Thunderpussy: a NYE tradition

Thunderpussy at The Showbox (Photo by Alex Crick)

Photos by Alex Crick

I suppose that someday in the blasted-out future, Thunderpussy may stop putting on their NYE shows. I can only imagine the post-apocalyptic wasteland that the world will be without their over the top productions. But then again, I can also see a world where Thunderpussy just goes on and on, Mad-Maxing it year after year, shooting off Macgyvered confetti cannons at the appropriate moment. And perhaps we will all actually glow in the dark rather than simply attending a neon-themed party. (Honestly…it’s been a hard first chunk of 2020, hasn’t it?)

But this time, it was all about celebrating the beginning of the RAWRing Twenties, and also what felt like a homecoming show of sorts for Thunderpussy. They’ve toured rather relentlessly since the release of their eponymous album in the spring of 2018, and though they released an EP, Milk It, last fall, they have taken a much deserved break from performing live.

After a VIP reception for “Club Pussy” members that involved charcuterie and a few extra perks, the rail at the front of the stage at The Showbox began to fill up with ranks of fans. Those that arrived early were in for a treat in the form of Trash Fire. The band (clad in matching LED gold sneakers) took full advantage of what the venue had to offer, whether it was the catwalk that led out into the crowd or the bar at the back of the room. Lead singer Jonah Bergman had a Airplane moment of taking off his sunglasses to reveal his regular glasses underneath during one of his quieter moments. The rest of the moments involved a lot of jumping and rolling around on the stage and getting into folks’ faces. And he actually did run up to the back bar and order shots for the band in the middle of what had to be their longest song. Which was a feat, because Trash Fire fired off a succession of short, hard hitting punk missives. The night was off to a great start.

Constant Lovers picked the ball up right where Trash Fire had chucked it. They added their own flair in the form of various drums that were distributed throughout the band members and also lead singer Joel Cuplin’s intermittent affairs with his saxophone. This band is also slam-dance worthy, and they rocked hard; during their last song Cuplin peeled off his sweaty, screwy Mickey Mouse t-shirt and yelled into the crowd as two inflatable Tube Man air dancers fired up, one at each side of the stage flailing about and sporting the words “CONSTANT” and “LOVERS.” Things had ratcheted up a notch.

The room was getting pretty full by the time BEARAXE started their set, and though it was their first time playing The Showbox, the band played like it was no big deal, and the crowd ate it up. The heady mix of Shaina Shepherd brazenly ripping it up on vocals with the guitar-slinging skills and faces of Oz LaBrae is a force to be reckoned with. BEARAXE’s music is heavy and progressive sounding, and is a highly enjoyable experience, especially live. They had a few helpers in the form of Kathy Moore, Heather Thomas, and Tasia Thomas when they did a rousing cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” mashed up with Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”

Thunderpussy take their New Year’s Eve helming duties very seriously. This year’s theme, “The Neon Glow of Electric Sax,” saw the band don shimmering electric blue outfits licked with neon flames that blazed as they bathed in black lights. Molly was birthed onstage via a tumbling canal of pink puffer coat wearing dancers. They lifted her up and presented her to the crowd like Simba in The Lion King, and the band played a moody new track called “Misty Morning” before kicking into gear with “Velvet Noose.”

Things were timed perfectly so that midnight hit right after this second song. The requisite confetti cannons were fired off and the band took to the crowd with bottles of champagne, pouring it into mouths all around in the first few minutes of 2020. And what better way to start the new decade off than with a fan favorite and a theme song? “Thunderpussy” set the crowd on fire.

The band’s set list was substantially changed from gigs of yore, showing that Thunderpussy is forging toward a new album. The songs off of Milk It hung well with the new tracks, and old favorites kept the pace rolling. “Speed Queen,” “Fever,” and “Torpedo Love” were rolled together in a tasty burrito of a medley. Meanwhile, a cover of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” found guitarist Whitney Petty recreating Joe Perry’s iconic intro and searing riffs in the most fantastic way. New to us drummer Lindsay Elias did an admirable job filling previous timekeeper Ruby Dunphy’s massive shoes, and Leah Julius isn’t just the master of the big boy bass, she’s the centered soul of the band.

Julius headed back up on stage for the encore smoking a joint, looking extra chill as she and the other band members threw neon glow sticks out across the screaming crowd. The encore itself turned into a massive jam, with members of all of the bands performing that night joining in to sing a melody of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” and Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into The Fire.” Crazily enough, Eva Walker of The Black Tones appeared out of nowhere, joining Petty in a jam on an African Drum (she even let Petty keep time on her buns for a bit). The entire Showbox seemed to be singing the lyric “we can make each other happy” ad infinitum, but the jam session must have come to an end…because here we are. But we’re glowing.

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.