Actionesse gets bombastic at EP release show

Actionesse at The Highline (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

Actionesse at The Highline (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

Actionesse took to the stage on a Friday night at The Highline to celebrate the release of their EP Mignon (our review is here), and the show didn’t just highlight the amazingly, wonderfully crazed core of what makes Actionesse awesome. It was a reaffirmation of the fact that when musicians “band together,” everyone benefits. The direct beneficiary of this show was the crowd at The Highline, who got to experience the synergy of a jam session with a full-on marching band.

The marching band was Filthy FemCorps, and they were a hoot, starting their set off by playing to pedestrians on Broadway from the bar’s balcony and filing brassily through the bar to the stage. This collective of kickass women executed horn-tastic versions of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and other pop favorites while continually hyping up the crowd via bullhorn. And The Highline upped the ante, dancing with band members who took forays out into the crowd and clapping along. Calling what Filthy FemCorps did a “warmup” would be a gross understatement: Filthy FemCorps riled everyone up considerably.

Dusty’s warm pop brought the heart rate back down a bit. The band’s set felt golden with nostalgia and a bit sleepy, but pleasant. It was quite the right turn after FilthyFemCorps brazen swagger, but Dusty’s songs were well executed and left to stand on their own without a ton of showmanship except for goofy banter.

Things took another turn when Crystal Desert started up and exchanged golden nostalgia for dark frustration. The band tore through their set without much to say between songs, but their execution of such gems as “Revenge Complex” and “Nightmare” spoke for itself. Crystal Desert brought a couple of new tracks to the table as well, performing “Generator 9” and “Black Summer” for the first time in a live setting, the former featuring vocals from all three members and the latter pulling back a bit from the laser-focused anger of previous Black Summer tracks and taking a wider (yet still morose) look at the bigger picture. Singer Ryan Alexander had a hand in Mignon’s album art, and the band toured with Actionesse earlier this summer in support of their shared-four-ways LP Four Corners. So their presence made a lot of sense.

Strangely enough, Actionesse’s performance seemed to take on facets of each of the preceding three bands. Their music was dark, yet funny. The instrumentation leans heavily toward punk rock, yet it also includes horns. But the physical execution is its own beast. Actionesse is like a swirling tornado onstage. Joel Kenworthy incredibly switches between saxophone, trombone, and flute, often during the same song. In between songs he chugs from a pitcher of water. Meanwhile, Ian Reed is headbanging in between singing unrestrainedly into the mic and playing solos on his guitar that veer toward metal. The interplay between Reed and bassist Paddy Moran was engaging to watch, with Moran checking in with both Reed and drummer Jimmy Colven. Phillip Kaltenbach looked dressed for the office as he poised over his keyboard, guitar strapped on, yet his contribution was also energetic.  Songs like “Pseudosupervillian” and “Hellbama” were attacked with force and gusto.

The evening built to a crescendo as Actionesse barreled into their latest magnum opus, “Shark Hunting.” Filthy FemCorps had been sneaking about the venue and began playing along with the band on the stage in the middle of the crowd, and the result was crazy and euphoric. To close out the night, drummer Colven came out to the piano and the band swapped instruments around to play a goofy, lovable cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” The crowd sang along (and someone was tooting a trumpet, too). Mignon’s coming out party was a good time for all involved.

Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.