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Girlschool At The Bootleg Theater, Sunday January 29th 2017

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Starcrawler

 

The Bootleg theater had a 3-day festival, the 2017 edition of Girlschool celebrating women in music, and I just managed to attend the big finale on Sunday night. It was for a good cause, as the proceeds from the women-led festival were benefitting Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls LA, a non-profit organization that uses music to nurture and empower young girls, and once again I got to see seven women-fronted bands in one evening, while the music they all played couldn’t have been more diverse.

The first one was Soto Voce,… but wait a minute, did I say women-fronted bands? I got a bit confused for this one, although I first thought the sexy singer standing tall on stage was a woman. It turned out to be Kenny Soto in chic drag, whose bio describes him as a girl trapped in a boy’s body, so his/her swag attitude totally works for an empowering-women festival. Their sound was mixing a lot of modernity with a sense of classicism  –  think 80’s dance new wave and 90’s industrial – and they were playing a mix of dark dance floors/ EDM-remixes combined with Soto’s strong and sexy stage presence as a woman expressing her pain, with a deep voice and a sort of creepy Massive Attack cinematic. It was fascinating and captivating at the same time, the sudden birth of a sensual diva, a new Grace without even attempting to imitate. Kenny finally removed his black raincoat/dress and curiously, it was the sexiest moment of the night.

Starcrawler is easily becoming my most favorite live act these days, I just saw them two weeks ago, when they opened for the Regrettes at the Echo, blowing my mind, as well as everyone else’s. Their set at the Bootleg was no different, it exulted so much real rock n roll mess, that it made the man behind me confess: ‘It’s the first time I feel alive since Trump was elected!’ This line was too great that I had to steal it. Starcrawler are true rock n roll believers, and they put on a dirty, Iggy, bloody, Sabbath-y, trashy, Ziggy messy show, transcending rock giants with a hell of a style, not letting us a moment to breathe between Arrow de Wilde’s savage antics, and Henry Cash’ unapologetic guitar. I said it before, there’s a bit of the Stooges, a bit of Bowie and Black Sabbath in all this, a magic mix fronted by a raw and tireless character, looking like a psych ward escapee – she first appeared wearing a hospital gown – before revealing some very glam underwear. I wanted more of this raging doomness and aggressiveness, which had definitively conquered the whole crowd, but it was now time for Kid Wave on the other stage.

London-based Kid Wave had a very different style, and it was a good thing for them, because who wants to compete with such an act? Fronted by the very dynamic Lea Emmery, who seemed to be as determined as her elegant tight suit, they sounded tight and at ease, producing scorching riffs with fuzzy guitars and dreamy textures. They were cool to watch thanks to Emmery’s good looks and messy hair and interesting to listen to because of their overall poppy hooks.

Caroline Smith brought her neo-soul R&B style to the night, which had started with a lot of rock & roll. Although I always feel a bit weird to watch this kind of music coming from a very white woman and band – and I realize this thought has to be utterly ridiculous in our post-racial society, right? – Smith sounded genuine and fully at ease singing her light R&B songs with her smooth smoky vocals, then going to a poppier mode with a new song on keys that she dedicated to Taylor, ‘this lady sucked a million dicks’, she said twice with a laugh, and since she was all about female empowerment, this had to be a good thing.

It was back to badass rock & roll with ExSage, fresh from their Bootleg December residency. Bassist Kate Clover put the same gut-shaking rage in her inspired howls, while guitarist Tim Foley helped her to build their now familiar psychedelic rebellious desert-inspired ‘California Grunge’. The music was as aggressive-melodious as it was layered, although Exsage is only a trio, and they unleashed quite a stormy and savage fury of boy-girl harmonies burning midnight oil in the distant desert, contrasting with Caroline Smith’s intimate game of soul seduction

Rituals of Mine (ex-Sister Crayon that I remember seeing a long time ago) was an original blend of R&B waves and electronics, whipped by harsh drumming and a rap delivery interrupted by operatic howls, energized by singer Terra Lopez’s formidable dynamic dancing/bouncing. She could not stay still for more than a second and was moving around the stage with a constant and anxious rotation. It’s certain they had an intense and full-realized vision, and the result was as wrenching as watching someone agonizing over a dense and tragic inner turmoil.

Chelsea Wolfe was headlining the night, and I was already familiar with this great priestess of darkness. We are living in doom times, and Chelsea Wolfe’s music seems perfectly fitting these times, even if the lyrics are hard to seize in a live setting, she seems to announces the apocalypse at each song, she bathes in bloody light or pure darkness, and she is a timeless and mysterious woman who travels through time slots. On Sunday night, she was casting a spell on the audience as she always does, with an intense and hypnotic set, filling the place with distortion and doom ambiance, raising hell or opening a chilling door on the coldest places of your mind. It was metal heavily doom by moaning voices lost in dramatic desolation, and chaos of growling guitars blending with synths. Chelsea Wolfe is certainly not afraid of the dark, she embraces the void, plunges deep inside the bleakest abyss and this is another way to empower all the gothic girls wearing dark lipstick.

More pictures here

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ExSage

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Kid Wave

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Soto Voce

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Rituals of Mine

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Chelsea Wolfe

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Caroline Smith

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