Monday, April 03, 2006
They didn't save my life. But Beth Ditto makes everything better.
Beth Ditto is one of the nation’s most talented, exciting rock stars, but it’s almost a well-kept secret. She sings in the three-piece soul, punk rock band The Gossip-from Olympia, WA by way of Arkansas. The band played to a packed, all-ages crowd at the Triple Rock on Saturday and it was a real Rock Revival type of show. Life-affriming.
Dark bangs, hanging low–obscuring her eyes in that pure Chrissie Hynde fashion--ripping with soul and sweat, Ditto is a powerful, but totally unaffected presence on stage. She’s gay and she has this great tattoo of an anchor on her upper arm with Elizabeth’s ultimate, favorite term of endearment on it–"Mama." Magic.
Thing is, there just aren’t that many "out" female lead singers around. It’s refreshing when she says things like "You know we love the dykes, right? Well this song is for the fags." She is short and precious–she calls herself "fat," and the woman does have rolls and when she dances, she shakes it and it is captivating, sensual and raw. In the between song-patter, she comes across totally humble, a sweet Southern dumpling. Well, also a strong, beautiful woman that could kick your ass with the sheer power of her fucking voice, that is.
After the show, Jessica and I watched this hilarious Ramones dvd I recently acquired (I in the kick-ass comic book box set). Thinking about what it would be like to actually attend a Ramones show in the 70s. That locomotive rumble they all talk about...I felt that kind of shock and awe it played out before me (RIGHT before me, we were front and center) at the Gossip show–the band just tears right through those 2-minute-blitzes and left us all stunned and speechless--wondering what we just got hit with.(Beth did comment on that, "Y’all are so crazy when we’re playing, but then you get all quiet between songs!" We’re stunned and pleasured, Beth. Give us a sec...
I was worried that there wouldn’t be dancing–after all, the band’s declaration is forcefully clear: "We started a band 'cause we were bored. Our mission is to make you dance, and if you're not gonna dance, just stay at home and listen to the oldies station." But everyone around me was shakin’ their ass. It was a joyous celebration--Ditto’s lyrics are filled with themes of feminism, woman to woman love and longing and betrayal. The fans belted out the words and shook their heads in disbelief when Beth would just...unleash. That’s what it was, too. Totally untamed, unrestrained, her voice soared. Made Jessica (and me) realize, that as great as the records are, the live experience of hearing her voice is far more intense (of course) and more muscular and sultry than the recording. In "Coal to Diamonds," a bit of an angry ballad, Ditto let her soulful, slow-burn side come out and it just knocked the room out.
Oh, and the rest of the band is *incredible.* (All together, they look kinda like the really cool kids in a John Waters movie.) Can’t forget the other two talents. Hannnah Blilie, is the cool-as-a-cucumber, Charlie Watts-style drummer-- clean, militarily attractive, healthy fit looking woman with a mohawk. No contorted facial expressions, never even broke a sweat. She maintained this cool, hard look out to the audience that was part come-on, part fuck you. Brace Paine, the guitarist/bass player (he would change it up, depending on the song) is completely absorbed in the music, but managed to dance–toes turned inward, knees touching. Reminded me of a more "arty" Paul Weller. Or Townshend, even.
Before their encore, Beth talked mentioned it was the second day of her period and how she was feeling a bit under the weather. Days like this, they do something little special. She launches into "Boy, I been watchin’ you/ like the hawk in the sky up high," just *channeling* soul through the 1998 Aaliyah song, "Are You That Somebody." (yep, off of the "Dr. Dolitttle" soundtrack. fuckyes.)
After the show we needed to replenish our sweaty, danced-out bods. We went to Taco Bell, that’s just down the way from the Triple Rock. The chick taking our order said, "So, you ladies going out to the club, then?" I told her where we just were and she gave me this look–straight through me. "I have ‘Movement’," she said. She loved the Gossip and was totally upset that she had missed the show, cuz she totally had to work at Taco Bell.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT? ....Rolling Stone magazine should really do a feature on this band. The kids at the Taco Bell dig ‘em and their songs have a beat–and you can dance to it.