PAWS played Great Scott – 3/11

Glaswegian noise-pop trio PAWS hit Great Scott on Monday night as a part of their first U.S. tour, leading up to South by Southwest. Read on for first impressions and photos, also featuring openers Idiot Genes.

Not even a week prior to Monday evening, PAWS performed their very first show on U.S. soil at Brooklyn’s Glasslands Gallery. 2012 saw the band building momentum with the October release of their solid debut album Cokefloat! and a European tour with garage-punks Japandroids, and 2013 has brought them across the sea to small but eager American audiences. Guitarist/vocalist Philip Taylor said that Boston would be the best show of their brief run up and down the East Coast according to the Japandroids, and while the crowd may not have reveled in the sweaty abandon typically inspired by the Vancouver duo on this particular night, there was no denying that PAWS had the room in its grasp.

Anchored by explosive drums, Dinosaur Jr.-indebted fuzz guitar and Taylor’s earnest lyrics, PAWS peddled a loud, energetic brand of angst-pop. Their melodies were undeniably joyous, but beneath the hooks lay some unexpectedly serious subject matter. Taylor observed that Sunday had been Mother’s Day in the U.K. prior to “Catherine 1956,” a heartbreaking lament for a lost parent. Elsewhere, he urged a collective “Fuck cancer” shout from the audience before the equally heavy “Bloodline.” Taylor’s heart-on-sleeve lyricism extended to an unguarded stage presence; a genuine, humble antidote to the typical aloof indie rock frontman.

PAWS surely didn’t invent the strategy of matching dark lyrics to catchy, upbeat songs, but they’re executing it as well as anyone right now. More than a few of their songs took their cues from the quiet-loud-quiet Pixies approach to dynamics. Taylor’s guitar playing vaulted from clean strums to roaring leads at the flick of a switch, making good use of a spartan, single-pedal rig. His vocals followed suit, punctuating singing with the occasional well-timed bellow. The percussive bounce of the rhythm section, cryptically named only as Josh and Matt on PAWS’ official websites, complemented him perfectly at every turn.

Monday night’s crowd may not have been huge, but already PAWS are inspiring the sort of fandom that sees front-row audience members reciting every lyric right back to them. They’ve got great energy, great songs and a rare, refreshing sort of sincerity. Here’s to hoping we’ll hear from them again soon.

PAWS toured without an opener for this brief U.S. jaunt, so the bills were filled out by local acts in each city. Shirtless Boston native Dylan Ewen and his equally shirtless band took the first set, dishing out absurdist pop-punk and nonsequitur stage banter. “This song is about Hüsker Dü’s dick,” a band member announced in one choice excerpt. Allston’s Idiot Genes were up next with a roaring set of guitar-heavy songs that effectively set the stage for PAWS, and commendably inspired the evening’s only moshing.

Full photo gallery here