After a decade of sweaty, ramshackle shows in barrooms and basements, there's not much that scares Amos Pitsch of Wisconsin punk trio Tenement. Recalling a recent stint of dates opening for soul singer Charles Bradley, where the band's live show divided the audience, he just laughs.
"His band was pissed off, thinking it was disrespectful. But getting booed feels more positive than if it was a lukewarm reaction," Pitsch says. "You're making someone feel something, getting them worked up. It's exciting."
Walking a line between 1950s radio pop and a fuzzy punk take on Hank Williams-style country, Tenement's eclectic style is bound to confuse as many unsuspecting audiences as it enthralls. But powering through its jaw-dropping live performances—mixing harder-edged, hyperfast numbers from its early days with the power-pop sensibility of its more recent material—the band makes converts more often than not.
A decade of tireless touring and recording have contributed to Tenement's reputation as a thrilling live act. For someone so accustomed to being the main attraction, Pitsch remains confident about sharing the stage with two days' worth of other musicians at a big music festival.
"It can be kinda strange but we've done it enough," he says, "We kinda go back and forth between punk shows and club tours. Most of this tour is houses and DIY venues. It's a strange dynamic compared to playing punk shows."
As momentum builds on the heels of last year's sprawling 25-track collection, Predatory Headlights, and quick-hit The Self-Titled Album, Pitsch hopes to put an end to a decadelong history of tepid receptions from West Coast audiences. This tour will see Tenement play a monthlong stretch of consecutive dates without a single day off. The band stays so busy that its Project Pabst gig has it in Portland for only the afternoon.
"We just try to play as often as we can. I'm not partial to playing festivals. We've done it like five times, and it's never gotten any easier for us," Pitsch says. "I just wish we were able to see Ice Cube."
Tenement plays Sunday at 1 pm.
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