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Lithics and Control Top at Boot and Saddle in Philadelphia | Live Review



by Jon Sapore

"This one's dedicated to Debi"  bassist and vocalist, Ali Carter, of Control Top says to the crowd as she rips into a riff, sets the bass down and throws off her white and black jumper. Headbanging to the steady beat of “Covert Contracts,” the title track of their newly released record, Carter lays into the bopping melody. Chandelier earrings match her diamond cut delivery as she jumps off stage and into the crowd pushing, pumping, performing. 

A night that opened up at Boot & Saddle with a fellow Philly based band, that were reminiscent of a cup of tea gone warm; Control Top took the stage and immediately burnt tongues. A year had passed since the group opened on the same stage for OG Long Beach punk band, Red Aunts. In January, the Red Aunts unexpectedly lost bassist Debi Martini, prompting the passionate performance dedicated to, as Carter described, "heroes for sure". From the high hat, high hitting energy of drummer Alex Lichtenauer, to the spacey power solos guitarist Al Creedon would relay back into his amp, you couldn't help but feel you were flying through the hemisphere on a flaming punk rock UFO.

Inspired by greats such as Ari Up of The Slits and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Carter truly owns the stage with a cool stare that opens up into screaming sonic waves, showcasing her talented vocal presence. While there were only glimpses of it, the back and forth between the members on stage show the chemistry of a tight-knit three-piece band that could go the distance. The all-around performance of Control Top is not to be missed as they're set to tour this summer with Ted Leo & The Pharmacist in August.

As the crowd buzzed over to the bar to replenish empty beers, first-time Philly headliner's, Lithics, prepared to take the stage. Despite a red-eye flight from hometown Portland, a five-hour wait in New York, then a drive straight to the gig in hammering rain, Lithics did not disappoint. Opening with all four musicians hanging on a note or two to draw the crowd back into the venue, short lines of vocals were swiftly delivered then dropped, previewing what was to come. 

A set of stop and go, tap your toes, avant-garde rock floated around the room like geometrical shapes. In all black, behind squared frames, drummer Wiley Hickson held a ticking beat of abstract emptiness as, bassist Bob Desaulniers, guitarist Mason Crumley, and guitarist/vocalist Aubrey Hornor bounced sounds back and forth in shades of pastel blue. Between monotonic melodies, Hornor would either lean back with a stoic stare into the abyss or rip out riffs with the slide she occasionally pulled from her left pocket. While expectations for the opening show of a two-week tour weren't high for the band, lips in the crowd could still be seen mouthing along to songs like “Excuse Generator,” off there 2018 album, Mating Surfaces. Be sure to catch Lithics on one of their upcoming stops along the east coast if you’re in town.