Since their 2012 debut No Passion All Technique, the Detroit post-punk band Protomartyr have mastered the art of evoking place: the grinding Midwest humility of their hometown, as well as the x-rayed elucidation of America that comes with their vantage. Protomartyr—vocalist Joe Casey, guitarist Greg Ahee, drummer Alex Leonard, and bassist Scott Davidson—have become synonymous with caustic, impressionistic assemblages of politics and poetry, the literal and oblique.
The group’s sixth album, recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, is called Formal Growth In The Desert. And though frontman Joe Casey did have a humbling experience staring at awe-inspiring Sonoran rock formations and reckoning with his own smallness in the scheme of things – as recounted in the single “Elimination Dances” – the title is not necessarily a nod to the sandy expanses of the southwest. Detroit, too, is like a desert. “The desert is more of a metaphor or symbol,” Casey says, “of emotional deserts, or a place or time that seems to lack life.” The desert brings an existential awareness that is ultimately internal.
The “growth” came from a period of colossal transition for Casey, including the death of his mother. Now 45, Casey had lived in the family home in northwest Detroit all his life until 2021, when a surge of break-ins signaled that it was time to move out. As with all touring artists, the pandemic years also brought on other inner quandaries about the purpose and feasibility of a musician’s life.
But life does go on, and Casey describes the great theme of Formal Growth In The Desert as an embrace and acknowledgment of that fact: a 12-song testament to “getting on with life,” even when it feels impossibly hard. “I was trying to find a way forward after some pretty heavy things, without lyrically resorting to, Oh my god, my life sucks,” Casey says. “I was trying to see what was beyond the trouble.” The titles of the two opening songs—the moody “Make Way” followed by the charging ennui of “For Tomorrow”—complete that thought.
The band’s music—more spacious and dynamic than ever—pulled him up, too. Guitarist Greg Ahee, who co-produced Formal Growth In The Desert alongside Jake Aron (Snail Mail, L’Rain), knew what Casey was going through. Conceptualizing the music, he considered how to make it all “like a narrative film.” Having recently scored a pair of short films, Ahee found himself immersed in the cinematic Spaghetti Western music of Ennio Morricone. “I started to write at home on a piano and on a keyboard and then play along to short films, and watch how you can affect and heighten moods as you play,” Ahee explains.
Please note that all ticket sales will be available at will-call the night of the show. Please be prepared with your email ticket confirmation, your name, and some form of identification to show the door person. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges will be permitted.
INDIVIDUAL DATES & TIMES*
- Jun 23, 2023 at 08:00 pm (Fri)
Additional time info:
Doors Open 7PM.
623 7th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203(Neighborhood: SoBro)
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