Formed in 2013, the Providence, RI band has quickly climbed the ranks of New England’s punk rock scene. Over the past five years, they've played nearly all of Boston’s iconic small venues, alongside some of the best up-and-coming punk acts. When I first saw them in 2015, they were opening for Twin Peaks and White Reaper at Great Scott, and they blasted my head off with an impressively raw and powerful sound that left my ears ringing for days. When I saw them again last year, they opened for SWMRS and The Frights at The Middle East with an equally loud and rowdy set, but a noticeably improved sound. Since then, I've been keeping an eye on GYMSHORTS, waiting for an opportunity to see them again, and I was finally rewarded for my patience when they opened for Cherry Glazerr.
GYMSHORTS came on stage around 9:15pm, taking a moment to check their instruments. A few minutes later, vocalist/guitarist Sarah Greenwell stepped up to the microphone wearing one of her signature oversized tee shirts (this one reading, Fit Camps: Get “Jacked Up”), and started the show. The instant the band began to play, venue’s atmosphere transformed from hip and modern to dark and grungy, evoking images of New York’s infamous hardcore club, CBGB. Once the set was underway, the crowd became even further immersed in this atmosphere, as Greenwell fiercely belted out lyrics and drummer Chris Crass relentlessly crashed on his cymbals. Glowing under the warm red light, Greenwell looked and sounded like a modern Joan Jett as she flicked back her hair and sneered into the crowd. After a few songs, she grinned and cheerfully shouted, “Let’s get this mosh going!,” pushing the already pumped up crowd into a further frenzy.
Around halfway through their set, GYMSHORTS played “Oh Brother,” one of the catchiest tracks from their first album, No Backsies, due to its frequent vocal interludes. During these pauses, the music completely stopped as Greenwell feigned a sigh and goofily muttered, “Oh Brother.” Once this magic phase was spoken, the room was released from its spell of silence, bringing the band to roar back to life and causing all hell to break loose in the mosh pit. Equally enthralling was their performance of “Viberator,” which opened with a sludgy guitar riff reminiscent of FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer,” and continued to build in speed and aggression throughout the song. By the two minute mark, “Viberator” reached its climax, ending with a nearly minute-long outro jam that sounded like a cross between Van Halen's “Eruption” and The Ramones with its blazing fast guitar solo backed by a punchy rhythm and bass.
Over the remainder of their all-too-short 30 minute show, GYMSHORTS continued to enthrall the crowd with more material from No Backsies including high school dropout anthem “Hey Parents!,” and several songs from their most recent album, Wet Willy, released on Burger Records in 2016. As their set came to an end, the venue was filled with noise and color; guitars blared, boots stomped, and lights flashed a murky mixture of green, yellow, and purple. At 9:45pm, GYMSHORTS put down their instruments and walked off stage, leaving everyone in the audience wanting more, and leaving me impressed (and slightly deaf) once again.
Having now seen them three times, I'm more excited than ever to find out what GYMSHORTS has in store for the future. But the bar is set high. From 2016 to now, the band has shown explosive growth, opened for some big names, and having spread their name west with the help of Wiener Records. So who knows? Maybe next time I see GYMSHORTS they'll be headlining, passing the baton on to the next generation of promising punk openers.