Photo by Benjamin Wick
Poliça’s rise to indie-pop prominence has been as swift as it’s been well deserved. The young project boasts a pedigree of members from popular Minneapolis and Western Wisconsin outfits Gayngs and Marijuana Deathsquads. A ringing endorsement from Bon Iver and Volcano Choir wunderkind Justin Vernon helped the Minneapolis band quickly catch fire with 2012 debut Give You The Ghost. Of course, the astonishing pipes of frontwoman Channy Leaneagh and off-kilter skin slapping of the band’s duel drummers had a role in Poliça’s success as well.
Thursday, the budding band set out to prove to a brimming Turner Hall that their quick success wasn’t a fluke with a tremendous kickoff concert for its tour for week-old follow-up effort, Shulamith.
Before the guests of honor took the stage, fellow Minnesotans Marijuana Deathsquads (with the notable absence of P.O.S himself, Stefon Alexander) primed the crowd with an entrancing 45 minutes of trippy indie-tinged electronica befitting of the Halloween season. Dressed in matching undercover cop getups (complete with fake mustaches, baseball caps and blue hooded sweatshirts) the group’s dirty, atmospheric stylings were taken to the next level when a similarly-clad Har Mar Superstar – punching his Milwaukee frequent visitor card for the third time this year – joined the Deathsquad to lend auto-tuned backing vocals and to somewhat account for the group’s most famous member being MIA.
After the openers departed, a trio of masked men and a ballerina in a pink wig took the stage as Poliça. After Leaneagh wished the enthusiastic crowd a happy Halloween – one of few interactions with the audience – the band launched into the first of many songs from its latest, Shulamith (released Oct. 18). While much of the crowd hadn’t the time to learn much of the spanking new collection of effect-slathered indie-pop numbers, it didn’t impact Poliça’s reception. Onlookers bobbed and danced while Leaneagh and the masked men plowed through new material, including highlights like the infectiously catchy should-be ’80s hit “Chain My Name”, the bleak-yet-beautiful “Torre” and first single “Tiff” (which, unlike its album version, did not feature guest vocals from Vernon Thursday).
In all, almost the entirety of the hour-long set hinged on Shulamith songs. In one of its first opportunities to play the glut of its newly released material, Poliça proved to be energetic and passionate guests of honor. The trademark doubled-up drummers were airtight, and demure bandleader Leaneagh’s voice commanded the ballroom. One of the few stops at its Give You The Ghost debut was a rock solid rendition of “Lay Your Cards Out” in which Leaneagh tore off her wig, exposing her dark and shorn hair.
Just as the set swelled to a chaotic crescendo, Poliça retired backstage before returning to an all-too expected encore. But Poliça wouldn’t play its most popular song, “Wandering Star.” Instead, the overnight indie success would play a true-to-form cover of another person’s biggest song – Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit, “You Don’t Own Me” – before calling it a night.
Poliça’s live show carries all the instrumental depth and murky vocal majesty of its studio albums. However, omitting “Wandering Star” from its setlist was a cruel trick amid an otherwise outstanding Halloween treat.