Girls in The Garage Music Fest
The Lizard Lounge
Review and photos by John Keegan
Most garages are full of memories, broken down flotsam and jetsam and future yard sale items. Not Jen D'Angora's. She reserves her state of mind rock garage for her best friends. They are all in there. They hang and talk and jam. They tune guitars and work on harmonies. She's not stingy about sharing them. She's the petite and humble hostess with the mostest. She's wants everyone to meet and mingle.
At the Lizard Lounge GITG is an instant classic. This festival is straight forward and intimate. The behind the scenes prep work pays off in a seamless production. The Rosie the Riveter, strong women at work homage makes one hell of a cool poster. The sale proceeds will go to Somerville-based Respond, Inc. a shelter that supports victims of any form of domestic violence.
The crowd is jacked up on all of the three nights. There are plenty of repeat offenders. The energy is palpable as it zips at random through the crowded room. For three nights it feels like the place to be. Dim the lights, set the levels and let the ladies - augmented by a few indispensable band boys - strut their rockin' stuff.
A Thursday night work commitment meant that for me the action got underway with Corolla Deville. They started hot and just got better. The shifts in vocalist kept the pace snappy and the harmonies pumped up the chorus'. The Thrust Club follow with a return to an even more primitive sound. Tribal drumming, a nice nasty guitar tone, lively, whisper to caterwaul vocals and a slightly under mixed synth handling the base and spices. It got under your skin. Finally - had a prior date with the very in GITG, GBH - The Other Betty peel down to a trio. They go catchy with a kick. They double up on the vocal with occasional switch offs. The drummer's has had two practices. Kudos are in order.
The Black Souls kick it off for me. The short set puts more focus on Kim Ackland's contributions. The soul and the garage intermingle as the set builds steam on a tight rhythm section, Tony Kaczynski's excellent lead guitar and some of Cam Ackland's tasty harp licks.
The Charms lay it on. Farfisa and two guitars beef up the garage. Ellie V. tells us about Action, that she Wants You Back, covers Our Lips are Sealed and calls out Boston. At the end of the set she adds big vibrato to the organ with a bit of heaving muscle.
The Petty Morals up the shimmy shimmy. They throw in a twist of rap on Keep it Down and race Arthur Murray's famous footprints to the dance floor on Radio Action. Three new tunes don't slow the pace one BPM. The rhythm section wants to pull your hips around. The alternating vocals and girl group harmonies lighten the confection. The synth is up in the mix and adds a shimmering glaze to the frosting. Chrissy Vaccaro's revved up guitar helps make all that sugar go down in a most delightful way.
From the light to the dark. The Evil Streaks take the fashion high road. Someone has a hat on, black vests and ties. Lead singer Myra Testa sports a little black dress. They administer a solid dose of punkabilly with a reverberating surf undertow guitar and stabs of creepy organ. The Rev on bass keeps your eyes and ears busy. Myra whisps and whips her way through the boneyard. She screams with the best of them on a creature feature anthology of gore hound inspired horror titles like Little Witch Stomp, Devil's Mark, Screamin' Demon and Pumpkin Carving Party.
The undercard was strong and The Dents don't hesitate to show their closing credentials. They're on fire and the crowd responds with wood to burn. Michelle Paulhus' and Jen D'Angora's vocals spit out kindling. Kevin Pickering's drums demand more and more wood. Craig Adams' guitar is the envy of all the buzz saws.
Hometown concerns take their time and I walk in at the start of the Andrea Gillis Band. One thing about garage is that it's not exactly known for dynamics. Step on the accelerator and go, go, go. Gillis' band pays close attention to dynamics and to each other. Gillis has a rafter rocking big voice, but she keeps it in check until the song calls for it. Mike Castellana, Ed Valauskas and Marc Pinansky on guitar, bass and drums slip effortlessly between slow blues, soul belters and rockers. James Rohr on keys adds another dimension to the band, comping, laying down horn-like backgrounds or pushing the rock. Not confined by garage's four and eight bar solo constraint, we get to hear barrelhouse boogie woogie and organ solos that have a little room to breathe. This was also the case with Castellana's sound as his solo's morphed with the shifting demands of the tunes. The band rode the dynamics up and down, smooth and in sync. This was especially apparent in Pinansky's drumming. On one classic cover, Gillis brought the Other Girls up to sing four part back up to stunning effect. The focus on dynamics set their sound in pleasing contrast with much of what came before and after. And, yes Timmy, they did kick ass.
Downbeat 5 bring us back to the garage by way of the Dolls, the Stones, and the British with a soupçon of twang and tongue in cheek gospel. The simpatico between D'Angora and J.J. Rassler and between Mike Yocco and Dan Styklunas on drums is telepathic. They rip through a set that keeps the crowd moving and hooting. When D'Angora cracks that shy smile or that lip sneer behind a great line, it's possible she could convince the whole crowd to march out the door and up Mass Avenue to the river.
The Other Girls were the super group among super groups. With Andrea Gillis on vocals, Melissa Gibbs on guitar and vocals, Amy Griffin on guitar and vocals, Michelle Paulhus on bass and vocals and Linda Shore on drums and a great bunch of covers how can you go wrong?
It's been a fantastic three nights; familiar and innovative, wide ranging and focused, tough and warm hearted. Given the soundtrack, the time flew by. To paraphrase Andrea Gillis the comradery between the women and the bands was fantastic. Great Idea + Great Bands + Great Cause = 1 Great Festival. Finally, the Other Girls claimed a collective jubilation for Jen D'Angora and all the bands involved when they ripped the garage roof off and tore through the Real Kids, All Kindsa Girls.