Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Live review: 2011 Charlotte Music Awards' Women in Rock Showcase

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 10:10 AM

2011 Charlotte Music Awards’ Women in Rock Showcase
Easy Eddie’s, Huntersville, N.C.
August 27, 2011

The Deal: Charlotte Music Awards hosts a variety of categorized shows in different venues around the Charlotte area to let the fans and a panel of carefully selected judges decide who will reign victorious for the year. The one I attended — and judged — was the “Women in Rock” showcase, featuring Grown Up Avenger Stuff, StellaRising, From A Seed and She Said.

The Good: Though I had heard a couple of the bands before, one of them dealt me a pleasant surprise. From A Seed brought out some bluesy, retro-inspired rock that sounded as if Janis Joplin had taken over the lead vocals of The Black Crowes. By far, they led the pack with the house reaction to their powerful tunes. Despite the band’s designated nomination for the Women in Rock award, vocalist Karma Ghant, though talented, was clearly not the sole reason for this band’s juggernaut of a performance — they’re tight as hell, and everyone can feel it. From the keys to the drums to the harmonica, this band wove their sound together like a hemp necklace and adorned a delighted crowd with the resulting sonic jewelry. As far as actual vocal technique for the featured female, I would say Grown Up Avenger Stuff’s Deirdre Kroener and She Said’s Erin Icenhour had her beat, but the sheer electricity of the performance made up for a few slurred scale runs and some pitchy sustains.

The most original act of the night was the oft-mentioned, never-duplicated Grown Up Avenger Stuff who leaps tall time-signature changes in a single bound, and switches sonic styles in a single song faster than a speeding bullet. While the other bands stuck largely to common times and blues-based or classic rock styles, Grown Up Avenger Stuff delved into post-grunge, punk, pop-metal, and even some ska/reggae rhythms injected semi-randomly into their fast-paced tune “Cards.”

She Said’s all-girl lineup also added some intrigue to the mix, negating the idea that this was a showcase of female vocalists alone—though three of them sang in beautiful, three-part harmony, so the preconceived notion still partially applies. They clearly presented the most outstanding vocal harmonies of the night.

StellaRising enjoyed some shining moments as well. Bassist Nate Andrews and guitarist Tony Oliver-Paull both scaled their guitar necks with fingers like skilled mountain-climbers, grasping the grooves masterfully while the rest of the band followed along.

The Bad: I hated to see a band as brilliantly avant garde as Grown Up Avenger Stuff play to such an unappreciative crowd, but I can’t say it truly surprised me that artsy, indie rock went over like a lead balloon at a biker bar on the outskirts of town. Being the first band onstage for a show like this presents its own set of inertia-related difficulties — especially when technical difficulties try to steal the mic. The Avengers recovered well, considering, but this crowd clearly just didn’t “get it.”

StellaRising followed GUAS and suffered similar, stationary spectators. Their classic rock-era sound just didn’t quite get the crowd riled up. Though they came out of the gate with a lot of energy, it quickly dwindled when no one responded with more than a half-hearted “woo” or a distracted golf clap. Tough crowd. As for the fronting female, Kristi Ormand, her style is a bit too restrained for their high-energy style of music, and the dynamic movements of the guitar and bass almost beg for expansion to her note ranges in the vocal melodies. This band has some great potential, but their songs lack a real, driving force to them. I think the crowd, intrigued by the upbeat music, waits for a good Pat Benetar belted note or a Joan Jett “yeeaow,” and is a bit disappointed when it never comes.

I probably have the least criticism for From A Seed — they really just blew the roof off Easy Eddie’s.

I love the concept of the all-female rock band, and She Said fought valiantly to make it awesome, but it came out as just “good.” Drummer Bonnie Crosby admitted that this band had only been writing original music for about six months now, and for that, they really were good. However, pitted onstage against other bands with years of experience, the band’s amateur mistakes stood out. Comparatively, their riffs were simple and repetitive, their guitars went out of tune without necessary, mid-set adjustment, and I detected some nervous reservation in their general actions on stage. Following an in-your-face powerhouse like From A Seed can’t be easy, though.

The Verdict: You’ll have to visit www.CharlotteMusicAwards.org to see if the other four judges shared my opinions of the night, but I thought every band put on a solid, entertaining performance.

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