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Chicks With Discs

The Pocahotties

There’s a rising buzz around town about a supergroup of foxy Native Americans that are sweeping the region with their hit single, “You Can’t Tax Love” on Cattarawkus Records. But a recent visit to a Friday happy hour gig at the Sportsman’s Tavern brought a startling revelation – the Pocahotties are actually card-carrying Caucasians, Pamela Ryder, Rose Bond, and founding member Alison Pipitone

“We didn’t think the name was gonna catch on at first,” said Pipitone. “Actually, Rose wanted our name to be Rose Bond and Dawn, but we told her that she’d have to sit in the middle, like Tony Orlando, and she wanted to sit on the right.”

To Bond’s apparent chagrin, the trio rotates leadership with each song. “We all have really different voices, but they seem to blend well,” said Ryder, the rightful center chair owner, who claims ownership to any song she sings with amazing range and a brilliant balance of sass and grace capable of silencing the rowdiest of happy hour crowds. The fact that she’s been gigging around this town for the better part of a decade and is still unsigned is utter insanity. Her recently self-released second album, Clean, proves her readiness for the big leagues as both a singer and a songwriter, and since we’re on baseball terms, be sure to keep your ears peeled for a new Buffalo Bisons jingle with her at the helm – we hear it’s a potentially lawsuit-inspiring spin on Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.”

While Ryder is like Bisons’ centerfielder Grady Sizemore - a can’t miss young prospect garnering much attention, Pipitone bears comparison to Herd first baseman Ernie Young, a hard-working veteran whose consistently stellar career is too-frequently overlooked. Last year’s Retrodyne, her sixth album, is good ol’ honest rock n’ roll - skip the fancy arrangements and vocal posturing, and just play. And whenever that’s the case - no matter the genre -it’s soul music, and there’s an honesty to her singing (not to mention a healthy twang) that more than makes up for anything else lacking. “I’m sure people get tired that I can only sing about three notes,” she laughed, “but it’s all relative.”

Bond’s vulnerable, understated vocals have been delivered from many a local stage over the years, most notably with the remarkable Allen St. Jazz Band. “It’s all about Rose,” Pipitone said. “She’s the quiet Beatle.”

As well as the three work together, they rarely go through a set without at least one special guest. “We try to incorporate others as much as possible to introduce new talent,” said Ryder.

“We had one band play with us – Red Herring – it was their first gig ever,” added Pipitone. “Their singer, Sam, had interviewed me for his school paper, and his dad always comes down to see us. They were 14, they were dreamboats, and everybody loved them, they were really good.”

“And their guitars were all nicer than ours,” snapped Ryder.

“We’ve been very lucky,” said Pipitone. “There are a lot of different cross-sections of people that come to see us, and they’re very supportive.”

Those folks probably know that the trio takes a break from the Sportsman’s until the fall, and are wondering where they pow-pow in the meantime. “We’re gonna all get summer jobs at Hooter’s,” said Pipitone. “But not the restaurant - it’s an owl retreat.”

Well, owl camp’s gonna have to wait a while, for due to popular demand, the girls will make their Tudor Lounge debut on Thursday, May 27th. But don’t think you can just call out “Talkin’ ‘Bout My Reservation,” or any of your favorite Pocahotties hits. “We take requests,” cracked Pipitone, “but we don’t play ‘em.”

-Seamus Gallivan

The Juliet Dagger

Ridiculous as it is, the term "punk-pop" gets thrown around these days like candy on Valentine’s Day - a copout call low on creativity, but it gets the job done. You’d think we could come up with something better, though, considering that plenty of bands over the years, from the Buzzcocks to Weezer, have blended the two sounds, and being punk means flippin’ the bird at pop culture. "It’s a terrible marriage of terms," said Erin Roberts, singer/songwriter/guitarist for so-labeled The Juliet Dagger, who prefers the term "death pop" for her brand of sound, which uses both a literal and figurative sugar rush to straddle that fine punk-pop line by combining aggressive riffs and lyrical sneers with catchy hooks and melodies - call it candy punk.

"They’re a blast to work with," said Good Charamel Records founder Robby Takac, who, along with Marc Hunt, co-produced their debut album "Turn Up the Death" as part of the label’s groundbreaking trio (rounded out by Klear and Last Conservative). "Some bands go for dope, and there’s that tight time frame you have to go to work with them. They’re the same with sugar - they get their fix, and for a while they’re bouncin’ of the walls, and then there’s the crash, and you know you’re done."

Hunt recalls with wide eyes the platters of candy and Red Bull that were brought into the studio every night. "It seemed to overtake the studio - it was like Willy Wonka in there," he joked. "Their tolerance is ridiculous."

"Usually we just have too much candy and go a little nuts," laughed bassist Leisha Gray, in one of the few things she said during an hour-long chat with the band that couldn’t have painted them into their onstage roles better. Roberts is the democratic leader - sharp, poised, funny when she wants to be, and not at all dominating. While Gray is shy, definitely mysterious, and just goes with the flow, drummer Josh Heatley is all over the place, uttering every word with excited fascination as if he’d pounded a case of Red Bull on the way down.

Heatley’s lead-footed, relentless beats are what put the Daggermobile in high gear from the start, when he joined Roberts and Gray last fall after a successful run with the Pavers. "The Pavers were doing a lot of touring for not a lot of money," he recalled. "We were in Japan, and knowing we were gonna take and extended break when we got home, I was tryin’ to figure out what was up with Erin’s band [then called Puma]. I called her when I got back and she was like, ‘Oh my God, let’s do it!"

"More like, ‘Leave me alone," cracked Roberts, prompting Heatley to jokingly admit that he pays $25 a week to be in the band. "Once Josh got in, and the songs started sounding the way they did, we said, ‘We can do this!’ Then Robby approached us right before Christmas to do the record, and he and Marc were amazing. They are the most laid-back, easy-going, super-funny people, and they have awesome ears - you don’t find guys like that every day."

Takac clearly shares their confidence and excitement. "I’ve been really amazed by the inner-workings of this band," he said. "They want to be as heavy as Metallica, and it just adds to the fact that they’re an awesome pop band."

That confidence in the album has opened a debate over which song to peg as the first single, although indications are that it will be "Everything But You," a super-sugary song given to Takac by Meredith Brooks to be put to life by the band of his choice. But while it may get the band more attention from the start, it’s probably the weakest song on the album, and releasing it first would be doing a disservice to Roberts’ well-worthy songwriting. Takac is smartly keeping an open mind about that process. "We’re gonna let the record go out and see what people think, instead of hammering one song hard," he said. Well since he asked, if it were up to me, I’d release the firm backhanded-slap "Not For You," which showcases the band’s strengths - Roberts’ commanding vocals and songwriting, and Heatley’s steady, pounding attack.

But don’t take my word for it, check their CD release party at Nietzsche’s on Saturday, May 15th, and the second annual Music is Art Festival June 12-13 (they’ll be closing the first night), and let ‘em know for yourself - just wave a candy bar in front of ‘em and they’ll be all ears.

-Seamus Gallivan

Tracy & the Plastics / 50 Ft. Wave

I almost never write about shows that have already happened; after all, what’s the point? Basically I’d just be rubbing it in that you missed the show, right? Well that’s what I’m about to do.

I only went to two shows this last week, but they were both worth the cash. First I went to SoundLab to check out Tracy and the Plastics, who I’d never heard of before (to be honest, I was there to see my friends in Real Dream Cabaret do their postmodern vaudeville thing, and they were a gut-busting hit with the crowd). Believe me, I was more than a little skeptical when all I saw was one chick with a mike—where were the Plastics? Was this going to be some excruciating one-woman poetry thing (speaking of excruciating, all-girl openers Wikkid berated the audience with a half hour of dissonant jangling and warbly shrieking—it was kinda cool for the first few minutes)? No, It was much more than that. Basically, Tracy (Wynne Greenwood of Olympia, Washington) sings along to a movie, projected behind her, featuring her—two of her, in fact—singing backups and cranking sampled danceable beats and analog synth tones a la Kraftwerk or Gary Neuman. Tracy had great energy, and she was sexy, too—and she makes no bones about being gay. She talks about it, sings about it, and even got someone else to come on stage and tell their own “coming out” story. Not exactly groundbreaking at a non-profit art gallery extension, but the music was good enough to live with it. Tracy actually exuded enough energy by herself to compensate for the lack of an actual band, and the crowd loved her. If you get the chance, check her out.

On Sunday I went to the venerable Mohawk Place to see 50 Foot Wave, who just the day before I heard included one of my all-time favorite musicians, Kristen Hersh of Throwing Muses and solo fame. I can’t believe I almost missed this one, because this band rocked harder and louder than anything she’s done before, overcoming a crappy sound system to knock the crowd off their feet. Basically, 50 Foot Wave is the culmination of harder, heavier direction that Hersh had been dragging Throwing Muses in for their last few records. But there was more conviction, and Hersh seemed somehow freed by the new name and the new band, maybe the biggest sounding trio I’ve ever seen. The diminutive Hersh has an incredibly powerful, tight voice, and a throaty scream that could shake Courtney Love’s implants loose. The sheer intensity she emanates is awe-inspiring, as is the way her band can stop and start on a dime, and change time signatures and tempos at full throttle. Hersh has always understood the importance of a kick-ass rhythm section, and this one was downright gymnastic. The crowd of subdued hipsters was transfixed for the entirety of the all-too-brief set, loving each song despite not having heard any of them before, and no one seemed upset that they didn’t do a Muses song for an encore, though it’s clear they could if they wanted. Kristen has a new band, and a new attitude—she was much more jovial and talkative here than when I’ve seen her before. In addition, the bass player was a really nice guy when we were smoking outside. The CD was seven bucks. I bought one, and so should you. I heard the opening acts were good, but I missed ‘em.

-Mitchell Bonk

Tupac Shakur & Kenny G.

2Pac continues to illustrate that death is no obstacle to commercial success for the truly motivated corpse. This go-around, Pac collaborates with the smoothest honky in adult contemporary jazz. Its no surprise that this disc is a gangsta’s paradise in an elevator. In the title track, "Cap Datt Ass, G," we learn through Pac’s rhymes that the two meet in a bathhouse séance. In the track "I Crimp My Hair Cuz I’m A Bad Mutha," G proves his street cred. The duo uses this album to put on a clinic. Since death, 2Pac brings a deeper dimension to his lyrics and Kenny’s soprano sax is profoundly homogenized and irritating. This disc is like god having sex with the sun; you don’t understand how it could happen but it’s beautiful. A must-buy for anyone with ears. 

-Ian Murphy

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