Skating Polly live at Metro Baltimore review: Not exactly your typical punk band

Skating Polly's show wasn't perfect and there were hiccups, but was it worth being there?
2022 Riot Fest
2022 Riot Fest / Daniel Boczarski/GettyImages

Kelli Drew Mayo and Peyton McKenna Bighorse are the Yin and Yang that make up Skating Polly. The stepsisters have been playing together for fifteen years and neither has reached her 30th birthday. At the Metro Baltimore on Wednesday night, they blasted through an efficient 16-song, 70-minute set that for the most part had the 100 or so concert-goers bouncing off the walls.

Mayo – clad in black, shaggy red hair flying all about, kicking her legs and smacking herself in the head – and Bighorse – in a simple white tee shirt, close-cropped dark hair, standing mostly in one spot – traded off vocals and instruments in the same way they have been doing since their first LP back in 2010 when Mayo was just 10 years old.

Their opening two songs showed off the remarkable range of which Skating Polly is capable. The gothic beauty of “Hail Mary” from their New Trick EP transitioned into the screeching frustration of Camelot from their fifth album, The Make It All Show.  “Go long – go long – I want something better than you – ‘Course I do.” Kelli did her guitar solo in a backbend.

Skating Polly is not your typical punk band

Then, the sisters switched instruments, running across the stage so that Peyton could pick up the guitar and Kelli could grab the bass. Peyton launched into “Nothing More Than a Body,” from The Big Fit. Behind them, Kelli’s brother Kurtis kept a steady, unfussy beat on drums.

Skating Polly’s most recent album, Chaos County Line, was in my ten best albums of 2023, and it was well-represented in the remainder of the set. Beginning with Kelli’s “Singalong” and Peyton’s “Hickey King,” they played six cuts off the album. “I’m Sorry for Always Apologizing” is prototypical Skating Polly. Kelli’s quirky, sweet vocal begins softly before growing more and more manic and ironic as the song progresses. She followed the same pattern on “Send a Priest.”

Toward the end, Peyton and Kurtis switched places for “They’re Cheap (I’m Free),” allowing Kurtis to take a turn on the guitar, while Peyton completed her trifecta playing all three instruments on the stage.  “They’re Cheap (I’m Free)" is a raucous rocker that Skating Polly has been closing some of their shows with of late, and it might have seemed like a logical finale. But such was not the case.

The show on Wednesday had a few hiccups. The second band scheduled to play, Austin’s Lord Friday the 13th, had to cancel due to illness. That left Baltimore’s Combat as the only opener.

The local quartet who signed with Boston’s Counter Intuitive earlier this year has a penchant for facing away from the crowd unless singing requires them to turn forward. They have several strong songs, including “Text” and “Worst First,” but a sometimes overaggressive rhythm section can swallow up clever songwriting. (“I Like to Tell People I Play All Ages Shows to Make Myself Sound More Punk Rock” is a great title, and a pretty good song to boot.)

Late in Skating Polly’s set, there was a break in the action when Kurtis had to leave the stage in search of more drumsticks. Spontaneous banter is not one of the band’s strong suits, and they seemed a little put off by the delay. After “They’re Cheap (I’m Free)” – during which Kurtis used one of those sticks to hammer the guitar – Kelli and Kurtis rather abruptly left the stage with minimal fanfare. Peyton then played a lovely solo version of the tender “Charlie’s Brother.” When the song ended, she too walked off without a word.

Next. Overlooked 1980s. Overlooked albums from the 1980s. dark

It left the crowd a little confused as to whether the show was actually over. When the lights came on and the crew began breaking down the set, that question was settled. It wasn’t a very traditional way to end a punk show. But then again, Skating Polly isn’t exactly a typical punk band.

The band heads south for shows in North Carolina and Atlanta. They’ll play at Camp Punksylvania in June before beginning a European tour this Fall.

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