Wooohooooo! Thanks so much to the Skylark Lounge for hosting our third Girls with Guitars showcase!Thanks so much to the female guitarists and bassist that made the event possible! Thanks to the crowd who were jumping and dancing and cheering with gusto! Congratulations to the winner of the Slash tickets!Thanks to BC Magazine, re:spect & Asahi beer. See all of you and more at the next Girls with Guitars show :)love Chris B xx
2. Car Crash
4. 8 a.m.
‘Twas another night on which the mantle of entertaining the assemblage rested on the fretboards of some of the best gals on the circuit. Naturally, things were expected to get a little heated though the night; and this did happen in more ways than one (some being more savoury than others). In the role of the firestarter was the lone figure of Aileen, with her very stripped-down alt-acoustic style. On the night in question, she had a beautiful black (borrowed) guitar which, when combined with her all-black outfit, gave her a visual mystique. Her songs are deceptively innocent – cleverly formulated to sound innocent, but having a seriously messed up quality if you listen closely. The acoustic veil tends to remain basic – some songs even consist predominantly of one chord – and this is offset by the dense lyrics. As one may have come to expect from her work in Dark Himaya, the songs are peppered with pop culture and literary references; there is something of a Wildean quality to them too. A unique feature of her writing is that the lines are short enough to have a deliberately un-flowing, even stark feel to them and one definitely gets the feeling that the images being conveyed are deeply personal. The guitar fills in these images in primary colours, and this creates a definite intrigue to her music.
Alice began somewhat tentatively, but moved on into its wall of guitars as the topics of rabbit holes and looking glasses were raised. This construct of using the guitar as a scaffold to wrap her (considerable) vocal talents around works quite well, as songs like Icarus have moments of deep intensity into which a listener can really immerse themselves. Car Crash was a particular highlight – a relatively unemotional description of what should be a horrific event, the relaxed feel of its chord progression allows you to gauge its impact rather than force it on you. Despite being very much in the mould of female-singer-songwriter, her songs tend to sound more like a band going unplugged, which is exactly what was happening in Bia – the nature of the song is pleasantly different without the full-band backing, yet retains its moodiness. Her set, however, did suffer by sometimes having too much of the ‘90s-teen-show’ *cough*Dawson’sCreek*cough* sound, as on Gossamer. Some songs also require her to sing beyond her range, and her voice gets considerably thinner towards the higher side. This takes away from the delivery, and must be guarded against. Still, these are early days yet, and aside from a few missteps, it was a strong performance with which to open the show. It’s always difficult to be a lone person playing to a large room, and she managed to win and hold peoples’ attention, so mission accompolished I’d say.
This review starts with a question: What the fuck is “Future Retro”? This was the description for Logo’s music as described on the flyer for the Girls with Guitars show and, if one is honest, is intriguing.
Logo consists of the basic guitar, bass and drums combo, with the drummer also providing the lead vocals. Initially, as they kicked into their opening song (“Miss Your Voice”), this reviewer noted a lack of stage presence from the bassist and lead guitarist – admittedly, eyes (and ears) turn to the drummer as he starts singing. A lack of band interraction was noted too, but I personally put it down to being opening song jitters – getting a feel of the audience and the venue. This could possibly explain the lack of audience interaction between the band and audience between the first and second song. However, it was during said second song (“Project”) that the musicians themselves, possibly at ease with themselves, began to show life, instead of standing blankly like hired sessions musicians – and in turn, the audience responded with more animations.
Musically, Logo’s songs are catchy and provide an eclectic mix of genres – at times they can sound like the Beatles, other times I was reminded of the Style Council all the way to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lyrically, the band are also interesting. Logo do show a maturity in their lyrics without going to the extremes, as seen with many local bands who use lyrics to raise concerns or awareness about their feelings and/or what they believe in, but end up mostly sounding like teenagers having a sulk (even when they’re in their 30s). However, I did note that throughout their performance, the beat and drumming riffs were almost entirely the same, just adjusted to match the pace of each song. An old rock saying goes “a band can only be as good as it’s drummer”, and in Logo’s case, this is unfortunately true. It can be argued that having to sing as well as drum is difficult in itself but one can only think of people such as Phil Collins and Levon Helm who successfully mixed the two.
Overall, though, I thought it was a relatively good performance and to go back to my opening question (What the fuck is Future Retro?), based on Logo, Future Retro is just good old fashioned rock with a bit of mature and sensible fun thrown in.
— Joey Griffin
What can one say about Reign that hasn’t been said before in a review? She’s short.
For the uninitiated, Reign Lee sounds like a mix of Patti Smith meets P.J. Harvey, with a bit of Smashing Pumpkins thrown in – and so it proved at the Girls with Guitars show.
Billed as the special “secret” guest performer, Reign didn’t let the audience down with her usual passionate performance, driven by powerful, yet often harmonious acoustic chords. Musically she is immensely talented and her lyrics, intelligent but not overwhelming. One can almost feel when listening (and indeed watching) her perform that music is her lifeline, her blood, her heartbeat. From her opening song, she showed an angst and passion that seemed ready to boil over and explode – she showed this in all four songs she performed. Often, as I watched Reign perform, I thought about Thom Yorke who famously burst into tears after a very passionate recording of Fake Plastic Trees – it wouldn’t have surprised me at all if the same happened to her. She also interacted more in her opening chat with the audience than, unfortunately, the two previous acts before her did in their entire sets. And the audience responded in kind.
However, one senses that, though the audiences are there to listen and cheer her on, when Reign starts performing she enters her own world. A world where only the music matters. And that’s how I would sum up Reign: It’s all about the music.
— Joey Griffin
Thinking Out Loud
2. Radio Airplay
3. Little Fishes
4. Sex Junkie
5. Gonna Be Famous
6. Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine
7. Two Lips (Encore)
These guys had the weight of expectations and reputation weighing heavily on their shoulders, and not without good reason. With their solid tunes, and engagingly fun performances you begin to expect that experience every single time, and this can be a task for some bands. Well, if this is the case with ToL, it hasn’t begun to show yet – the combination of personalities on stage is such that they always seem to have that crazy buzz going. It helps that they have a very outgoing frontwoman in Chris B, whose deep voice and powerful delivery are supplemented by an effusive yet assertive presence (plus she looks damn good too). Mysterious Mr. B always seems to have a bunch to say, despite the smooth calm of his sax, and his venting of thoughts at the end of Radio Airplay was as much of a spectacle as always. Guitarist Angus serenely noodles away at some very pop-funky licks that have a definite Frusciante-era-Chili Peppers-like sound to them. In particular, his ability to top off a verse with finessed guitar accents is really noteworthy. Their newer members have settled in seamlessly, and it’s a plus for any band to have a drummer who’s as effortlessly groovy as their drummer Jon is. Their sound is thick, smooth and bouncy, and often irresistibly boppy, much like the best bubblegum pop songs of the 60s and 70s. They are really tight and really know how to hold their audience – but then again, that is how they built up their rep.
They started off after the lucky draw that night, with the very alt-sounding People, during which the protracted process of Chris B tearing off her shirt also began. This continued into Radio Airplay, and the shirt was fully ripped during it (unfortunately for anyone who hoped otherwise, she was wearing a PVC top underneath, so…). The Clash-like song was immaculately done, with its mildly droning feel and repeated refrain drilling into your head. Its intensity was really built up well, culminating in the chaotic crashdown and Mr. B’s evangelical preacher-like spoken-word bit. Sex Junkie was appropriately titillating and dedicated to all the present nymphos. Gonna Be Famous is possibly the most complete embodiment of their sound, with its theme of humorous empowerment (leaning towards girl-power) added to the already mentioned features. Their set really got people going, and there was dancing all around. Predictably, they were cheered back on for the encore, and people were treated to the more 80s pop (minus the synth) Two Lips (which is also an album by Dan Castellanetta, for those interested, hehe). There was plenty of suggestive straddling of mike-stands in the song, and built up to Chris B playing out an orgasm on stage, while the relentless sax and harder feel of the guitars filled in the holes in your imagination. A synaesthetic performance if there ever was one. It was a tremendously enjoyable set, and as Chris B’s voice led the night to its conclusion and people scrambled away, there was a feeling of satiety in the air. Any points to be made that night had been QED-ed.
photos © Copyright 2011 by ANGUS LEUNG and Carina Ho (Thinking Out Loud)
poster by ANGUS LEUNG