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Review: Skating Polly at The Magic Stick

by Casey Schwochow

Skating Polly played live at the Magic Stick this past Sunday and we here at HWID made the jaunt to Detroit to catch their set.

Since Skating Polly’s last Michigan appearance in 2016 the step-sister duo comprised of Peyton Bighorse & Kelli Mayo have added an additional member to the band. They didn’t have to look far as they filled the slot with their brother Kurtis Mayo.

By bringing Kurtis into the mix, the band’s live show has filled out quite nicely. Not only is their live set louder with the additional player, but the songs sound closer to the album version. And yes…there can indeed be a cleaner and more polished sound to grunge.

Kelli, Peyton, and Kurtis are all multi-instrumentalists who can pretty much play all of each other’s instruments at the same level. For the majority of their 35-minute set, Kelli stuck with her guitar/bass hybrid (basitar), Peyton on her guitar, and Kurtis behind the drum kit.

Much of their material came from the band’s 2016 full length album The Big Fit, including the songs “Pretective Boy,” “Perfume for Now,” “For The View” and “Hey Sweet”. The 2014 album Fuzz Steilacoom was also represented with the songs “Nothing More Than a Body” and “Alabama Movies”. Kelli and Peyton are not only used to trading off instruments, but also lead vocal duties as they typically write and provide lead vocals for their own songs. Skating Polly recently released a three song EP entitled New Trick (which features collaborations with Veruca Salt’s Louise Post and Nina Gordon), from which they played “Louder in Outer Space” and “Hail Mary”. The track “Louder in Outer Space” could easily be Skating Polly’s radio hit masterpiece thanks to Peyton’s amazing lead vocals and harmonies. Kelli picked up her standard bass and sang the vocals for “Hail Mary”. Skating Polly’s brand style of “ugly pop” is well represented on this track with emotion, fuzz, and melody.

Peyton took over the drumming duties and Kurtis moved on to guitar for “Hey Sweet and “Alabama Movies”. “Hey Sweet” was my pick for favorite track of 2016 here on HWID, and for good reason. They turned it up for “Alabama Movies” with Peyton destroying the drums, Kelli kicking in the air as she wailed on her basitar, and at one point during the song Kurtis took to using a drumstick across his guitar strings providing just the right amount of noise the track needed. Both “Hey Sweet” and “Alabama Movies” are soaked in the grunge sound Nirvana brought to the masses and made famous in the early 90’s. Their sound was consumed by many looking for something new, different, and damn good. Skating Polly have brought back that early 90’s feeling for me.

If the music alone wasn’t representative of 90’s alternative rock, the dress Kelli Mayo wore on stage was rooted in grunge rock royalty. It was recently bestowed to her by Kat Bjelland from the band Babes In Toyland. Kat had acquired the dress from Courtney Love. I can’t think of anyone better to carry on the legacy of that dress, and she wears it with the same passion and attitude it’s previous owners have had towards music and live performances.

Skating Polly is a diverse band – they can go from pop, to grunge, to a piano ballad in a blink of an eye, while always staying true to their style of “ugly pop”. The eclectic band have stepped up their live game with the addition of their brother Kurtis, and there’s nothing holding them back at this point.

Pretective Boy
Nothing More Than a Body
Louder in Outer Space
Perfume for Now
Hail Mary
For The View
Hey Sweet
Alabama Movies

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