Sadie Dupuis is tired.
Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. The self-proclaimed “frontdemon” of Massachusetts indie rock band Speedy Ortiz is tired of “people who say they’re allies, but you end up having to do a lot of emotional labor for them”; tired of people “not respecting other people’s space or agency”; and extremely tired of people who have not seen Frankie Shaw’s Golden Globe-nominated comedy “SMILF,” but still have the audacity to attend its SXSW showcase.
Dupuis aired her grievances between songs at Speezy Ortiz’s Clive Bar set on Thursday night. It made for some heady stage banter, but the singer, guitarist and former University of Massachusetts writing teacher isn’t one for small talk. She mixes her ruminations on sexism, addiction and music industry sleaze in a cocktail of buzzsaw guitar riffs and cymbal crashes, which she chases with snide, singsong vocal hooks. Oh, and the band brought a saxophonist on the road this time, because why not?
The audience at Clive Bar eagerly lapped up Speedy Ortiz’s grunge-pop concoction, watching and listening intently so as to not miss any of Dupuis’ knotty lamentations or threats, both figurative and literal. That proved a challenge on the bar’s humble outdoor stage, which was ill equipped for such a visceral performance and suffered from painfully loud feedback in spots. Noticeably frustrated, the band soldiered through the set, refusing to let sound problems halt their momentum.
Did Speedy Ortiz deliver a joyful set? Maybe not in the conventional sense. But they delivered an empowering set, establishing their mission statement with their opening song, “Raising the Skate.” “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss / Shooter, not the shot / On the tip an fit to execute / I’m chief, not the overthrown / Captain, not a crony,” Dupuis sang in the anthemic chorus, a concise tell-off to people who try to dismiss or oppress powerful women because they’re intimidated by their talent.
Nobody challenged Dupuis’ proclamation on Thursday night. Nobody dared to even try.