Local indie-rockers Pawtooth (vocalist Penelope Zing, guitarist Dee Wulf, drummer Nicky Pete and bassist Justin Lee) recall, from their opening notes, Athens, Ga. circa mid-‘80s (Pylon, R.E.M., early B-52s) or the North Carolina triangle region in the heyday of bands like Let’s Active and The DBs.
But all of these influences/forebearers are just hints and nods. And Pawtooth references plenty of contemporary acts, too — The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and PJ Harvey top that list if only for their strong female leads. Zing is equal parts glam and badass, delivering power pop vocals and snarling shouts at turns. At a recent show show at The Lab (opening for Alex Vans & The Hideaway), the full band showed off a set-worth of original, high energy songs.
“Paper Cut” is a searing slam dance, underscored by a cool sci-fi guitar part. A newer offering, “Auxilliary,” shows how Pawtooth has the moxie to rock slow and heavy as well as hard and fast. Their raw urgency is palpable, as is their practiced polish. They command the stage with self-possessed swagger, yet the quartet doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Zing and Wulf are almost telepathically connected. And Lee, on bass and keys, has rock star stage presence.
“For Sure” showcases Pete’s capable background vocal. In fact, the band’s men provide a steady vocal canvas for Zing’s lyrical prowess. She hits some electric notes at the top of her register, though most songs are sung low and gutsy, with something akin to a gleeful rage.