[HYPERACTIVE SYNTH-PUNK] A couple of weeks ago, Fist Fite frontwoman Jonnie Monroe excused away a drunken, feverish mess of a show by saying, “[It] was a funny, sweaty tribute to not being a shitty band anymore.” The show was, in fact, wonderful: The band delivered a screech-filled set of synth-driven punk, falling apart into giggles and shouts throughout and eventually blowing an amp. The show was also Fist Fite's last as a duo, and probably its last for a crowd of only 15 people. A few nights later over beers with the whole band, I asked Monroe what, exactly, she had meant: “I happen to think fucking up is one of the most charming things a band can do,” she explained. Then, during one of the few moments when she wasn't laughing (at me, herself, her bandmates), she added, “We have to get our shit together, and now.”
See, Fist Fite is quickly becoming Portland's “next big thing.” A few months ago—when the band was just a month-old, albumless duo—Monroe got an email from Klaxons, a London-based trio that's basically Earth's next big thing. That fated message asked Fist Fite to open for Klaxons on its West Coast and U.K. tours. Though Monroe had been e-buddies with the lauded founders of “new rave” (a synth-heavy variation on disco-punk) since the days when they were a “shitty,” non-“it” band, too, Klaxons' invite was still as unexpected as it was awesome.
Rising coolly to the occasion, Monroe and drummer Christian Carmine recruited a bassist and released Downtown Canada
(the cover of which is crudely but lovingly stenciled with a dolphin-esque blob). Despite such advancements, new bassist Justin Wheeler—who Monroe and Carmine try to convince me was picked at Labor Ready because he looked cool with a bass (he does)—says Klaxons' influence was “definitely fast-forward.” At a packed Seattle gig with Klaxons in April, Fist Fite's merch consisted of old, inside-out T-shirts drawn on with Sharpie markers—and kids bought them before
the band even played.
But the sudden exposure seems a proper culmination of Monroe and Carmine's half-decade of playing together and their previous projects—the relatively recent Arcularius and the beloved, Olympia-born Le Push (both died at the hands of disappearing bassists). It's an ascension the band is banking heavily on: Monroe quit her job and has effectively gone homeless since the tour began. But Fist Fite's 600-capacity L.A. show sold out quick, and this week's show will, too. Next big thing fever catches quick. Wish 'em luck.
Fist Fite plays Friday, July 13, with Klaxons at the Doug Fir. 9 pm.