w/ Downtown Boys and Road Worrier. Free (Donations accepted), 7 p.m., Mar. 30. Willimantic Records, 744 Main St., Willimantic, willimanticrecords.blogspot.com
At various points while attending American University in Washington, D.C., Katie Alice Greer majored in photojournalism, documentary filmmaking, sculpture, visual media and finally political science. As she tethered herself to her last choice (keeping visual media as her minor), Greer had dreams of becoming a senator so she could, in her own semi-sarcastic recollection, "change the world and make everything great." Disillusionment quickly derailed that. "I was starting to get really bored by these ideas of the two-party system in my classes. What really did me in was [how] I worked in a congressional representative's office on Capitol Hill," she says. "I was mostly relegated to answering the phone. I really wanted to have conversations with people and understand what their concerns were and what issues were important to them. The other people in the office were just like, 'No, just check the box and let us know what category they called in and get off the phone with them as quickly as possible.' It all just seemed like such bullshit and so much paperwork, so much bureaucracy that was not really getting to any of the matters at hand and not really making any changes. I realized that checking a box for someone in charge is not really for me, so I got out of that as soon as possible."
Greer, a Michigan native who chiefly ended up in Washington because it was "the farthest away I was allowed to go to college," has since squashed her political aspirations. In the next best option, she's been unburdening herself of seditious, left-skewing compulsions as Priests' lead singer since the punk band formed in October 2011. The D.C.-based outfit, whose name riffs on their lineup originally consisting of two women and a Jewish dude (today, they are three women and a Jewish dude), create tense, stripped-down clamor hinged on freshly boiled rage and musicianship that opts for mood over cleanliness and traditional technique. Corporations, institutions, advertising and other hallmarks of big business and big politics are to be scrutinized and distrusted. Meanwhile, inclusivity, community and DIY-ness are considered positives. Within a month of forming, Priests had performed their first concert (playing a house) and recorded their first tape. Their second show was at Occupy D.C.
"We're not a band that's singing about having sex and drinking booze," the 20-something Greer says. "Not that that stuff is bad at all — that's great — but we're all really concerned with making songs about things that are extremely important to us." She mainly aligns with the catch-all term of punk, but her voice and band could comfortably fit into several related subcultures with minor tweaking.
Before Priests, Greer (whose history as a musician is also tied to Ian Svenonius' Chain and the Gang) spent two years writing songs and tinkering with recordings in quiet before the urge to get herself out there won out. "I was getting to a place where I really intuitively felt like I have to make music in front of people and I have to do it soon before I get too scared to do it," she says.
"I want to hone in on what we're trying to say and make people understand that without forcing it down their throats," says Greer. "Music is my favorite way of communicating right now because with any kind of art, you're presenting an idea on the pedestal. You're not bashing someone over the head with it. You're allowing them to look at it and hopefully take something from it, but there's nothing coercive about it."