by Anthony Harrison
Though she probably doesn’t remember this, I once asked Lauren Holt, Daddy Issues’ front woman, to be in a band with me.
See, I’ve known Holt since 2002, when we were freshmen at Grimsley High School.
I’d been playing around with the idea of starting a band called Tony & the Toasters, and when I learned Holt played violin, I thought, Eh, why not have a violin player? We could cover “Bittersweet Symphony.”
The band didn’t pan out, but our friendship did. Holt went from the little red-haired girl in my English class to being one of my closest confidantes.
So, 10 years later, as we were enjoying a beer at Old Town Draught House, it struck me hilarious when Holt told me she had started a band. I cracked up more when she told me their name. It was perfect — still is. As far as band names go, it kicked Tony & the Toasters in the ass.
Holt soon began recording their rehearsals on her phone, and she let me listen. The first song of theirs I heard was “Lethal Dose,” a pensive, Chris Isaak-esque ballad.
The hook set itself. I was the first fish Daddy Issues caught.
Daddy Issues was practicing for their Double Loser EP release when I showed up at Hellraiser Haus on Feb. 14. They were in the middle of their rollicking stomper, “Sucker Punch.” Lead guitarist Lindsey Sprague’s Teisco had a new grumbling attitude to it. The iconic green box at her feet said it all.
“Nice Tube Screamer,” I said as they finished the song.
“Oh yeah, thanks!” Sprague said. “Josh gave it to me for Valentine’s Day.”
Sprague was referring to Wahyas guitarist Joshua Johnson, known alternately as Pinche Gringo and Sprague’s boyfriend.
After they finished, Holt and I dipped to pick up pizzas at Corner Slice.
“The girls are going to take forever to get ready,” Holt said. “It’s like wrangling cats.”
The short ride gave us a chance to catch up. She’d done well on her latest exam. I was busy, as always.
Despite Holt’s fears, the rest of the band was basically ready when we returned. We had enough time to grub before heading to Local Honey Hair Salon & Apothecary to set up for the show.
From the sumptuous looks of the place, the boutique was hardly the first imaginable choice for a punk show. The hardwood floors, mahogany furniture, antique lamps and iron chandelier replete with amber teardrops spoke more to traditional Southern charm than sticking it to the Man.
“Why’d you guys choose this place?” Morgan Roberts, the bassist for Wilmington trio Free Clinic, asked Daddy Issues’ drummer Hannah Hawkins as she curled her blonde hair.
“Because we love it, and we love [proprietor] Jay [Bulluck],” Hawkins answered. “We wanted it to be somewhere fancy and in Greensboro.”
Madeline Putney, Daddy Issues’ bassist, put the finishing touches on her makeup at the mirror beside Hawkins.
“What if nobody shows up?” Putney said. “Wouldn’t that be awesome?”
Despite Putney’s sarcastic dismay, the crowd — especially a lot of single dudes — started arriving in droves even before Free Clinic began its opening set. They played splendid pop-punk featuring Benjamin Rose’s sophisticated chord voicings and progressions, Roberts’ bouncy bass lines and Wes Hewett’s rapid-fire drumming.
“Wow, a lot of people are here,” Rose said with a grin as the set neared its end. The wide space of Local Honey had filled to the brim for the night.
Next up was Greensboro’s Totally Slow, a more straight-up punk band than the preceding act. They’re anything but what their name suggests, except for one song, which I knew the instant guitarist Scott Hicks cleaned up his SG’s tone and played the C major-to-A minor intro.
Totally Slow did slow things down for once to cover Daddy Issues’ “Lethal Dose.” Drummer Andy Foster shifted gears from mania to sedated swing. Greg Monroy perfectly reproduced Putney’s melodic bassline. But while Hicks’ guitar was clean, his high-pitched vocals emphasized the pathos in the song’s lyrics.
Raleigh’s T0W3RS played next. Derek Torres performed a sensational solo set bursting with kinetic energy and theatricality. Highlights included his space-vampire ballad “Deep Inside of Me” and a surprise cover.
“This is for you rock-and-rollers,” Torres said before he played a samba beat off his sampler. Instead of his typical cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” Torres launched into a fantastic rendition of the Rolling Stones classic, “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Then came Daddy Issues. They debuted a new number totally befitting their surf-rock classification. But while they do take cues from the tubular sound, it’s a little too reductive.
Daddy Issues is much more than a surf-rock girl group. There’s everything from Iggy Pop-like punk to stomping blues to dreamy pop in their repertoire. From a stylistic and artistic standpoint, they’re the whole package.
And their live shows are always tremendous fun. The Valentine’s show might have been the best I’ve seen yet. They achieved symbiosis as never before, feeding off the crowd’s seemingly unconditional enthusiasm to deliver a nearly flawless performance.
The crowd loved it so much that the chant of “One more song!” erupted spontaneously. Fittingly enough, their encore was “Lethal Dose,” the first song of theirs I’d heard almost a year and a half ago.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the future. Holt is moving to Seattle to pursue a graduate degree.