Show Spotlight: Chastity Belt @ U Street Music Hall, 11/15/19
Today, Ben spotlight's tonight's Chastity Belt show at the U Street Music Hall.
Nothing Turns Out Like You Think: Here comes Chastity Belt.
Three or four years ago, if you told me that Chastity Belt, an all-female four-piece from Seattle, would not only be around in 2019, but would be supporting a fourth album and heading back to Washington, DC for a Nov. 15 show at U Street Music Hall (1115A U St. NW), I’d have been surprised.
Not because there was anything wrong with Chastity Belt! On the contrary, Chastity Belt — guitarist/vocalist Julia Shapiro, guitarist Lydia Lund, bassist Annie Truscott, and drummer Gretchen Grimm — has always been a great listen.
Clever, earnest, and melodic in a grungy sort of way, Chastity Belt played songs about “women who get too drunk on the dance floor, who date men who are bad for them, who don’t have their shit together and are unapologetic about it,” as Hazel Cillis wrote in 2015.
When Cillis typed those words, Chastity Belt had released a pair of well-received records— 2013’s No Regerts and 2015’s Time to Go Home — and was indie rock-respected, scoring in the solid 7s in the Pitchfork scale of things.
Over the next few years, the band almost disappeared.
Around the time the band released its 2017 album, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone, Shapiro suffered a medical emergency while the band toured through the Southeast. Chastity Belt went on hiatus while Shapiro endured an existential crisis. That would usually be the end of the story.
Not for Chastity Belt! Instead, they pulled themselves back together with a triumphant fourth album, their third on Hardly Art, a self-titled effort that Pitchfork’s Abby Jones writes “abandon(s) the crude wit of their debut, but...still maintains the closeness of hanging out with friends in your living room.”
It’s interesting to see Chastity Belt compared to work by Elliott Smith, to see the hard-rocking band that once dedicated a song to “all the girls of the world trying to take off their shirts” praised for “powerful lyricism, centering on overcoming very personal struggles.”
“We didn't feel we were a good enough band (in the early days) to actually be serious. And also, it was fun!” Shapiro told The Line of Best Fit this past June. “It was funny, and it was a joke to begin with. We all gained confidence in our musical abilities and felt we could take the whole thing more seriously, including the lyrics. The way that we wrote songs also changed so that funnier lyrics didn't really match the mood of the song anymore.”
But does it work live? The English seem to think so.
“In a set that was full of new material, it could have been tricky to keep avid fans happy, but the crowd seemed eager and ready to participate in the show and gave a positive reception after each track,” wrote Nathan Ellis in a review of Chastity Belt’s show last week in Manchester. “The band seemed in high spirits on stage, obviously enjoying playing their new tunes. There seemed to be plenty of in-jokes that made for good entertainment and a warm, heartening hue to cast over proceedings.”
Sounds like nice way to spend a cold night in the capital. Tickets for the all-ages show are $15 and doors are at 7 PM. Strange Ranger will open.