A girls' weekend like no other
"I like this audience," Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer Ronnie Spector said onstage at Amsterdam Bar & Hall on Saturday. "They tell me when I have lipstick on my teeth."
Lipstick traces were in abundance during the inaugural Girls Got Rhythm Fest, a three-day event featuring nothing but women singers or female-fueled garage bands -- and about an evenly split audience, gender-wise. There were no feminist speeches or riot-grrrl songs. But there was still a lot of grrr-ing and teeth-baring.
"Don't pick on me, or I will torture you," Muffs singer Kim Shattuck threatened in her Los Angeles grunge-pop trio's snarly, blistering set, a fitting finish to Friday.
There even was a wee bit of smut. Norwegian pop-punk quartet Caroline & the Treats delivered such saucy tunes as "Let's Get Dirty" and "Wam Bam Baby." Pigtailed, spandex-pants-wearing Caroline Andersen joked that the latter song was their "super mega-hit. It's been played on the radio once."
After Spector, the next-best-known GGR performer was Japanese surf-rock trio the 22.214.171.124.'s, recognized from Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill, Vol. 1." That wasn't enough to keep a third of the crowd from trickling out after Spector's set, leaving the 126.96.36.199's finishing to only about 200 fans with their quirky, stoner-warp-speed fuzz-rock ditties and a Japanese-language version of "Great Balls of Fire."
The performers seemed to be cult fans of each other, though. When Caroline & the Treats kicked into their cover of Detroit power-pop pioneer Nikki Corvette's song "Let's Go," fans were treated to a surprise appearance by Ms. Corvette herself. Nikki also performed Saturday using a band of local GGR participants, including members of Pinsch and fest co-founder Travis Ramin. Her set culminated with a dozen fans climbing onstage to holler along to "Girls Like Me" (next line: "were made to rock 'n' roll").
Spector's set wound up being the emotional and musical high point. The 68-year-old hitmaker only had about 68 percent of her legendary voice, but she came off as cool as ever. With a seven-piece band, she dropped in tributes to Amy Winehouse (nailing "Back to Black") and Johnny Thunders ("You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory"). Then she bragged that both the Beatles and the Stones liked her version of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" when her old group the Ronettes toured with them. Talk about name-dropping.
Before singing "I Can Hear Music" in the encore, Spector pointed out that her girl group actually recorded the 1969 Beach Boys hit years before the Boys did. That's about as close as Girls Got Rhythm ever came to being an us-vs.-them competition.
- Chris Riemenschneider
Slash flexes his muscle; Brick improving
When Slash and Myles Kennedy came back for their encore at the Brick on Monday night, you knew they meant business. The legendary Guns N' Roses guitarist and his new singer both returned to the stage with their shirts off and their guns blazing. Slash, in particular, looked like he's been hitting the weight room the way he used to hit the pipe. It was a fitting finale for a 1¾-hour set that was at times chest-beatingly cheesy but certainly sounded muscular and fit.
Slash and his newish band made a good case for all facets of the guitarist's 25-year legacy. Kennedy hit the high notes in "Rocket Queen" better than Axl Rose did at Target Center in November. Slash also used the "Appetite of Destruction" closer as the setup for his longest and grimiest solo of the night. Later, the band played impressive, by-the-book versions of "Mr. Brownstone" and "Sweet Child o' Mine," and the crowd did most of the singing for the confetti-splattered encore version of "Paradise City." (Nope, no "Welcome to the Jungle.")