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Review: Chastity Belt and local acts take the house party to the Boreal

During a break from its grooving surf rock set, VCR singer Chase Clark yelled, “Fuck the Oscars!”

That was all that was said — and needed to be said — about the 88th Academy Awards during the group’s opening set for Chastity Belt on Feb. 28 at the Boreal. Also featuring local acts The Shifts and Critical Shakes, the show was a low-fi, but high-energy jam session.

Seattle-based Chastity Belt has gained respectable commercial and critical success since the release of last year’s Time to Go Home. While studying at Whitman College, the group went to frat parties, tipped over tables and yelled “chastity belt.” Now over five years later, the group has solidified its sound and is currently on a West Coast tour.

All three opening acts, while diverse musically, represented an earlier stage in Chastity Belt’s career when the group was just four college students experimenting as a band. The Shifts, whose Facebook description includes “sardonic indie garage rock,” brought a full sound as a three-man outfit.

Duo the Critical Shakes opened with a rocking cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” sung by drummer Jordan Blaisdell. Other highlights included a song about Blaisdell’s dog, who poops on his bed, and a hard-rock version of the Cure’s “Lovesong” sung by guitarist Davey Beebe.

VCR brought a poppy, ‘60s-inspired sound to a garage rock-heavy lineup. From “Best Summer Ever!” to “Summer BuzZz,” it’s clear which season the band preferred, mostly for the parties. But it was softer tracks like “Sound Pretty,” a duet between Clark and bassist Emma Hurt, that stood out.

By the time Chastity Belt came on, the small, tucked-away venue was packed. But lit by twinkle lights, it felt like a college house show. The group complemented the chill vibe: only guitarist Lydia Lund wore shoes. They moved from tracks like the low-key feminist anthem “Cool Slut” to thoughtful breakup song “Lydia” with an awkward nonchalance.

Lead singer Julia Shapiro rarely talked to the audience or her bandmates. Bassist Annie Truscott only talked briefly, asking about Tinder in Eugene. But the group’s connection came through in its cohesive sound. Shapiro’s guttural vocals smoothly mixed with Lund’s understated guitar melodies. Drummer Gretchen Grimm’s rhythms keep the music from being too stagnant.

In many ways, Time To Go Home is a depressing party album, making it a little awkward to perform live. On the title track, Shapiro describes the inevitable disappointment of a night out. But the whole audience was dancing as she sang about not being able to see straight while the room spun around her.

That doesn’t mean the group’s set was alienating. While Chastity Belt has left college behind, its music is still relatable to a group of young people trying to navigate adulthood.

It was no surprise that the audience wanted an encore, and Chastity Belt came back with the mellow “Seattle Party.” The group welcomed fans into its world, singing, “We are having a party tonight/We are inviting our best friends so they can have a good time.” By that point, most of the audience probably fit that label.

This story was written by guest contributor Hannah Steinkopf-Frank.

Listen to “Seattle Party” from Chastity Belt below.

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