Your 2010 Siren Festival MVP Is The Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster


As you may have derived from weather reports, or common sense, or Twitter, or me, it was tremendously fuckin’ hot Saturday afternoon in Coney Island, home of the nonetheless raucous and lively tenth-annual Siren Festival, which you can relive in great photographic detail here. Anyone who got onstage — be they shirtless (Earl Greyhound) or sort-of pantsless (Ponytail) — deserves your admiration, but the day’s true heroine, clad in a stifling-looking red dress and black hose, for crying out loud, burned the place up by refusing to acknowledge the heat at all.

It was nice first of all to even see Screaming Females singer/guitarist Marissa Paternoster, by virtue of such a high stage — at most other clubs she’s fully blocked by the still much taller folks in the front row. Her face, too, is usually mostly blocked by a storm cloud of jet-black hair that only parts when she’s in mid-scream, which thankfully is often. Her two male Female cohorts aid in the band’s blunt, thundering, grudgingly melodic Jersey-basement punk, but she’s just mesmerizing up there, somehow both shy and self-aggrandizing, shredding with guitar-god aplomb, her face a perfect, hilarious blank as she rattles off 10 seconds of one-handed hammer-ons. It was maybe 2:30 in the afternoon, the sun beating everyone half to death, and this felt like the best the day was gonna get. And it almost was.

Much later, to a slightly cooler but way more crowded Main Stage throng, American hero Ted Leo was bashing out that same brand of nonchalantly grandiose pop-punk, the embodiment of the fan-beloved, critically acclaimed, absurdly consistent excellence the Females, who’ve been opening for Leo lately, aspire to and are very quickly attaining. (A shame it doesn’t pay more.) And out bounds Paternoster, in the same dress she performed in five hours or so ago, taking lead on the new Ted standout “Woke Up in Chelsea,” howling the lyrics with that same mix of placidity and barely controlled rage: “Well, we alllllll got a job to do/And we allllll hate God/But we allllllll got a job to do/We’re gonna do it together/We’re gonna do it together.” Ted himself looked a little bemused, a little shocked, a little wearied, a little thrilled. We know the feeling. Marissa ended the tune with her signature move, which involves stuffing the entire mic into her mouth, screaming with all her might, and then spitting it out, straight onto the ground. Be glad you didn’t have to pick that up, or try to follow it.