Girls Got Rhythm Fest night two at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 5/11/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Girls Got Rhythm Fest With Cherie Currie, Marilu and the Machetes, Sugar Stems, and Is/Is Amsterdam Bar and Hall, St. Paul Saturday, May 11, 2013
Cherie Currie's explosive and enigmatic headlining performance that closed day two of Girls Got Rhythm Fest late Saturday night won't be forgotten soon. As a whole, the entire evening brought forth some pretty outstanding presentation and vivacious personalities: it was quite simply a blast. But, again, following Currie's time on stage, it was difficult to leave St. Paul with any other part of the performance on the mind.
Is/Is however, gave us a run for our money as the first batter up. The Minneapolis trio's self-prescribed "witchgaze" is the type of moody, textured fuzz rock that's built to rule within the more compact crowds of noise venues like the Hexagon or the Turf Club. But somewhat surprisingly, the hall-like structure of Amsterdam's space ended up enhancing their sound. It's no secret that they're all very technically skilled musicians, the then sparsely filled venue just provided a fitting environment to really hone in on their individual playing, and with characteristic apathy and effortless cool, they gave a good reminder that they're still a group to watch.
Photos by Erik Hess
All the way from Italy, Marilu and the Machetes cranked up the sass with their fast-paced, playful interpretation of punk. The ringleader of it all, frontwoman Mariluisa Fagiani, took to the stage smiling and looking terrifically gaudy with magenta hair, enormous hoop "machete" earrings, a busty black-lace peplum top and a shiny, star-laden skirt. They powered through an energetic set that featured an especially spirited performance of "All My Friends are Girls," a single from her earlier band. Mariluisa is an incredibly fun performer to watch and through her intriguing (and awesome) Iggy Pop meets Fran Drescher aesthetic, the slightly growing audience even began to act on the urge to dance.
Sugar Stems veered the punk rock path slightly to more pop-centric realms. The Milwaukee foursome churned out a feisty blend of harmonic pop and bouncy guitars that served to further heighten spirits for what was to come.
Photo by Erik Hess
The moment that Cherie Currie's flaxen mane was visible, the collective audience released their inner fangirl and let her ride free. The initial applause never abated throughout the fiery (and appropriate) opener of Runaways classic "Queens of Noise." Come to think of it, the applause didn't really abate period. This woman hadn't played a show in years and her energy rivaled that of her 16-year-old self. Besides looking absolutely beautiful, her sheer happiness to be performing to the GGR Fest audience permeated every corner of the venue. Her backing band -- four studly young men (including her son Jake Hayes) -- played with clear enthusiasm, rocking through the machine-gun riffs of songs like "California Paradise" and "Is it Day or Night?" An interesting, flirty cover of Sweeney Todd's "Roxy Roller" was so convincing that it's almost like the song was made for her to sing.
Photos by Erik Hess
For an artist with a steady solo career, Currie was selfless in giving the audience exactly what they wanted which, naturally, was the Runaways catalog. But it was apparent in her wild-eyed, screaming insanity on tracks like "American Nights" and "Rock N Roll" that despite the complications in her life, she loved being in that band and she continues to love playing those songs. Her own excitement was visible as she inevitably intro'd into a ferocious display of "Cherry Bomb."
The set rounded out with a proud introduction of her band followed by an encore of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel." It was a celebratory way to close things off and special in the fact that it's always unique to see one legend performing the material of another. Though, again, it wasn't the sardine-packed event that the talented lineup deserved (not a bad thing), Currie's performance left a room positively glowing and if that's not the mark of success then what is?
Cherie Currie setlist
Queens of Noise California Paradise Rock N Roll Roxy Roller (Sweeney Todd cover) Is It Day or Night Mr. X Cherry Bomb Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
Critic's bias: Sure, I love rock 'n' roll as much as anyone else. Sure, those who can't shred on guitar, can still write for music blogs. That said it's much easier for me as a lady to vicariously pipe-dream when in the presence of chic rockers. What I'm trying to say is that I have a total girl crush on Cherie Currie.
The Crowd: A lively mix of "I was there, man"s, punk aficionados and young adult musicheads.
Overheard in the crowd: "She's in her '50s and she's way hotter than Dakota Fanning will ever be!"
Random notebook dump: The sense of community that GGR Fest has fostered in just two years is incredibly present. The musicians are interactive with the show-goers and supporting their fellow performers in the crowd which that heightens the experience, totally. Everyone's jazzed about this special communion of people and it has an almost familiar vibe to it. Very cool.
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