wind down. I bumped into bass player Scott Davidson thirty minutes before show time, leaning forward as he watched the warm-up band play from a couch at the side of the room. Not recognizing him in his backwards cap and camo jacket, I asked if he was excited for Prototype, and he laughed and told me he was in the band.
“It’s like night and day,” he told me when asked about the difference in the group’s reception between their first Baltimore performance over a year ago and tonight’s. “Definitely I’d say all the media coverage is having an effect, the tour’s been incredibly exciting.”
After Saturday’s concert, the band will play in Raleigh, North Carolina, on October 23 and Bloomington, Indiana on October 23 before it heads to the U.K. for seven performances to wrap up its tour.
William Dahl is a recent graduate of The College of William and Mary, where he majored in Government and studied abroad in La Plata, Argentina. He has worked for community foundations in Argentina and Miami dedicated to community engagement and prosecution for human rights abuses. A native Virginian, he moved to Baltimore in 2013 to join a financial research firm, where he enjoys being able to write on the side.