Sheer Mag Free at Noon - 06.14.2024

Let’s talk about nostalgia. Every week a new rock band is trotted out as a “throwback,” an “homage,” a “love-letter to the past.” I love a throwback act as much as the next guy, but honestly, I’m starting to get worried. Is it productive for our industry to keep turning to the past? What about the future? Is there one? Is it sustainable to keep sampling old songs, propping up hologram concerts, reanimating the dead with AI, trafficking in ghosts of music past, selling the memories of memories of memories?

None of my existential dread has anything to do with Philly’s own Sheer Mag, a band that couldn’t be more 70s if they were animatronics constructed from wood panels and asbestos. To some hipster types, their shameless nostalgia might be indicative of everything wrong with the music industry nowadays; to me, they just kick ass. This is a band with a surgically precise understanding of the FM-radio-rock song, and they don’t seem too interested in messing with that formula; after watching them barrel through an unforgettable 30 minute set this afternoon, I absolutely cannot blame them. Sheer Mag must’ve been made in a laboratory to rock out; not a note was flubbed, not a beat was missed, and the few seconds of quiet were few and far between. It must’ve taken them a lotta restraint to keep from soloing and jamming even during the brief-but-necessary comments from Mike Vasilikos, reminding us that we were listening to Sheer Mag playing live in twenty-twenty-four-A.D., and not some old 70s bootleg of the best Twisted Sister show ever performed.

What does Sheer Mag do to set them apart from their influences, then? Again, it’s tempting to say “nothing!” stick your tongue out, and throw up some hand horns. But there is something Sheer Mag has over their contemporaries, even over some of those cock-rock heroes of yore; good taste. The solos are virtuosic without being showy, the songs just complicated enough to keep each other on their toes (one spontaneously gave into a Rush-esque breakdown), the lyrics more pointed and thoughtful than most of their influences. As much as Sheer Mag revels in nostalgia, they clearly have no interest in staying in the past; the politically-charged fan-favorite “Expect the Bayonet” took on a new dimension as lead vocalist Tina Halladay shouted “Free Palestine!” between verses.

Halladay’s unique vocal style is somewhere between David Lee Roth, Gladys Knight, and the yowl of a panther. She doesn’t sing; the vocals seem to claw their way out of her. At times, her growling vowel sounds hit my ears like knives, but it’s all part of Sheer Mag’s punky passion.

All in all, Sheer Mag is vital. They’re one of the few bands that has earned the right to wear their influences so obviously on their sleeve. They make me wanna smoke a cigarette indoors. They rock harder than KISS ever did and you can see them here in Philly, rather than seeing their holograms. They’ve picked up the pieces of classic rock and put it all back together. Cliche as it is, I have to say it – Sheer Mag is bringing rock and roll back.

Sheer Mag
Free At Noon
  • Playing Favorites
  • Eat It And Beat It
  • Sit And Cry
  • Just Can't Get Enough
  • Don't Come Lookin'
  • Moonstruck
  • Expect The Bayonet
  • Silver Line