"We are a loud band."

The Screaming Females roar into Manchester at The Roadhouse tonight. The smallest venue in the city will play host to the biggest of sounds. Elbow played here before becoming global superstars, and it's sad to think that after 22 years it will close its doors for the last time on June 1st.

This is the fifth date of the Screaming Females' European tour, and after 38 dates trawling across the States, you'd think they'd be all played out. There is certainly no evidence of that tonight.

The band, whose frontwoman Marissa Paternoster has been cited by Spin magazine as one of the world's greatest guitarists, is top of a bill that includes "Garage Funk" outfit the Slovaks, and ramshackle student band Al and his Pals.

The Slovaks' guitarist is remarkably good when he gets going, but they mess up most of their songs. When the drummer comes forward to tune the bass half way through the set, I wander off back to the bar. Al and His Pals really have something though. Sure the songs – part psychedelic, part rockabilly – are naive and rather loose, but his wild delivery and messy mop of hair remind me of a young John Lennon.

The Screaming Females are often described as a punk band. If you listen to their early albums, that would be a fair description. Over the years, however, they have morphed, via garage/Indie/rock right up to something far slower and more melodic (almost folk in parts) on their seventh album Rose Mountain, released in February.

They hail from Brunswick New Jersey. In addition to Paternoster, the band features Jarrett Dougherty on drums and King Mike on bass – a bear of a man who dominates the right side of the stage. He is effortlessly balanced by Marissa's incendiary guitar playing on the left. This is very much her vehicle and as power trios go, it's impressive. They are all virtuoso performers, but it's her incredible lead guitar work that sets this band apart from its peers.

After tuning up to a rumbling Stone Roses bass line (an obvious nod to this Manchester crowd), they launch into the opener 'Rotten Apple' from the 'Ugly' album. They quickly follow this with 'Starve The Beast' from 2007's 'What if Someone Is Watching Their T.V.?'. It is clear that they are here to rock.

These are huge, full-on, no nonsense, in your face, crunching numbers. Granite carved guitar riffs and ricochet drums are underpinned by thumping bass lines. Paternoster and Mike stand right at the front of stage, heads down, hair flailing, rocking out.

Paternoster's singing is incredible. Thanks to her alto delivery, it doesn't have the same deafening effect as Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker when they played the Albert Hall last month. There are parts that descend into part shout, part yodel – at one point she is literally screaming into the mic.

“We are screaming females. We're from Brunswick New Jersey USA. You guys are cool” Paternoster says to the audience. Someone behind me replies “We know.”

The band plunder the heaviest numbers from its back catalogue, interspersed with stand-out tracks from the new album. This includes 'Wishing Well' – slower than than the rest, opening with a dreamy, almost Hawaiian-sounding guitar. There is no screaming here, instead it has the sweetest of choruses: “I toss dimes in the wishing well, well I'm broke 'cause you took all of me”

It is tale of break-up and remorse. It's a common theme for the band along with self-deprecation and frustration. Just check out the lyrics to 'Rotten Apple': “Hell is within me, Hell is all round me.”

They make one hell of a sound. The audience is treated to one of the tightest live bands on the circuit. The guitar playing is almost too good. They should be playing venues fifty times the size.

Songs often open sweetly, then in comes Marissa Paternoster with one of the most explosive licks you've ever heard. It's like the spirit of Jimi is playing for her in the wings.

There are slow Weezer-type songs here too, like 'Broken Neck' from 'Rose Mountain', building up into a crescendo of swirling guitar. It's the rock tracks, however, that really set the pulse racing. 'Ripe', from the same album, is the stand-out track of the night, opening with a bouncing Fall-type beat, then soaring into guitar heaven.

There is a really broad age range in the audience tonight. Couples at tables, a few teenagers, middle-aged blokes in T shirts and jeans, one or two with albums under their arms, which they'd bought at the bar earlier. It's odd how disparate the crowd is – it feels like few hardcore fans really made it down for the gig.

I got the chance to speak with Paternoster briefly afterwards and asked her if she enjoyed the show:

“Oh yeah it was amazing," she said. "I loved it. We're so loud over here. I mean, we are a loud band in the US, but over here? That was loud.”

It's a golden age for female-fronted rock at the moment, with the aforementioned Sleater-Kinney making a storming return to Manchester, and up and coming Mark E. Smith faves Esper Scout playing here next month.

The Screaming Females tore this tiny stage apart and Marissa Paternoster was just incredible. It felt like I was watching the Experience for the first time, with the best supporting players backing the most prodigious of talents.

The Screaming Females end their European tour in Paris on the 9th of June. If you can catch them before they head off home, then make sure you do.

Weird Fact: Marissa's guitar Is called 'Oedipus the King'.

Photos by Melanie Smith

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