Several songs into White Lung’s set, a young woman in the crowd near me started throwing frantic, undirected air punches. Fists swirled up and around her in wild loops that connected occasionally, semi-randomly to surrounding arms and shoulders. Her intent was to clear a circle of space in a building mosh pit, but it didn’t seem to be directed in retaliation to anyone specific, or born from real rage. A few seconds later she was calm, happy, beaming up at singer Mish Way. Way’s band had filled Greenpoint metal club Saint Vitus, for a show marking the release of their widely acclaimed third album, Deep Fantasy. The record pairs its full-speed punk/metal riffs with bright, bruised vocal melody to form a bleak blur that’s seriously angry in intent, but pretty fun in effect. It’s the biggest sound they’ve managed yet, by a solid margin. The room was sold out well in advance, though not overpacked to the point of discomfort. Stalking the stage, surveying the chaos, head-banging her grunge-blonde hair, Way seemed coziest of all.
To start, the atmosphere in the room was almost too friendly. Though White Lung are from Vancouver, B.C., a thick web of Brooklyn well-wishers was apparent. A tall, leather-jacketed lady waded to the front to give Way a large flower bouquet (which would be subsequently smashed and lovingly tossed back into the crowd). A roughed-up, full-gallop “love song” was directed to another friend in the room, followed by the exchange of front stage hugs. A restrained, appreciative murmur greeted them at the start. The warmth was undeniable, yet given in response to a raging band with aims to pummel, perhaps a touch awkward.
Though a committed showman from the start, Way initially had trouble making her voice the leading element in the band’s wall of fast-paced thwacking. On songs where she was doubled by harmonic shouts from bassist Hether Fortune, they got much closer to the full sound of the recorded vocals. As the frequency of that move increased, the band started to settle into a big, mean groove.
As the onstage intensity rose, the crowd too built up the will to be a bit wilder. In response to the start of 2012’s “Thick Lip”, beer sprayed to the ceiling, limbs flailed, and the weakly committed crept back to a mid-room semi-circle. Once fully in motion, the mosh pit continued throughout. It occupied the first third of the room or so, enveloping several good natured and freakishly balanced videographers. The melee was never truly crazed or intense enough to feel like reckless danger, existing instead in a physical, but good-natured sweet spot. Truly crazed, violent moshing is fairly sociopathic, anyway. This was a party, not a fist fight.
The set was over in a little over a half-hour, on the long side for a young hardcore band, actually. The crowd left happy, damp from sweat, beer, or both. It’s hard to say whether or not a small throng of the already converted suggests much bigger spots in White Lung’s near future. The scale seemed more or less right, really, but the band owned it. If the night didn’t completely shatter the myth of Canadian politeness, at least the thrashing came without apology.