The equipment problems begin at soundcheck. “This mic is shocking my mouth,” lead singer Carla Garza complains, and makes a face like she means it. But the band plays on, louder even. “The Devil and the First Lady,” Garza announces before the mic drops out for good. Her lyrics are lost in the static — a real shame, because the frustrated boredom betrayed in Garza’s voice as she changes tacks from disinterested come-on to shriveling put-down sounds, on the studio cut at least, completely authentic. “We can get freaky on the way home.” Live, she rolls her eyes when she sings it, mugging like a silent-film starlet. The high-energy dynamic between bassist Mikey Powell and guitarist Danny Moriarty quite nearly drowns out the high-voltage hum, and Rhonda Williams’ dependable garage beat keeps the song bouncing with a self-assured mid-’60s swagger.
“Something has to happen with this,” Garza says and motions toward the microphone. “It’s burning my lips.” The appearance of a foam windscreen gets a round of applause, but the wrapped mic, not even a nuisance now, is clearly dead. The instruments are almost enough to carry the show — the typical BMG song begins at a late ’50s bop but evolves in rapid timelapse to noisy rock cacophony by the breakdown — but the songs simply seem structured for Garza’s vocals. Moriarty’s guitar riffs emphasize melody over technical complexity, and Williams’ urgent drumming intensifies from oldies rock to industrial-tinged dance punk, but any break in the instrumentals allows a few notes of Garza’s voice through, and the taste of the tracks with the missing vocals is upsetting. Closer “Leave It to Me” should be the apex of an incremental escalation, but the overpowering riffage can’t peak without Garza’s voice, and you can barely even hear it when she begins to scream. Hope for a better sound setup when Blue Means Go plays Rock Bottom Sunday, December 14, because with a functioning mic, their band might just be incredible.