Thelma And The Sleaze With Canto And Alice Austin At The Hi Hat, Sunday October 7th 2018
The Hi Hat took a trip via Tennessee last night as Thelma and the Sleaze was headlining a fun Sunday night. But before the wild all-female band, two other groups opened the evening, starting with Alice Austin, who, despite her last name, is from Vermont and is now living in Los Angeles. Backed up by a pedal steel, a mini keyboard and eventually an accordion for a few songs, she played a series of country ballads with a classic vintage sound and plenty of confidence in the vocals. The addition of the accordion added a fiesta Tex-Mex layer while guitar and pedal steel became feistier toward the end of her set. Alice has recently released an EP ‘Dirt and Helicopters’ with female swagger songs, which rock just a bit harder than her previous release ‘Cowboy Summer’.
The next band, Canto, was an interesting trio, and you could have thought you were seeing double when looking at guitarist/vocalist Seamus Blackwell and bassist Aidan Blackwell. They were actually 3 brothers (David Blackwell was on drums) from Pasadena, blending many influences into a surf-guitar-oriented music, actually going into many directions just like the limbs of the singer. A few songs had a Hispanic bravado echoing in reverb, with fuzzy arabesques, unexpected detours, and distinct vocals soaring above, while other numbers had this more straightforward indie rock sound without forgetting many reverb battles and even a few spoken word parts. On stage, they were extremely lively, with abrupt moves matching the many changes in dynamic of their music, which sometimes sounded like the entrance of a toreador in the bull arena before landing just where surf guitar meets its Arabic roots.
Thelma and the Sleaze brought a large dose of Tennessee flavor and humor during a hard rocking set, which nevertheless started with a country upbeat song, ‘Candy Anne’ which had a sweet organ and a sort of Roy Orbison vibe. The rest of the night rocked much louder, often sounding like Thin Lizzy meets riot feminist anthems, although the attraction was frontwoman Lauren Gilbert talking about the band’s road-warrior adventures, such as counting the Lamborghinis on the Pacific Coast Highway,… ‘We are from Tennessee you know!’ … ‘This song is about being so poor,.. which I can’t imagine anyone in Malibu can relate’, she said before the song ‘Midnight Train’. She was the badass country girl, playing in a bra after just two songs while riffing a raw, trashy Southern rock, the type of music most associated with greasy men riding bikes on dusty roads.
As the set progressed, the sound became louder and dirtier: ‘This next song is about wow I am having so much sex, is there anything else I can do with my time?’, it was Lauren’s way to introduce a song with the candid title, ‘One Million Kisses’ which rocked even harder than the previous ones, leaving a taste of gasoline fuming from guitars and keyboard. ‘Mary Beth’ had a Cramps vibe, while they had a fake hymn-like song before the sludgy Black Sabbath-esque ‘Leather Nites’, a complete program by itself. Starting from that point, it was grungy-metal riffs all the way till the end, and you would have never thought that the band was traveling the country in a church van when the music was worshipping Judas Priest. They couldn’t have sounded more badass when announcing songs titled ‘Cum’ or ‘Hot Steam’, but it is obvious they have drawn their inspiration for their moniker from a famous feminist movie of the ‘90s: You cannot beat Thelma and Louise’s level of badass, and hopefully the band’s road trip for this tour will have a less dramatic ending.