Category: Live Show Reviews

July 14th, 2000
Paula Cole

Paula Cole

Paula Cole with Jill Sobule – Aggie Theatre; Ft. Collins, CO; July 14, 2000

By Ellen Rawson

“I’m your opening act,” Jill Sobule stated as she matter-of-factly introduced herself and strapped on her tiny guitar. However, it was a false start. “I’m not plugged in!” she cried.

Colorado native Sobule, although promoting her new CD, Pink Pearl, opened with an older piece, “The Jig is Up.” She stopped mid-song to inform the audience that her parents “both went to school here – just to let you know. My dad was a veterinarian,” she added in reference to Colorado State University’s veterinary program. She also intimated that she too might have become a vet had she not spent too many summers cleaning out cages in her father’s office. Luckily for the adoring fans in the crowd, the sharp-edged, witty Sobule went into music instead.

Her cynical humor expressed itself in her second number, “Heroes,” from the new CD. It’s a song about how the people she idolized when she was a kid turned out to be “mean, awful alcoholics.” The audience started laughing with lines such as “Why are all our heroes so imperfect” and evidence including “William Faulkner — drunk and depressed, Dorothy Porter — drunk and depressed.” Sad subject matter? Not with Sobule’s humorous tone.

Sobule was on that night, whether performing new material, her “mini-hit” (as she termed it), “I Kissed a Girl,” ‘80s anthems (she broke into “All the young dudes/carry the news” at one point), or a new, not-yet recorded song about the death penalty with its chorus: “You’d better not kill in Texas; they’d just love to kill you.” The Colorado audience roared with laughter at these lines: “You can get off in Boulder, Colorado, but they’ll fry your ass in Lubbock.” Sobule was delighted at her chance to sing an encore. “I never get encores!” she exclaimed.

Her energy and the crowd’s reaction paved the way for Paula Cole’se ntrance. Cole made her way to center stage in front of a full band including long-time band mates Jay Bellerose on drums and Kevin Barry on guitars, along with Doug Wimbash on bass and Rockiya Diggs on piano, keyboard, violin, and backing vocals. (Cole played piano and keyboards on only a few numbers; she instead focused on her vocals and audience.)

Self-described as a frustrated drummer, Cole’s right arm went wild as if she held a tambourine in it on her opening number, “Happy Home,” from Harbinger, her first release. She followed it with the title track of her latest album, Amen, which expresses Cole’s new-found spirituality. This album, unlike her previous two, has not been a success. In fact, Cole thanked the audience “for supporting us even though there’s nothing on the radio.” “Amen,” however, demonstrates that while Cole is spiritual, she still is as radical as ever. In her list of items for which to say “amen,” she included “Dr. Kevorkian and the right to die” and “the Republican Witch Hunt Crew.”

The set list pretty much revolved between old (mostly songs from her second CD, This Fire) and new material. The new music tends to be more rock-oriented and leaning towards a funkier theme (and in the case of “I Believe in Love,” a twinge towards the ‘70s soul sound). Unfortunately, due perhaps to the sound system, Cole sometimes was overwhelmed by the band. It was difficult to discern the lyrics to the newer songs if you didn’t already know them. Cole’s trademarks cat-like ad libs were prominent, but while they felt earnest, at times they seemed almost over the top. Other than that, she was in good voice. Despite the sound dilemma (there were occasional feedback problems on vocals, particularly on “Carmen”), the audience seemed enamored, and Cole appeared quite pleased with the response. While Cole didn’t talk much with the crowd, she certainly wasn’t shy. Clad in a short slip dress, she was not afraid to exude her sensuality while revealing emotion on stage.

While Cole’s expressive sensuality may not have been startling for the crowd (she did perform “Feelin’ Love,” a rather evocative song from This Fire that also allowed Barry a long solo), she did introduce some surprises. She brought on a guest musician to sing, dance, and play drums for one new number. She became a female Robert Plant as she covered Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” as an encore and made joyful pirouettes onstage in platform shoes. However, her next-to-last encore, “Hitler’s Brothers,” became a rocker in concert and a real crowd pleaser, and the finale, “I Don’t Want to Wait,” helped the crowd mellow out a little and prepare to exit. “Crowds like you make it all worth it!” she exclaimed. “This is what it’s all about.”

Indeed, Cole truly seemed to enjoy herself, and the crowd definitely was appreciative. Despite sound difficulties and changes in her musical style, the hungry audience ate it up. It certainly was worth it to them.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: ,

June 1st, 2000

By Alex Teitz

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco plays the Saenger Theater Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2009. (Press-Register, John David Mercer) LIVING ARTS & LEISURE

Going to an Ani DiFranco show is like an indoor festival. The crowd is always high energy and ready for music. This is no exception.

The night began with Jim White, and his band. This three piece band plays a country rock with its own peculiar twist. White is a combination of Lyle Lovett meets Jim Morrison. His songs had a placid story quality to them, but dragged on too long. White was no match for the party that followed.

A couple thousand people standing on their feet and dancing for over two hours does not even begin to describe the energy radiated when DiFranco took to the stage. DiFranco began complaining of the lack of oxygen but seemed unfazed as she sang over twenty songs straight. She changed guitars every song from electric to acoustic and back, each one tuned a little differently.

The lighting effects complimented DiFranco and her band. The night began with “Freakshow” under lights resembling circus tents. She followed it with “Little Plastic Castle,” and “Don’t Be Shy.”

DiFranco’s band kept pace through the entire set. Julie Wolf, who played keyboard, accordion, and background vocals interacted with DiFranco sometimes with close, tight, moves. Shane Endlessy and Jules Hans Tone formed a trumpet and sax duo that also included flute and clarinet. Derek High was on drums. Jason Mercer switched back and fourth between an electric bass, and an upright bass.

DiFranco is the epitome of the independent artist. She plays feverishly. She hops, bounces and rebounds around the stage like a pinball. Onstage, she is quick witted, fast, spontaneous, and wrangles a crowd better than a cowboy. DiFranco has sold millions of self-produced albums, and with shows like this it is easy to see why. She is fun for the audience, and a pillar of strength for every independent artist climbing the rungs.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

April 1st, 2000

Tracy Chapman

By Alex Teitz

Tracy Chapman, back after an extended absence with the release of Telling Stories, is on the road promoting the new CD. Chapman has a skilled band and a slick stage setup which should be a sign of great things. The night FEMMUSIC saw her it was not.

The Magness arena is a hockey rink transformed. The stadium style seating around and a general admission mass below proved tough to get a focus on. In addition the Arena has baffles in unusual places creating a secondary echo to every note played, and Chapman played many.

Chapman took to the stage and poured through a set for over an hour forty-five. The set included classics like “Fast Car”, ”Save My Soul” and “Talking About a Revolution.” Most of the set was filled with new songs including “The Only One” , and “It’s OK” about the friend always in trouble.

Chapman herself was plagued with guitar problems a little over halfway through. She switched through three or four guitars and as many cables in that time. At one point a tech was onstage checking the guitar itself. Although Chapman tried to hide it, she was disturbed by these technical problems.

Tracy Chapman is a singer-songwriter used to intimate spaces. Her style and energy are not known for rip-roaring rock shows and the crowd was expecting more. During Chapman’s introduction to “Telling Stories” in which she spoke about reading biographies on Mohamed Ali and George Washington, she was continually goaded by the audience to play. She seemed surprised at this interruption in her train of thought.

Chapman was backed up by a talented band. Steve Hunter on guitar and mandolin, Paul Bushnell on bass and background vocals, Jeff Young on keyboard, and Denny Fondheizer on drums were intuitive and up to speed with Chapman the entire night. They punctuated the songs with strong solos and kept the set tightly knit.

Lastly, Tracy Chapman is a powerful singer-songwriter. Her songs have a heart and soul and speak to the urban voice. She is passionate and deserves better than a hockey arena. Catch Chapman on this tour in the intimate spaces it visits.

For more information on Tracy Chapman’s new CD Telling Stories visit Elektra Records at http://www.elektrarecords.com

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

March 9th, 2000

Gothic Theater – March 9, 2000

By Alex Teitz

It was a rare acoustic night at the Gothic Theater. It was also very intimate. The audience was about two to three hundred in the seven hundred plus capacity Gothic. In addition, the theater itself was cold. Many audience members were huddled in their coats. If the cold were not enough, the headliner arrived at a half hour to showtime after a twelve hour drive from Salt Lake City.

It was in this atmosphere that Wendy Woo took to the stage to begin the night in a rare solo acoustic performance. Woo, normally known with her band, seemed surreally alone on the barren stage. Wearing a suitjacket, and a red scarf Woo dived right into

“Doctor, Doctor.” She followed this with “This Ain’t Nobody’s Business” a Billie Holiday cover. New to the set was “Man Made Lines” about mankind’s shaping of the world. This song is filled with images of storms, and sunlight that evoke landscapes easily discernible to anyone in Colorado. Woo’s set ended with two of her catchiest songs “Down N’ Dirty” and “Sundrops.” Both showcase Woo’s vocal talents. Visit http://www.wendywoo.com for information about where Wendy will play next.

After a short soundcheck, Malone’s guitarist took to the stage to perform his own solo acoustic set. The set had a David Wilcox feel to it as the songs were introspective and simply based. The set was as strong as Woo’s and included songs “No Such Thing”, “Back to Me”, and “Great Indoors.” David Labrere is touring with Michelle Malone for her entire tour and should be watched. He will tour solo soon enough with the material he has.

Malone was very relaxed with bass player, and guitarist on naked stage. Her set included many songs from her new CD Home Grown including “Havasu Falls”, “Avalon”, “Floating Down a Dream” and “Strength for Two.” Her speed was broken early when she broke a string after “Havasu Falls” and had to admit to being a little, “gaga silly loopy.” The set also included many songs from Malone’s previous works, and showed her skill with both guitar and harmonica.

Michelle Malone is a straightforward musician. She plays a set for the music. She has almost a casual disregard for anything that slows her down. An example would be after finishing a harmonica song, she tore the harmonica off, and jumped right into the next song. This dedication to the music was evident in this performance as well as FEMMUSIC’s interview. Watch for Michelle Malone as she continues her tour, and visit http://www.michellemalone.com

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: ,

March 8th, 2000

Bluebird Theater – March 8, 2000

By Alex Teitz

The party was here. Where were you? After months in the studio Michelle and the Book of Runes are back in a big way. Michelle has emerged with a new band, and a style that is distinctive. If any band can conquer the world with desire to get ahead it is Michelle and the Book of Runes.

The new band features Johnny Katt Ellington on lead guitar, Mike Ballard on bass, Michael Czubik on drums, Dave Emmitt on percussion and Darby on backup vocals. Darby adds a loner tone vocals that works in contrast to Michelle creating a powerful harmony. Dave Emmitt also stands out with percussion and harmonica. He drives the songs forward as much as Michelle drives the set.

Michelle bounds across the stage singing songs including “Create” about a runaway, “The Usual” about everyone’s drinking place, and “Getting It On.” “Spanish Moon” , a new ballad, is one of the quietest songs in the set but evokes images as striking as the rest. Michelle plays up the sexuality of some songs, but can always be observed having fun. This energy transfers to the audience.

This night, The Deluge opened. The Deluge is a classic rock band that does work well with Michelle and The Book of Runes. Both can generate a heat and fire within the audience. This night, they did not. Beginning at the first song the sound was horribly off. Dawn and Michael Nagle have powerful voices but both were drowned out. Even after a microphone switch in the fourth song, the rhythm was lost and could not be returned. The Deluge is capable of much, much more.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: ,

March 4th, 2000

Tufts Theater at Swallow Hill, Denver, March 4, 2000

By Ellen Rawson

“Sumer Is Ycumen In Sing Cucco”

Okay, so 13th century lyric poetry generally isn’t what most Americans folk/rock artists use to open their shows.  Nerissa and Katryna Nields, the sisters from the group The Nields, however, chose this a cappella number to lure their Denver fans to their sound.  The sisters’ voices blended together well, and the Middle English lyrics indeed poured trippingly from their tongues.  It was a creative way to introduce the audience to an evening of music featuring Nerissa’s acoustic guitar and both women’s voices.

The Nields sisters left behind the male members of the band (David Nields, David Howe, and David Chalfont) for a rare tour as a duo.  They performed the Nields’s catalog, however, ranging from older songs such as “James” and “Christopher Columbus” to debuting material from their latest release, If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now.  They showed off the CD’s artwork, drawn by a fan who also happened to be a New York Times illustrator.

The new album’s theme concerns the perfect town.  Katryna’s recorder added emotion to “Jeremy Newborn Street.”  “Mercy Street” picked up on the idea that “home is where they have to take you in,” and “100 Voices” seemed different than previous Nields’s material.  It’s a gentle ballad, a love song indeed, with an evocative plea that drew the audience to the narrator, particularly at its emotional crescendo when both sisters sang: “Every morning you love me just the same.”

Another kind of love was covered in “I Know What Kind of Love This Is,” a song Nerissa wrote for an earlier Nields album (and was covered by the folk supergroup Cry, Cry, Cry).  Although Katryna is known for her thrilling vibrato, Nerissa’s voice featured some artful skips on this song.  The evening’s unplugged feel seemed to add to the narrator’s despondency in both this piece and “Ash Wednesday.”  The acoustic version of “Gotta Get Over Greta,” sans the men in the band, also succeeded.  Interestingly, the song seemed to become more of a woman’s number in which the narrator’s dilemma could be explored.

The sisters used the unplugged feel and the Tufts Theater’s intimate acoustics to their advantage.  At one point, they asked the soundman to turn off the power to the microphones and Nerissa’s guitar.  They stood right at the edge of the stage to perform one of their older songs, “This Happens Again and Again.”  (Later, they explains that they’d heard that Allison Kraus used to do just that — that she’d stand in front of the mikes occasionally and perform.)  For their first encore, they went out into the audience. Nerissa unplugged her guitar again and played it without amplification.  “We want to be surrounded by you,” said Katryna, and they launched into “Easy People” from  the Nields’s album Play.

While the unplugged feel was quite attractive, there were times when more of the band might have been a nice addition.  Katryna truly possesses an amazing vibrato, but there were the occasional moments when it was almost overwhelming on its own. Generally, however, she was in excellent voice, and her vibrato particularly shone on “Best Black Dress.”

Both sisters were comfortable performing together on their own, and there certainly wasn’t any sibling rivalry to be seen that night.  Each would smile at her sibling as the other took a solo, and they both enjoyed telling stories together, whether confessing their guilt about enjoying driving their rented SUV (they’d previously called them  PIVs –Politically Incorrect Vehicles) or explaining why they thought poet Wallace Stevens didn’t show his work to his colleagues at the insurance company prior to singing “Snowman,” a song based on a Stevens’ poem. Their interaction was the best of families; they could finish each other’s sentences and almost anticipate what the other was going to say next.

Their final encore was a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  Katryna introduced it as a cowboy song, but the Nields’ treatment makes it no longer just that.  It’s now their song too.   The evening overall was a peaceful and pleasant blend of acoustic twists on new and old material.  While the next time members of this audience see these sisters perform again will probably be with their full band, most likely they will remember that solo evening for some time to come.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

March 1st, 2000

Altan, February 6, 2000, Boulder Theater, Boulder

By Ellen Rawson

“I hope you won’t be sitting here for too long,” said Maeréad Ní Mhaonaigh with a smile.  The fiddler and lead vocalist of the Irish traditional band Altan noticed the dance area in front of the stage.  No one had gotten up to dance for the band’s initial number, a selection of reels from their *Runaway Sunday* album, but the dance space wouldn’t remain empty for long. Altan’s delightful sounds lured dancers to their feet.

The next number, however, wouldn’t be the dancers’ showpiece.  “Ten Thousand Miles,” is, as Ní Mhaonaigh described it, “a beautiful love song” from their forthcoming CD, Another Sky. “If you don’t like it, don’t tell me,” she quipped.  Her down-to-earth style charmed the audience immediately.  When tuning took longer than planned for “Ten Thousand Miles,” she joked that “we have to tune a bit higher here.”

“Ten Thousand Miles” introduced the audience to Ní Mhaonaigh’s voice. It’s authentic and completely natural — alluring and graceful rather than stylized and overdone.  She’s “down-home” Irish.

The band tended to alternate between songs and tones (with Ní Mhaonaigh switching between fiddle and vocals as necessary; on “Dúlamán,” she even fiddled between verses).  Ní Mhaonaigh stood back and watched the rest of the band start a medley of four tunes, “Gusty’s Frolicks/Con’s Slip Jig/The Pretty Young Girls of Carrick/The Humours of Whisky,” and then she kicked in with relish as the pace changed and, with  her fiddle added to Ciaran Tourish’s, created a furious pace.  They segued right into the next tune, “Ross’s Highlands,” three highlands from Northwest Donegal. (Ní Mhaonaigh later explains that “they dance highlands in Donegal” and that they’re related to the Scottish.  By this point, the crowd had become an integral part of the show with their hands clapping, feet stomping, and as Ní Mhaonaigh pointed out, the first dancers had appeared.

Altan slowed down the pace to perform their first song in Gaelic; indeed, it was the first song of Altan’s career.  Ní Mhaonaigh sang one verse in Gaelic, then repeated it in English. It was an old song about matchmaking, which seemed appropriate enough when the band members later revealed that four of the five members onstage had married recently –two to each other (Ní Mhaonaigh and accordionist Dermot Byrne tied the knot in September).

Perhaps the weddings contributed to the overall upbeat melodies performed.  While the tunes, of course, had the audience up and dancing (by the end of the night, the dance floor was packed), even the songs were lacking what the band described as “songs with sad stories that result in death, drowning, and rejection,” and they noted jokingly that “a lot of the songs on our new CD aren’t depressing enough to be truly traditional.”  Indeed, some are not traditional at all.  The band closed the evening with “Girl from the North Country.”  While it sounds like an old piece, it’s actually their take on the Bob Dylan song Robert Burns authored “Green Grow the Rushes.” The band invited the audience to sing along.  “I need your help for this,” Ní Mhaonaigh requested.  They laughed about a new song that means the name of a man in love.  The title translates nicely from Gaelic to English, but the lyrics lose out. Ní Mhaonaigh explained, to the audience’s delight, that “this woman loves him so she would love to see his jaw under a sod of turf. It doesn’t translate well,” she said with a laugh but reminded her listeners that it was “beautiful in Gaelic.”

While Ní Mhaomaigh generally serves as the band’s centerpiece (in fact, she co-founded the group with her late husband, flautist Frankie Kennedy), the other musicians all had their chances to show off their skills. Ciaran Curran’s bouzouki started and closed a jig, accordionist Dermot Byrne soloed (along with Dáithi Sproule’s acoustic guitar) on a selection of tunes from John Doherty.  Curran’s bouzouki and Sproule’s guitar sounded like sheer silver on the rhythm to “Dúlamán.”  Ní Mhaonaigh’s and Tourish’s fiddles gave the band the two-fiddle sound that for good reason has become a part of the Altan legend, with Tourish occasionally breaking off to play whistle.

It’s for good reason that Altan is a legend in Irish traditional folk circles. Their shows feature superb musicianship matched with contagious lively energy.  Their magical sounds seduced their Boulder audience, but unlike the stories of Irish faeries who entice humans to dance and then entrap them, Altan leaves its fans free to listen and dance again and again.

For more information:  http://www.altan.ie

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

March 1st, 2000

Maddy Prior and Friends, University of Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry,England, December 18, 1999

By Ellen Rawson

“35 years.  I know I don’t look it,” Maddy Prior said with a smile after singing an a cappella version of the traditional song “The Blacksmith.” To celebrate her 35 years in the music business (and, indeed, she did start at a young age), Prior embarked on a three-city tour with her friends:  husband and fellow former member of Steeleye Span, Rick Kemp on bass; former Steeleye Span band mate, Peter Knight on fiddle; “silly sister” June Tabor on vocals; daughter Rose Kemp on vocals; Steve Banks on drums; and musical partners on her recent solo tours; Nick Holland on keyboards, whistles, and pipes; and Troy Donockley on guitar.  The Warwick gig was the tour’s final stop.

Prior brought June Tabor on stage for the second number.  Referring to Tabor as her “silly sister” (after the two albums the women recorded in the ‘70s and ‘80s), the two women traded verses and shared choruses on the bawdy traditional song “My Husband’s Got No Courage in Him.”

A number of songs performed that night were traditional pieces, including a haunting version of “The Great Selkie of Skule Skerry,” along with “The King,” “Hynd Horn,” “The Agincourt Carol,” “Betsy Bell and Mary Gray,” “Sheaf and Knife,” and “The Boar’s Head Carol,” among others.  Prior’s fascinating introductions included informative folklore and history lessons. “Sheaf and Knife” is a metaphor for pregnancy, she explained.  “The Boar Head’s Carol,” with all of its Pagan connotations, references bringing in the boar’s head to an Oxford college (“Queen’s College,” Tabor confirmed.)  The background information to “Hynd’s Horn,” a song that probably dates from the Crusades, was a story unto  itself as Prior detailed the magical elements behind this song concerning, among other items, a magical ring.

Prior indeed is a consummate storyteller.  She seems to see what she singing; the characters in the songs are right there in front of her as she performs.  Her facial and body movements only add to her voice, which almost overpowered the audio system during “The Great Selkie of Skule Skerry.”  Her voice can leap between ranges and become whisper soft or booming as needed.  It is her instrument, and she has honed it well over her 35-year career,

All of the performers had chances to show off their skills throughout the evening.  Peter Knight’s fiddle, in particular, shone as he finger picked rather than bowed on “Rose,” a song written about Prior’s daughter.  There’s always been a bit of a battle about whether folk performers should be called fiddlers or violinists.  Knight’s contribution to “The Great Selkie of Skule Skerry,” however, clearly was a violin solo.

Rose Kemp, Prior’s daughter, and the subject of the song “Rose” (written about a younger Rose) joined Tabor in singing with her mother.  Although she mostly sang back up, she did take the lead on a song about winter that she’d recently written.  Kemp shows promise.  This show was one of her first public performances, and while Kemp sounded a little nervous, it will be appealing to hear how her songwriting skills and deep voice develop in the years to come.

The night truly was a special one for long-time fans.  Prior seemed happy to be able to performed two fairly long sets (25 songs in all) with good friends.  Since Prior has left Steeleye Span, it was a particular pleasure to see her perform with Steeleye’s Knight.  It also was a notable moment when Prior sang only accompanied by her husband’s bass on the pensive “Mother and Child” from one of Prior’s earlier solo albums.  Hearing Prior and Tabor perform together  — Tabor’s smoky alto with Prior’s emotional soprano — is a rare treat.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 35 years for such a line-up to grace the stage!

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

February 26th, 2000

Nina Storey – The Soiled Dove – February 26, 2000

By Alex Teitz

When Nina Storey plays in Colorado, it’s more than a show. It’s an event. This stands true more so now than ever. Storey just recently partnered for a nationwide record distribution, has reached a point of local stardom few can match. Tonight was in everyone’s mind, the last time to see Nina at such an intimate venue.

The Soiled Dove was packed both on stage, and in the seats. The audience ranged in ages from the low twenties to mid fifties. All had heard of Nina, but there were many newcomers.

The night began with Frank Schultz, one of the owners of the Soiled Dove, introducing the first group. Schultz told of watching them change over time, and how the Soiled Dove is encouraging local artists with their Sunday night Local’s Launch program. The first act was two members of the band Tinker’s Punishment, Michael and Kenny playing an acoustic set. They were the surprise of the night. Their vocal melodies, and layered guitars were much more captivating than when played electric. Their songs and lyrics were well thought through. “June Cleaver” was a breakup song. “Weekend” was a realization of loneliness. Although Tinker’s Punishment stands a good male band, Michael and Kenny did show amazing depth playing acoustic.

Next up, after another introduction by Schultz, was The Ryan Tracy Band. This is another electric band that was forced to go acoustic. The freedom of this form was best evident in J.D. Sawyer playing acoustic guitar with rhythms and melodies that were broad spanning and right up to the mark. It should not go unnoticed that the new drummer, Michael Rice, although trapped in minimal space, and with a sparse kit that did not even include snares, had great command. FEMMUSIC will watch his progression closely.

The lead singers of the Ryan Tracy Band are Ryan Tracy and Anitra Carr. Their sound is often compared to Natalie Merchant with good reason. The bands’ originals are complex and catchy. That night they included “Will” and “All The Same.” The set also included the cover track for their new CD called “Rain Won’t Stop” which the band was just heading into the studio to record. Look for it soon.

The set wasn’t complete until Ernie Hargett, a manager of The Soiled Dove, got on stage and wowed the audience with “Got My Mojo Working.” Hargett is the hidden jewel at the Dove. Any chance seeing him on stage is a must.

Finally, The Nina Storey Band took to the stage. Nina, dressed in  patterned pants and a black shirt and black jacket, took the audience from the first note and didn’t let go until the encore. Storey has an amazing range and vocal control that does impress those twice her age. Storey played songs from all three of her CD’s including “Change Me,” Her new national single “Let Us Walk,” “Crown,” “If I Was An Angel,” “Better Man,” and “False Ideas.” In all she played for nearly two hours and twenty songs including a new song, “Travel On” which had Nina playing the keyboard. She will soon master it. Early on there were problems with feedback, and Storey did complain of monitor problems as well. Unless one watched for them, the flaws were imperceptible.

Storey is on her way as a national artist. This was a farewell show as much as anything. Next time Storey returns she will rule the marquis of the 3000+ venues versus the Dove’s three hundred.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

February 24th, 2000

Shannon Curfman – February 24, 2000 – Gothic Theater

By Alex Teitz

The Gothic Theater was brimming with people to see Arista Records recording artist, Shannon Curfman. This seventeen year old blues singer with strawberry blonde hair, and innocence in looks is the facade. The singer belts out the songs like nobody’s business.

The stage was lit with votives and the drum set and amps below it were covered with a decorative carpet. The second Curfman took to the stage, she controlled the audience. Her first song, “Few and Far Between” is a power song on relationships. Curfman seemed to punch every line and chord.

During “Real Bad Feeling” Curfman had to wait for start up and was visibly surprised. During the song her vocals were crisp and in command. This was followed by “I Don’t Make Promises (I Can’t Break)” a new just released version designed for radio only. Throughout the set the chemistry between Curfman and her band was clear and positive.

Next up came “I’m Coming Home” with a long introduction trying to claim and disclaim the local paper’s report on hating men as the song portrays. The song is about the wine, women and song that men take for granted

Curfman’s band played especially well. The people of note are Marvin Young on rhythm guitar whose solos were on target. Kevin Murphy on keyboard, and the oldest member of the band, who had more energy and drive during most of the set. Dave Alandea on drums and background vocals was a whirlwind of energy during the set.

The audience was fueled for most of the set. There seemed a hush point when Curfman seemed to point to the set ending, but just switched guitars. The Gothic’s acoustics did not play well with Curfman. There were many sound pockets, and the reverb of drums and bass bounced throughout the theater. This can be blamed as much on mixing as acoustics.

Overall Curfman played a superb set. FEMMUSIC will be curious to see how Curfman evolves over time. For more information read FEMMUSIC’s review of Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions and FEMMUSIC’s interview with Curfman

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

February 12th, 2000

Bluebird Theater February 12, 2000

By Alex Teitz

The Bluebird was a mix of themes and styles on February 12. The show scheduled included the re-formed band Infinity Waltz, the minimalist band Sarina Simoom and a performance art piece. The theater was over a third full even before Infinity Waltz took to the stage.

Infinity Waltz is a five piece band of skilled musicians. Lead vocals and bass is Tonya Nolan. Kevin Nolan is lead guitar. Sarah Lucey is rhythm guitar. Stephanie Garcia is keyboard and Michael Watson is on drums. The members are a range of ages, but all have a rare talent.

The set began with “Breathe” a love song. Tonya’s vocals are strong but were drowned out in the house mix. For both “Breathe”, and the next song “Close Your Eyes” the vocals were barely heard. “Close Your Eyes” began with Kevin and Sarah leading in. Midway through Kevin had a guitar solo. The song changed beat as Tonya held a long vocal melody. Throughout the song Stephanie was kept an undertone that was present yet not overpowering.

In “Red Horses” the lighting took on an orange hue as Michael did a heavy down beat. Stephanie’s keyboard was outspoken. Michael, who’s drum kit has a bass sound of it’s own due to its size, kept beating like a symphony in action. This led to a vocal solo by Tonya. Tonya’s voice is strong and she’s able to keep endurance during long held notes. She is not an ear-piercing soprano but falls in a mid range. The lyrics, the instrumentation and the music draw you in.

“California” is one of Infinity Waltz’s strongest songs, and also one of the happiest about a trip to California. It includes images that are full of sunlight. “California” mixed a Tonya Nolan bass overlay with Kevin Nolan on a 12 string acoustic guitar and Michael on tom-tom’s. “Kiss the God” includes Michael on vocals. Sadly Michael’s ability to shift styles in drum beat, and genre is not evident in his voice. He is straining. “Kiss the God” is a song of faith and hope for the future, and is well crafted lyrically. The set ended with “13 Stains” a song layered in bass/keyboard symmetry and guitar rhythms. Overall the band needs to work on song endings as they continually looked for the end. Tonya should also remember to breathe when speaking to the audience. Her few asides came out too fast. FEMMUSIC does look forward to Infinity Waltz’s next set. They do have the potential to develop into a multigenre, layered rhythmically, vocally, and lyrically, alternative band. For more information visit http://www.infinitywaltz.com

The next band up was Sarina Simoom. Sarina Simoom has been packing them in at the Bluebird and the Gothic recently. Their minimalist style and soaring ethereal vocals show a band breaking down categories as opposed to being pigeonholed by style. This was not their best night.

Sarina Simoom is Jenna Herbst on guitar (acoustic & electric) , violin and lead vocals. Backing her up are Brian Balestrieri on guitar, Chris Pearson on bass guitar, and Todd Bills on drums. The first thing you notice when Sarina Simoom plays is they are tight. They begin and end songs cleanly. The second thing you notice is that they are concentrating throughout the set. They rarely smile, and audience interaction is kept to a minimum. It is a small price to pay for such professionals. Tonight was not their night.

Sarina Simoom’s first set was painful. Early on Brian’s guitar became engulfed in a storm of static. He tried desperately to play through it, but it colored the entire set. It was painful to the ears, and to the eyes because it was obvious Brian knew what he was doing with chords that make a separate voice to Jenna’s. The first set included Sarina standards including “Mother” , “Winter Snow”, and “In The Valley.” It also included new songs “Tree” and “Sycamore.” The new songs, like most of Sarina’s pieces took on a soul of their own. When the first set ended, the audience was unsure as what was to come.

What came next was a creative performance art that included three dancers weaving around Herbt as she sang a steady melody bordering on desert songs of Arabia. While the dancers wove in and out a film projected hands and other images across red sheets they carried. The performance had a mesmerizing effect. This performance might have better received in-between the two bands. In addition Herbst’s introduction to the piece was , “Will everyone please shut up.”

Sarina Simoom’s second set was pure and polished. It began with “Atymn” a Jewish folk song with an upbeat tempo. The set progressed cleanly as a screen was lowered to begin a film to correspond with Sarina’s songs. The half screen included images of people, and places in black and white. It was best used in “Thread” as a stencil of Denver grew brighter as the lights moved off the band, and grew lighter as the band was hi-lighted. This shadowing technique was effectively done. The set ended to a near barren audience with “Angel” , lyrically, one of the best songs in Sarina’s repertoire.

For more information on Sarina Simoom visit http://www.velveteenrecords.com

 

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: ,

February 11th, 2000

Kittie

Kittie Plays the Fillmore – February 11, 2000

By Alex Teitz

The Canadian band Kittie came to the Fillmore on Friday. Kittie was sandwiched in-between Shovel and Sevendust. Kittie is a four piece all girl band made up of teenagers. Lead singer Morgan Lander’s vocals vary between an alto melody and a possessed Linda Blair-like scream. Backed up by Fallon Bowman on guitar, Talena on bass, and Mercedes Lander on drums Kittie is an explosion seeking a direction to cause damage.

The night we saw them, Talena was experiencing a lot of trouble with the set up of her bass. This led to a late start time, and some corrections mid-show. Kittie began with “Spit” an anger filled song about going against the norm. One of the highlights of the show was “Paperdoll” a song about the degradation of women as objects. It’s references to a paper doll with paper breasts were striking. The song “Johnny” was a reaction to men dominating women. The biggest surprise in the set was “Run Like Hell” a Pink Floyd cover. Kittie’s version was slower, and growled with a female voice.

Morgan constantly tried to get the crowd going with good results. A mosh pit and body surfing were occurring throughout the set. The crowd  reacted to Kittie’s sexual references with excitement and screams.

Kittie is a young band with powerful lyrics veiled in screaming guitar harmonies. They appeal to a younger crowd seeking unabated punk. For more information read our review of Kittie’s CD.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

February 1st, 2000

By Jeanne Kalosieh

Rock.  That’s what it said on the flyers, in the papers, and on the Web.  Funny, because rock was significantly absent on January 14, at New York City’s Mercury Lounge.  Folk and softer sounds were definitely represented, but “rock” came from only one of the five acts on the bill.

For The Love of Rock (www.loveofrock.com) is a documentary-in-the-works from the minds of producers Wendy Tumminello and Lynda Allen.  The featured artists are Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Jane Siberry, Melissa Ferrick, Moxie, Michelle Lewis, and Toni Blackman.  Doria Roberts, Brenda Kahn, Lewis, and Ferrick played the evening, sporting acoustic guitars and soulful lyrics.  But teeth-grinding sounds came only from Moxie, a four-female band who is more New York than the Circle Line.  From the flyer, the goal of Tumminello and Allen’s documentary is to capture “the life and spirit of the top women musicians doing what they love to do—write and play music on their own terms.”  The night was certainly a good reflection.

Hailing from Atlanta, Doria Roberts got on stage wearing a beat-up cowgirl hat covering shiny black shiny ropes of hair, perfectly aligned on the side of her face.  She told a story of how “some punk” told her she should be playing reggae because she’s black.  The world is full of such insightful ass holes. Accompanied by a cellist, Roberts’ confidant voice was strengthened by cool, precise shifts in tone and pitch.  The soul-infused folk songs created a smooth ocean current of sound, hypnotizing the audience.  The applause for Roberts kept growing, even after she made us say the Pledge of Allegiance as an intro to her last song.

Brenda Kahn and Michelle Lewis were part of PlanetGirl that FEMMUSIC covered last month (see back issues).  Though Kahn admitted she needed to practice a bit after taking some time off from performing, the audience cheered her on like good little soldiers.  Lewis was up next with a perky attitude, ready to entertain to an audience that was now growing uncomfortably large.  “Someone on my record label said female singer/songwriters with an edge are so 1996,” she said in a brainless tone (purposely, duh), “so I’ll play this as sweetly as possible.”  The crowd voiced their disapproval, snarling like diseased swine.  Lewis also did her impression of Jewel, an artist not particularly adored by anyone present.  “I wanna rock!” shouted Lewis, as she talked about how she wants to get off the acoustic and onto the electric guitar.  And then she covered Tom Petty’s “The Waiting.”  Sounds pretty Jewel-ish on this front.  What happened to wanting to rock?  Come back with some Babes In Toyland, and then we’ll talk.

The crowd rose to their feet for Melissa Ferrick.  Girlie shrieks cut through the hot air, and people were now bunched together like mismatched socks.  Ferrick, the fast-talking, anxiety-riddled, folkie with a hint of ol’ Dixie ripped into her set, letting her fans do some singing.  Her spindly fingers criss crossed over each other, as Ferrick went through freaky epileptic-like musical seizures.  The good stuff will do that to you.  Her sound is part Ani Di Franco, part Melissa Etheridge, and part Dave Matthews.  Ferrick’s intensity and concentration shows a woman constantly calculating every atom of nervous energy.  Her song about having white-hot sex with her girlfriend brushed all modesty aside and left men and women alike craving their inner lesbian.  It was awesome.  Ferrick is a phenomenal creature.

Let’s talk creatures.  Let’s talk Moxie.  Looking at the trusty For the Love of Rock flyer, it says that “Moxie isn’t afraid to debunk the traditional girlie-girl image.”  To finish that sentence, let’s add three words at the end:  through their music.  Farrell Burk, Wendy Tremayne, Lindsey Weinstein, and Katy Cocozzello fuel kick-ass guitars, thumpy bass, and crashing percussion with layered vocals to complete one hell of a noise machine.  But they’re not messy;  they keep their timing very precise.  The distortion and feedback resulted in banging heads, a crowd that finally got rowdy, and eventually lead to a mini-moshing hoe-down.  Their final song, a cover of AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood” with Wendy screaming it all the way to the clubhouse and back, made you feel like you were sucking on a battery.  And you liked it.

But, while all these women, Moxie withstanding, are impressive and dedicated to doing it their own way, they do it via the stereotypical female way—folk songs and soft rock. For the Love of Rock puts the focus on this kind of sound, labeling it rock.  While the attitudes may coincide more with punk idealism (i.e. fuck the mainstream, we’ll do it the way we want to do it and if you don’t like it, we don’t care), the music itself doesn’t reflect it.  Lyrically, these women are honest and retell bitter stories.  Not everything is happy and cute over here.  It’s ugly, scary, and we haven’t showered in days.  So why can’t the music reflect more of that?  Is it because we still see rock as a “naughty” place for girls to play?  Hell, we’re the ones making rock appear that way.  There’s no denying that real “rock” groups like Tribe 8 and the Lunachicks get rid of sentimentality and flowery delicacy, but nevertheless, their music is uniquely poignant and, yes, beautiful.

The musical connection between the Love of artists is questionable.  What is the foundation that For the Love of Rock is going to be built on?  The producers claim, “We find, as they have, that to be a rock star is hard work but to be a female rock star is a whole other story, the story of For the Love of Rock.”  But is that the way it is for every female rock star?  The flyer continues to say, “as unobtrusive observers, we travel with them on their individual journeys but discover that their stories are very intertwined.”  Would the “rock stars” themselves agree?

Moxie’s Wendy Tremayne got in touch with us to voice her own opinion.  Pay attention:

“There’s no common ground between these artists. They’re all individualists and don’t have a common thread, a common voice, common politics – nothing! After the show I told the film maker that that’s what I thought. She wasn’t happy but was very intrigued. I asked if I could say this on film for the film.  It’s an important point. Just because an outside person (the film maker) wants there to be a common something, doesn’t mean their is. And to think of it’s title “For the Love of Rock” – huh, barely. This reads as pretentious on the part of the film maker and reduces the film maker to a non-artist walking around with technical skill (how to make a film) only. To me this undermines the entire thing. It’s far more powerful to find a scene/a community and create a film out of it. Then you have all the magic that makes interesting media. You have history of the members including the fans, the bands, the club owners, the press, the promoters. You have a complicated web of stories and growth, politics and movement. I think that film lacks the integrity and sincerity that makes good media. The artists in that show are not interested in knowing each other, bonding together, or anything like that. I came to realize this the night of the show while sitting in the “green room.” It made me appreciate the vibrant scene that Moxie’s in, a scene that has all of these unifying things. Not one that some film maker made up so they can sell something to the mass media.”

Interesante, no?  Keep up with this project and send the producers your own feedback.  Go to www.loveofrock.com for links to the artists and e-mail addresses.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

January 1st, 2000

Lunachicks and Bottom

By Jeanne Kalosieh

Does any band love their fans more than the Lunachicks?  If you’ve ever attended one of their shows, the answer is a guttural “NO.”  Theo Kogan is arguably the most dynamic performer in music today.  She will dress you up in her love, in her looove. After riding the Go-Kart Across America tour, opening for punk rock legends the Buzzcocks, the Lunachicks headed straight for home – a small, sweaty club show in New York City.  The band’s last two shows of the century happened at Continental on December 11th and 12th.  Forget those swank Y2K hoe-downs.  Let the Lunachicks be the stars of Armageddon.  At least you’ll go out smiling.

The line to get into Continental spilled around the corner, full of young punks sporting their freshly dyed hairdos.  A combination of the cold weather and the slack Continental crew were testing the line’s patience.  Doors were supposed to open at 5:30. The first sign of movement came at 6:15.  By 6:30, the club was stuffed and ready to go.

The opening band, Bottom, hails from New York’s infamous Lower East Side.  The trio jumped on stage, and tore into their brand of unadulterated, heavy-handed rock.  A quick, mindless comparison is Drain S.T.H. because of their solid allegiance to (God bless ‘em) metal, except Bottom is much more raw—more raw than a bloody hunk of moo meat flopping from the mouth of a salivating tiger.  “Bull’s Eye” and “The Garden” were two songs from their intense set.  To the crowd’s approval, the lead singer/guitarist, bassist, and drummer were all working the head-banging and hair-in-the-face thing.  The world needs more women in metal bands.  Bottom proved that they are a tour-de-force to be wreckoned (sic) with.

The Lunachicks worked their way to the stage and opened with “Dear Dottie,” off of the 1996 release, Pretty Ugly.  Every single body plugged into the energy exuded from Theo, Gina, Squid, and Helen.  Screams, fists, and limbs were heaved into the muggy air, as the über-talented band played songs from their fifth album, Luxury Problem.

“What a nice welcome home!” yelled Theo.  New York city loves their Luna ladies.  The evening was being taped for a live album, so the crowd was especially rowdy, and nothing could be a bigger compliment to this foursome.  Tracks that contributed to the chaos included “The Day Squid’s Gerbil Died,” “Say What You Mean,” “Drop Dead,” “Less Teeth More Tits,” and “Cross My Heart.”

Besides playing a raucous live show, the Lunachicks dressed for the occasion.  Both Theo and Squid displayed oodles of heavenly tattoos that cover their arms.  Everyone sports hunks of dark, glittery eye make-up and lipstick that trickles down their sweaty faces by the fifth song.  The band was wearing lovely black and yellow patent-leather skirts and tops.  Donna Karan, eat your filthy rich heart out.  Call them anti-Spice girls, cheerleaders on speed, or Barbara Streissand’s worst nightmare, but just make sure you go to www.GoKartRecords.com/Lunachicks.html and befriend them.

“Did everybody have a nice Hanukah?” inquired Theo.  “I didn’t get any presents,” she lamented, “because I’m only a half-Jew.”  At least four people giddily screamed, “Me too, Theo!!  I’m a half-breed, too!!”  The battered-Barbie lead singer howled with laughter.  The night continued to rock everyone down to a stinky little stump of hair and skin.

The Lunachicks breathe new life into punk rock.  Crashing guitar chords, muscle-y bass lines, and furious drumming make this band one of the most creatively driven acts ever. Period.  Lyrically empowering, liberating, and funny as hell, the Lunachicks are evidence that women don’t have to be like a soft, perfumed Tampax spokesperson in order to get their voice heard.  You just need to get out there and do it.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: ,

December 1st, 1999

By Alex Teitz

Of all the places to hold a benefit the Buell Theater doesn’t immediately come to mind. This is a 5000 seat house designed for the touring productions of Tony winning shows and the overpriced tickets that accompany them. At the beginning of November it was transformed.

Gone were the pretenses of class or race, or in some cases, politeness. Instead the Theater was coming alive that night for two great performances: Nina Storey, and Indigenous.

The Theater was still barely filling when Nina Storey and her band took to the stage. Storey continues the Shades tour, and her set was filled with songs from that CD. Nina Storey was dressed in black and sang as passionately that night, as FEMMUSIC knows she did, opening for Johnny Lang’s US Tour.

Storey is a blues singer of the highest caliber. Her band is tight, and they work with each other in a synchronist motion. Storey’s songs included “Let Us Walk”, “If I Were An Angel”, “Crown”, and “If I Met A Man.” Storey’s voice echoed in the cavernous space of Buell even to the end of her set. The space was both intimate, and too large.

Now rumor has it there was a second band that night. FEMMUSIC does not agree. Lewis and Floorwax, two local deejays, think they can play instruments. They’ve found a group of experienced musicians who want to perpetuate this fantasy with them. They call themselves the Groove Hawgs, and play covers of blues standards. The best thing to be said is that with the exception of Lewis and Floorwax the talent of one Groove Hawg can drive a band by itself. The realistic thing to be said is that Lewis and Floorwax drive the Groove Hawgs off a steep cliff by not knowing if they want to be deejays, musicians, or comedians. So far they have proven themselves bad at all three. That night was no exception.

The headliner that night was Indigenous. Indigenous is a group of four Nakota siblings from South Dakota. Indigenous has played blues with the likes of B.B. King, Johnny Lang and others. Read our short interview with Nte. Friday November 5, the night FEMMUSIC saw them, was the same weekend they won three awards at the Native American Music Awards.

Indigenous plays blues incorporating strong lead guitars, and bass with blues, rock and rockabilly. Where Nina Storey’s voice echoed in Theater, Indigenous overpowered it. The levels seemed set for an outdoor event, not an intimate benefit.

The music is strong, and well done. For being as relatively young as they are, Indigenous plays hard. Keep an eye out for this group. Much more is on the way.

For more information visit http://www.ninastorey.com

http://www.indigenousrocks.com

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: , ,

December 1st, 1999

Caffe Luna, Boulder, 6 November 1999

By Ellen Rawson

It’s rare when the artists applaud audience members as they enter the venue, but after worrying that there only would be a couple of folks there to hear them, Jenny Bird and Melissa Crabtree cheered when more patrons entered Caffe Luna. The Taos-based performers really didn’t have to worry. This audience was small, but it was ready to appreciate these two independent singer-songwriters working their way through a tour of the American West. Caffe Luna’s stage, situated by the coffee shop’s windows, is reminiscent of a living room set with comfortable chairs immediately in front of the performers and tables set farther back.

Both women indeed seemed at home there. Melissa Crabtree opened. She is trying to raise money to release her first CD, and I certainly hope she reaches her financial goal soon. She’s a bit of an outdoorswoman who has worked as a river guide. Her first song, “Catfishin,” written while on the Dolores River, reflects that as well as water politics. Her music sometimes has a political ring, what with lines such as “some white guy explorer gave this river a name,” and that went over well with the politically-astute Boulder audience.

Boulder artist Beth Quist, who gained national acclaim when she toured with Bobby McFerrin’s *Songcircle* project, accompanied guitarist/mandolinist Crabtree on drums. Crabtree’s second song, also political, concerned family politics. She opened up to us about how she found an old family photo of a woman wearing suspenders and britches, and holding a steel guitar. When she asked her parents as to this stranger’s identity, she was told that this aunt was the one they couldn’t talk about for years — she’d been excommunicated from the family around 1900 when she was all of fifteen. The ensuing song was a sentimental effort about trying to “find her” after all these years. “She was walking on the wrong side of the road,” Crabtree sang earnestly, later adding, “But I can find you winking at me from the picture in the frame.” I’d love to hear Crabtree with more production and a band. Her guitar playing is nice, and her deep voice, while sometimes needing a little more emotion, resonates. Part of me wondered if she’d thought about sending a tape to some of the “new performers” competitions at folk festivals.

Jenny Bird took the stage after pausing for the steamed milk machine– a natural distraction at a coffee shop show. She produced an interesting effect with her guitar as she conventionally fingered frets with her left hand yet tapped the higher frets with three fingers of her right hand. Bird has a strong, rich, and emotional vocal range. At times it sounds a little stylized, but then she becomes herself again. She momentarily sounded like Ani DiFranco on “I am Emotional” what with her guitar playing, the song’s pace, and lyrics while admitting that “I am emotional” but clearly cautioning her listener that she is “not pathological.” Bird acted out this song through her face as she sang. At the song’s end, she mentioned that an audience member had asked her earlier if all of her songs were very emotional. “Does that answer your question?” she quipped. Her next song, a new piece about quiet, came about when a friend came to her for advice when the woman’s husband left her and their seven children. She didn’t know what to tell her initially, but song came to her as she home drove that night. It’s a thoughtful piece and, had I been that friend, I would have wanted to wrap myself inside it for sanctuary. I kept hearing other singers perform “Into Stars,” the title track from Bird’s latest release. It’s a beautiful song that would be a good cover. After “Into Stars,” Bird invited Crabtree back onstage.

Their first duet was “Off the Beaten Path,” a song they co-wrote. Crabtree said the song originated when she was leading a course along Alaska’s Prince William Sound. After fifteen days of rain, she realized she missed the New Mexico desert. Crabtree’s mandolin added a chant-like feel to the song. Beth Quist returned to help both Bird and Crabtree on “I Know Nothing,” another song from Into Stars. “It’s a Zen sing-along,” Bird said with a laugh about the chorus. “I know… nothing… And I know…nothing,” she demonstrated for us. “It has a jazzy kind of feel,” Crabtree said to Quist as she explained their next number, “I Can Fly.” Crabtree wrote it for a friend who recently was diagnosed with HIV or, as she sang, “Her African dream turned into a sad surprise.” Lines that particularly stood out for me long afterwards include “She can fly in my dreams… she will never die.” Bird mentioned that one of the purposes of this tour is so they may visit Julia Butterfly in her Northern California redwood, surrounded by clear cut. Crabtree played mandolin to add to Bird’s guitar on this number that Bird plans to sing for Butterfly. Bird noted that she believes the troubadour tradition still is alive; she plans to report to us about her visit the next time she’s in town. I don’t doubt that a new song also will result from her time with Butterfly. The night ended with “Goddess,” a song that has become Bird’s trademark. It’s a song to the goddess, “with all 70 goddess names I could muster up — let me know if I left out your favorite” that truly shows off Bird’s vibrato, range, and sheer love of what she’s doing. You know how sports commentators are amazed when figure skaters throw in numerous triple jumps towards the end of their routines – when the skaters are tired and may stumble? Bird closed her set with an energetic piece that required all of her vocal power and enthusiasm, and she hit her mark. As Bird sings in “Goddess,” “you’d better believe her.” Believe Jenny Bird.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: , ,

November 11th, 1999

Planet Girl at Shine, Show Review

By Jeanne Kalosieh

WomanRock (www.womanrock.com) threw a get-to-know-us party on Friday, November 11th at New York City’s swanky club Shine.  Walking into the dimly lit loungey atmosphere was a bit weird – I kept looking for the faded jeans and busted-up guitar cases.  Instead, I paid six bucks for a bottle of Brooklyn lager, surveyed all the people clad in black, and shrugged my shoulders.  The stage was set up, so I was in the right place.  Slinking down in a very slinkable chair, it wasn’t long until the evening took off.

Much like FEMMUSIC, WomanRock seeks to introduce all these incredible, independent, female musicians to your consciousness.  And of course, seeing live performances is the best way to meet them.  Planet Girl landed in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before coming to New York.  The Philly show was recorded, so look for the CD on the WomanRock website.  The performers of the NYC evening included Heather Eatman, Debby Schwartz, Julia Darling, Michelle Lewis, and WomanRock founder Brenda Kahn.  While most of them differ musically, they have one thing in common – they are all smart songwriters.  And I don’t mean smart as in, “Gee, these girls sure know how to play a guitar.”  Um, no.  I mean smart as in, “Damn, that’s heart-felt originality poetically portrayed.”  Ah-ha.  Folks, we are steadily making our way and here’s your proof.

Heather Eatman, a native New Yorker, had the fun task of starting the show.  To be brutally honest, I’ve grown up in an era where the so-called “opening act” is either scrutinized or completely ignored.  But at PlanetGirl, there was no such thing as an “opener.”  Eatman could have easily been the “headliner.”  Okay, enough with the quotation marks.  The majority of Eatman’s songs were off of her latest album, Candy and Dirt.  She took the stage with a big, shiny red electric guitar, plugged in, and set it off. Her strummy songs told stories – something that is so lacking in the God-awful top 40.  Rooted mostly in folk songs, her pitch shifts from strong and confident to a tender, comforting whisper.  Like a guardian angel, Eatman’s stories observe and protect the soul’s dignity.  All this, and she’s got fabulously spiky hair.  For more information on this songstress, go to www.heathereatman.com.

The next performer was Debby Schwartz, who immediately stood out because she had stickers of little fish on her acoustic guitar.  The word “love” was written facing upwards on the face of the guitar, too.  Schwartz’s wrists flickered over the strings as she plunged into frantic chords.  Watching her play was like watching an improvisation of a  rocket launch.  Her copper hair flew into her face as Schwartz sunk completely into her frenzied music.  One of the songs was “15 Men,” which, as Schwartz explained, was written in the fashion of the Rolling Stones during a hormonal marathon.  Hell, 15 men is impressive and we salute you.  Bravo.

While waiting for the next performer to get on stage, one of the Shine-y people informed me that there were make-up artists, massage therapists, and body painters scattered around, working for tips .

WomanRock is the brainchild of the very cool Brenda Kahn, who had an upright bass accompany her guitar playing.  “I wanted to get all these amazing, talented people in one room to get to see what happens,” she explained as she thanked everyone. Amidst songs about junkie friends and a dedication to the late Jeff Buckley, Kahn rocked out with “Spoon,” one of her earlier pieces.  All of her music is catchy, honest, a bit quirky and she sings rather whimsically.  It’s no secret that Kahn, as well as all these women, took a big risk when they decided to pick up a guitar and let it lead them.  “Regular Job” is a song about just that.  “It’s something my mom has wanted me to get for 15 years,” Kahn said.  But breakdown and be a secretary, she won’t.  And the world is a better place because of that.  “We are the people our parents warned us about,” she sang.  It’s great to be young and progressive.

The lovely and gracious Julia Darling took to the stage for a solo run next.  Darling’s music consisted of deep, electric guitar rhythms with a darker emotional tone.  That’s not to say she’s the morose type.  Quite the contrary, but it’s difficult to pin down Darling’s overall style.  Hence, the allure.  In fact, she was featured as a part of CMJ’s “Ones to Watch.”  To form a much clearer description than my own, go to www.juliadarling.com

Now, throughout the evening, there was a very prominent drum kit that no one took advantage of.  And I’m not dumb enough to think it was a token rock decoration.  So, when were my ears going to regret that I sat so close to the stage?  The answer came with the final musician of Planet Girl, Michelle Lewis and her backing band.  But there were no regrets.

Lewis is full of soulful rock n roll.  She jumped in place and let out a bunch of “woah-ho yeah’s.”  Her music was the sassiest segment of the evening, and her enthusiasm permeated the seats of the audience.  The crowd began hooting and moving around, reveling in the good vibrations of “What You Want.”  Lewis pointed out that her guy friends were hesitant to go to Planet Girl because they weren’t sure they’d get in, due to the girl-theme.  Yup gentlemen, we’ll let you come play with us.  Once again for refresher purposes, pro-woman does not equal anti-man.  As Lewis so poignantly put it:  “Penises are allowed, just no dicks.”

Muchas gracias to Brenda Kahn for creating Planet Girl and adding a few more CDs to my collection.  All these women are phenomenal architects of sound.  Do yourself a favor and seek them out.

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

November 1st, 1999

Gothic Theater, Denver 30 October 1999

By Ellen Rawson

It was the night before Halloween at the Gothic Theater, where black and white skeletons hung at each end of the stage. When Natalie MacMaster entered playing her fiddle and wearing red and black with red and yellow stage lights flashing, I knew it was going to be a stimulating evening.

MacMaster began dancing towards the end of her first tune. An accordion solo by Steve O’Connor led to a transition. The musicians picked up the already fast-moving pace, the lights flashed, and MacMaster’s eyes twinkled as if to say, “Well, here goes,” and she started dancing in a circle. The crowd’s approval was immediate, and we were rewarded with a happy wave.

I have seen Natalie MacMaster perform on numerous occasions, and while I never could call her reticent, she seemed, if possible, even more animated than usual this night. The show did not sell out officially, but it certainly felt that way what with chairs jammed in every which way at the recently renovated Gothic.

Brad Davidge’s bluesy acoustic guitar accompanied MacMaster on the second tune, but the blues twinge faded to folk quickly. Already, crowd members were dancing along the side aisles. It was a red devil fiddle night as MacMaster fiddled while dancing backwards.

 “All I can say is, it’s good to be back,” MacMaster cried between gulps of water. She explained that they’d been back in her home province of Cape Breton the previous week — gigging, she assured us, and they’d just flown in to Denver that day after some shows along the East Coast. She returned quickly to the music, though, to “Josephine’s Waltz,” a Scottish tune she’d learned from a Canadian fiddler in Nashville, who had, in turn, learned it from an Irish fiddler. (MacMaster’s tunes tend to come to her in fairly complicated, yet interesting, processes.) It was paired with “Flamenco Fling,” learned from Chicago’s Jesse Cook. She paused to explain that she and Cook had performed it last March on the Juno awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys), and she had received her first Juno that night.

 “Yes, Celine was there,” she said with a laugh, referring to Canadian diva Celine Dion. “She was all nervous. I said, ‘Come on, now, calm down!’”

 “We need three chairs,” she announced after the laughter died down. “We’re going to take things into the kitchen.” John Dymond on bass, Brad Davidge on acoustic guitar, and MacMaster on fiddle remained onstage for a more intimate number after the rest of the band departed. Keyboardist Mac Morin, however, later re-appeared to stepdance.

While MacMaster’s fiddle dominated the evening, she always was gracious to her band. Three relatively new band members, Morin, O’Connor, and Davidge (who has toured previously with Cape Bretoner Mary Jane Lamond) added their own feel to the show. With each successive recording and tour, MacMaster’s style has been edging away from “pure” traditional folk and adding different ethnic influences (such as flamenco) and even more rock ‘n roll sounds what with an electric guitar and a complete drum set. Her days of touring solo are long gone. Her Denver audience, however, did not mind. Rather than questioning these additions, they seemed to savor them instead.

The entire band, drums and all, cooked on “Welcome to the Trossachs,” written by a cousin of MacMaster’s who played with the Cape Breton Orchestra.  MacMaster, for the first time that evening, seem subdued, but Morin’s keyboards soared. MacMaster’s energy resumed, however, for “Bluebonnets over the Border,” a favorite tune she’s recorded twice.

“Oh, great!” she exclaimed with chagrin. “Did anybody see this? For how long?” she asked with a laugh. MacMaster pointed out a now-revealed bra strap. Apparently, dissatisfied with those white straps against the red tunic’s straps, she took the band’s advice and covered them with black gaffer (electrical) tape, which had fallen off of one strap. “Everyone said that no one would notice,” she said as she laughed and wondered if someone in the audience would email her mother that night with the story. MacMaster didn’t lose her composure, however. She felt at ease sharing her momentary embarrassment with the crowd and seemed to enjoy laughing at herself prior to playing the last medley (tunes learned from the late Cape Breton fiddler Angus Chisholm) prior to the break.

MacMaster’s amazing energy level did not subside after the break. The second set started slowly, with just MacMaster and Davidge on stage. This opening number featured a rock beat, which while unexpected from a CapeBreton fiddler, led into “In My Hands,” her new CD’s title track and homage to her fiddle. For the first time, MacMaster’s voice is heard on her recordings as she speaks lines of reverence to her chosen instrument. This song has the potential to become a crossover hit –traditional Celtic-style fiddle meets pop/rock in an Ashley MacIsaac (another Cape Bretoner) sort of way.

Everyone but the drummer then exited the stage. It was Tom Roach’s turn to add to the non-traditional instrumentation with an unexpected rock-type drum solo. MacMaster, re-entered, however, and began to stepdance slowly. As the drumbeats subsided, MacMaster, lips pursed, moved her feet faster and added kicks as she danced in a circle as the resuming drums and flashing lights recreated the feel of being under the Big Top and watching the acrobat perform. MacMaster kicked and jumped her way across the stage; this woman stepdances with an attitude. As Morin and Davidge returned, she picked up her fiddle and played near them. The whole scene felt like a choreographed play, but it didn’t come across as too set. There are times when the show seemed slick and polished, but then there were the moments when I still felt as if I were in the kitchen with them. MacMaster truly is an all-around entertainer; she’s not “merely” a fiddler anymore.

“Don’t be alarmed,” she warned us. ”You may experience an intense craving for doughnuts,” she said prior to playing the tune she’d performed on Canadian television as an advertisement for Tim Horton Donuts. Another new accomplishment she discussed was her enjoyable experience in Nashville when Allison Kraus sang on “Get Me Through December,” an old fiddle tune (“Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife”) to which Gordie Sampson and Fred Lavery added words. “It was a dream,” she gushed happily. Since Kraus couldn’t be there that night, MacMaster and the band performed an instrumental version.

After a standing ovation, MacMaster returned for an encore and to invite everyone to dance with her. To make that easier, she raced into the audience. Female performers don’t often do that, but MacMaster’s obvious comfort level with her audiences permit her the confidence to play her fiddle in the middle of a packed house.

When she finally wound up back onstage to dance some more and complete the finale, her bow was barely hanging in there (I always wonder if her bow will make it through the night), but her spirit was intact. Morin and O’Connor played dueling keyboards to the very end, and MacMaster let out a scream. Yes, indeed, it was the night before Halloween, and MacMaster had whipped her Gothic Theater audience into a frenzy.

For more information visit http://www.nataliemacmaster.com

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

November 1st, 1999

September 23, 1999 The Bluebird Theater

by Alex Teitz

It was more than magic that came to The Bluebird on September 23, 1999. It was surrealism at its best. Amid an amp on a stool, purple curtains, and a basic drum and cymbal kit on an elevated platform images would be drawn upon reality. The band responsible was Minnesota’s own Low.

Low consists of Zak Sally on bass, Alan Sparhawk on guitar, and Mimi Parker on percussion. The names and instruments are superfluous though. Low is more than a band touring for a living. Low is a revolution in indie music in quiet tones.

As their name suggests Low is not a headbanger band with a mosh pit and fans running out of control. Low plays in subdued tones and quiet voices. The songs and music flow from the stage like a gentle breeze. They buffet the listener with harmonies, and words causing a gentle rocking.

Among the songs Low played to that full house were “Starfire”, “Weight of Water”, and “Don’t Understand.” “Weight of Water” is a cleansing piece on environmentalism. Later in the set they played “Home” a sad love song. These and other songs from that night can be found on Low’s fifth CD Secret Name on Kranky Records.

Low’s songs are not the usual fare. They are well written, and their performance is a summoning of emotions in the audience. The songs become painted in time, and linger a long, long time.

For more information on Low visit their website at http://www.brainwashed.com/kranky

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with:

November 1st, 1999

Cricket on the Hill October 8, 1999

By Alex Teitz

The Cricket on Hill is a small club filled the smoke, the clanking of beer glasses, and the sounds of bands that have played there before. Stickers from passing bands cover columns and paper the walls. The Cricket is a crucible for an emerging band.

On Friday the place was the site for three women bands from three parts of the nation. Cameltoe made their first Denver visit from San Francisco. Thorazine made their fourth time through from Philadelphia, and DecanonizeD played home turf.

Beginning the night Cameltoe electrified the night with a hard hitting set. Elizabeth the lead singer was joined by Lisa, both on guitars. Carmela, in green hair, took up bass, and Joe was on drums. The set was loud and strong with such songs as “Bad Thoughts”, “Dogs”, and “No.” The songs’ edge was like Cameltoe’s self-titled CD, blunt. The band performed as a cohesive unit although being troubled by the altitude. If heading West check out Cameltoe.

Next came Jo-ann Rogan and Thorazine. Jo-ann took control of the stage, and didn’t need to let go. Her vocals are powerful and controlling. Thorazine plays punk that can’t be ignored. The songs are not subtle, and don’t need to be.

Among the songs played during their set include “Food”, “Don’t Need None of Your Shit”, “Dis-Town”, “Dirtynastysex”, “Slice The Vein”, and “Vicious Cycle.” The songs came with barely a breath in between. Even near the end of the set Thorazine was more charged up and probably could have gone on for another hour without being winded. Thorazine is continuing West through November. If you like good punk, check your schedule, and be there.

The last band that night was DecanonizeD, a goth band. DecanonizeD separated themselves from the others that night with the use of a strobe, and a smoke machine. Dressed in black, Talea doesn’t so much sing the songs as live them. She uses pantomime, and most dramatically, in the song “Bound”, props. In a song “Rain”(?) the words meld into the smoke as she describes being “…drunk on sensuality.”

DecanonizeD’s lyrics are dark, and have shadows written across their surface. In a song called “Come Back to Me” the narrator describes a murdered lover. The love songs are passionate, and speak as splinters of darkness permeate them.

The evening as a whole was fabulous to see. Three bands from three regions ruling a Friday night. For the Cricket it is rare to see three female fronted bands have an evening. After this night’s success, we hope there will be more.

For more information on the bands reviewed here, visit their websites at:

Cameltoe – http:///www.twirlme.com/bands/ctoe

Thorazine – http://www.thorazine.org

DecanonizeD – http://www.decanonizeD.com

Posted in Live Show Reviews Tagged with: , ,