Locals: Bloody Show taps a vein of anger on new EP

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

The current banner image on Bloody Show's Facebook page depicts a pair of hands clenched into fists, knuckles scraped and battered as if fresh off a fight. The black and white photograph is a fitting companion to the garage-punk trio's newRoot Nerve EP, which emerges throwing haymakers, speckled in blood and dirt and with adrenaline levels running at peak capacity.

According to bassist/singer Jah Nada, this natural aggression is entwined in the band's DNA, revealing itself everywhere from its punishing concerts - "There's nothing between you and [the audience]; it's just air and opportunity, so do what you're going to do," he said - to EP recording sessions that unfolded in the crumbling concrete basement of a North Campus home in late 2015.

"I wanted to make songs fast. I didn't want to labor over it, and I didn't want to make it into a big production," said Nada, 35, who will join bandmates Laura B. (drums) and Jay Sparrow (stepping in on guitar for Christopher Corbin of Sex Tide, who appears on the recording but has since left the band due to time constraints) for a record release show at Café Bourbon Street on Sunday, May 29. "I wanted it to be primitive and loud and mean."

Songs like "Magic Negro" and "bell hooks" live up to the frontman's description, piling on jagged, fuzzy guitar riffs, tireless, primal drums and Nada's urgent words, which he lobs like sharp-edged hunks of cinderblock.

Throughout, the singer alternately prods, lambasts and unloads, addressing issues of race, class, feminism and, on "When I'm High," the lone substance with the power to calm his underlying anxieties. "I'm only happy when I'm high," he sings, even as the music rumbles on unaffected.

"There's something unsettling about the world we live in sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with being able to say that out loud," Nada said. "I feel that it's important to free the beast. Just say it and let it go and let the chips fall.

"The truth of the matter is with Bloody Show I just wanted to say things I think to myself that I never say out loud. And most of it ends up sounding mean."

In that regard, at least, the band pairs perfectly with Heel Turn, the label handling the EP release, which takes its name from a professional wrestling term where a onetime hero reemerges as a villain (think a black-goateed Hulk Hogan).

"Who the hell wants to be heroic and pious?" Nada said. "I think the only thing that's real is when you're like, 'This is how fucking mad I am.' That's what speaks to me. Madeline Jackson from DANA is really great at that … and Jordan Byrd from Minority Threat, too. Those are the people … who make me want to go back, like, 'OK, now I need to pick up the pen again and investigate myself and see what I'm missing.'"

Nada launched Bloody Show alongside Laura B. nearly three years ago (the duo has shuffled through a half-dozen guitarists in that time), with each embracing the group as a means to learn a new instrument. Nada, for one, grew up in Painesville playing drums, and he first picked up the bass guitar as a means of shaking free of stasis.

"It was jumping over a cliff every time we played a song," Nada said of the band's earliest rehearsals, which inspired the same kind of fear he felt when he first stepped onstage as a drummer at the Ohio State University Jazz Festival in the mid-'90s. "I like to be a little scared. That's the point. I don't like to be bored. This will be my 20th year playing shows … and after a while [playing drums] started to feel routine and a little monotonous and a little boring. That doesn't mean playing drums is boring; I just started being bored with what I was doing. Playing bass, it scared me, and it invited me to develop a new perspective."

Similar investigation fuels Nada's lyrical pursuits, which are equally informed by internal debates - "Some of what I say is just as much about me as it is anybody else," he said - and societal ills. Take the EP cover, which features a photograph of a 1960s protester holding a sign that reads, "You better kill all blacks."

"That [photo] could have been taken in downtown Cleveland anytime last year," said Nada, referencing protests spurred by the 2014 police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. "I've lived other places in Ohio … where you quietly live in fear, and that anxiety starts to stoke you. I have two nephews and a niece, and I think about that shit. And it scares me."

Occasionally these fears even bleed over into reality, like the evening the musician was stopped and frisked by police while walking home along Fourth Street, simply for fitting a description.

"That resonates with me. You never age out of that, and that stays raw forever. You can't ever let up on it because it's going to be there," he said. "There's so much of the album, it's not trying to race bait, but … it's trying to invite that conversation to a larger audience."

Cafe Bourbon Street

9 p.m. Sunday, May 29

2216 Summit St.,

North Campus


Also playing: Nukkehammer,

Messrs, Minority Threat,

Fire Retarded, The Nico Missile