Watching Jessica Boudreaux of Summer Cannibals on stage, you’re never sure if the spotlight shines on her or if she shines a spotlight on the crowd. The singer-guitarist has that kind of presence. She’s a firecracker, whipping and thrashing around on stage, mercilessly high-energy yet deceptively simple punk rock — occasionally throwing in an Elvis hip-sway for good measure.
Last year, the Portland punk trio (which usually performs as a quartet) released the critically acclaimed Full of It on indie record label Kill Rock Stars. The band is already recording what Boudreaux describes as a more pop-oriented follow-up, produced and co-written by Hutch Harris of The Thermals.
“It’s a love record,” Boudreaux says of the coming album, calling the new stuff guitar-oriented but less aggressive. “It’s about falling in love,” she says. “And it not working out, and not being mad about it.”
As well as working with Harris on a new record, Summer Cannibals made their Eugene debut last spring as a supporting act for The Thermals at the Hi-Fi Music Hall. Boudreaux sat in on lead guitar for the headlining act.
Now Summer Cannibals return to town for a headlining gig at WOW Hall. Boudreaux tells EW she loves delivering the live music experience to an audience. “I’ve always been a performer type,” she says.
But she admits it isn’t always easy. “I get really anxious, but that’s part of the fun,” she says. “It’s an adrenaline-junkie type thing. It’s the release while you’re doing it and then you just want to go to bed.”
Boudreaux, who grew up in Louisiana, got her first acoustic guitar from her grandfather after he passed away. It wasn’t long before she was writing her own music, inspired by Riot Grrrl acts like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney. She also lists English post-punk band The Fall and rock legends Black Sabbath as influences.
Boudreaux sings on Full of It feminist rock-anthem “Talk Over Me”: “I’m not gonna let you walk me home at night/ I’m not gonna wait around while you pick a fight … I’m not a bitch, I’d rather not be harassed.”
Throughout the record, the trio’s mix of heavy yet hooky guitar riffs and shout-along choruses also comes off very ’90s — wherever there’s some Pixies, there’s a little Veruca Salt.
The band’s name is borrowed from a Patti Smith song title, and you often hear echoes of the Riot Grrl movement.
As a transplant to Portland and fronting one that city’s hottest young acts, Boudreaux says she feels that her adopted hometown has a vibrant music scene but lacks a defining sound — and she calls that a good thing.
“When I think about the biggest bands that come out of Portland,” she says, “to me they don’t sound very much alike at all: The Decemberists, The Thermals, Elliott Smith.”
“Portland is trying to figure out what it wants to do right now,” Boudreaux adds. “Hopefully soon we’ll start to see more unique and exciting stuff coming out of it. A lot of the artists have been adjusting to a lot of the changes. That affects creativity. Hopefully the creativity starts to benefit from it.”
Joining Summer Cannibals in Eugene is Seattle band and Hardly Art recording artists Gazebos, whose 2016 release Die Alone was also one of the best-reviewed indie records of the year. The band is led by their own highly watchable frontwoman Shannon Perry, who adds a little bluesy swagger to her art-punk musings.
Catch Summer Cannibals, Gazebos and Seattle’s Boyfriends 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 14, at WOW Hall; $10 advance, $12 door. All-ages.