I've gone to some pretty strange places in the name of music. I once hiked a mile and a half up a mountain to a well-hidden stage in the middle of a forest and watched an ambient folk band (which is a thing, apparently), who I could only assume were from the commune nearby. Another time I saw a band of eight or nine people play on a stage really only meant for two skinny people and somehow get through a 90-minute set without face-planting into the audience. Despite my past experiences, I still thought Potty Mouth playing at the Museum of Modern Art was a typo. I never thought that a museum, usually characterized as giant, open rooms where even your thoughts reverberate off the walls, could be a good place for music, let alone punk rock. So, in the name of my nagging curiosity, and because I like Potty Mouth to begin with, I paid MoMA a visit to see what it was all about.
Instead of being in one of the exhibit floors, the concert was held outside in the Rockefeller Sculpture Gardens, which provided a really beautiful and, unsurprisingly, aesthetically pleasing setting. Behind the instruments and amps was a giant, metallic rose, which I spent at least five minutes wondering how they even got it there in one piece. Everything was luscious and green, the sculptures scattered around the area gave you something to look at, and there was even a tiny river that seemed to guide you right to the bar. It almost felt like I was at a private party I had no right to be anywhere near, but the solid pre-concert playlist of the Ramones, Blur, and Hop Along reminded me I was in the right place. The audience was made up of both fans who came specifically to see the band and folks who just happened to be at the museum and decided to stick around. As there were more people in summer clothing and Birkenstocks than people in black skinny jeans and Doc Martens, it was clear there wouldn't be any mosh pits at this show, but I was pretty okay with that. There's a time and a place for everything, and sweaty head banging and shoving as many people as you can in fear for your life just wouldn't have worked in one of the most serene places in Manhattan.
With the calming gardens as the backdrop, it was up to Potty Mouth to bring the raw energy to MoMA. After a quick introduction, the band made their way to the stage, seemingly pretty unfazed by the unusual setup. "We're going to start off with a slower song, but it'll get faster, I promise," said guitarist/vocalist Abby Weems, and with that, the group kicked off their 10-song set with "The Bomb," a slow-burn grunge track that nails the "quiet-LOUD-quiet" formula that defined the 90s underground sound. It was probably a good move not to start the show guns ablaze; going full-throttle at the start could have scared off some of the more meek museum-going audience members. After reeling people in, Weems kept her promise, and by their third song, the break-neck "Rusted Shut," the high energy and high velocity from the band was well accounted for.
Regardless of the music itself, a concert is always better if the performers onstage are actually into it, and it was clear Potty Mouth really like what they do. While Weems made for an incredibly effective frontwoman, head-banging and snarling her way through each song, each member pulled their weight and brought the all-important shot in the arm that's imperative to playing good punk music. The band was comfortable, charismatic, and clearly happy to be up there, even taking a quick pause about halfway through their set just to thank everyone for coming. The trio recently moved from West Massachusetts to Los Angeles in order to be closer to the music biz, and they definitely showed that they have the skill and showmanship needed to work your way up the musical totem pole.
The rest of Potty Mouth's set list was a great mix of post-punk, grunge, and 90s garage rock-influenced songs that were gritty, well-crafted, and catchy as hell. "Creeper Weed" was an infectious track that would make any Nirvana fans feel right at home. "Long Haul," a personal favorite, is a radio-ready tune that walks the line between laid back and floor stomper, featuring plenty of fuzz guitar, vocal harmonies, and infectiously melodic hooks to go around. I was a little concerned about the sound quality at first, considering the giant glass walls behind the band, but everything proved to be audible for the most part. The audience was definitely on the polite side of things, with bassist Ally Einbinder prompting at one point, "We were told there would be dancing!" and to be fair, there were a couple people in the back who took her up on her offer. That said, there was pretty much no chatter or distracted faces during the songs, and the garden was pretty much full the entire time, so it seems the majority of people were pretty into it despite their collectively quiet demeanor.
The band wrapped up their set with their most recent single, "Cherry Picking," and closed with one of their earliest singles, "The Spins." A slightly more pop-tinged track, "Cherry Picking" is one of the band's most refined and unique-sounding songs to date, and shows that even with only an album and an EP under their belts, this band still has a lot of great hooks and riffs in store for the future. "The Spins" capped off the show on a beautifully chaotic note, being by far one of the most energetic and spontaneous tracks the whole evening. The sun was just beginning to set by the time the concert ended, so plenty of people stuck around to chat with the band, walk around the garden, or check out the exhibits, which is a nice alternative to rushing out of a sweaty, tiny-ass club in need of breathable air at the end of a show.
Overall, MoMA made for a really cool and effective venue, and Potty Mouth played an absolutely kick-ass set that showed they're more than ready for the big leagues. There are going to be concerts every Thursday for the rest of the summer, and they're free with museum admission, so check it out if you want to see some cool music and feel kinda fancy at the same time. As for Potty Mouth, this was their last East Coast show for a while, but if you find yourself on the West Coast in need for an awesome live show, definitely have this band on the top of your list.