Girlz Garage in St. Petersburg
by Bob Pomeroy
About halfway though their set, Muffin Spencer of Brassy proclaimed, “Who stole the show? We stole the show!” It’s a bit of hip hop hyperbole from the American singer of this punk/funk/rap hybrid from the UK. It also happens to be true. Brassy’s blend of hip hop style with rock velocity got people up and shaking. Spencer is a commanding presence, slipping between rhyme, guitar riffing, and singing effortlessly. Johnny Barrington did double duty laying down the beat as both drummer and DJ. Brassy had the crowd enthralled throughout their short set and left the crowd calling for more.
Brassy definitely won the crowd, but the other bands on the Girlz Garage tour gave them friendly competition for bragging rights. The Start gave the crowd a hard driving dose of new wave-inspired rock. The band bristled with nervous energy as Aimee Echo belted out songs like a woman possessed while narrowly avoiding collisions with her bandmates. (Off stage, Aimee told me she’s slit her head open twice banging into band mates.) Their sound is like an uneasy cross between 80’s synth pop and hyperactive punk rock. The Start had definitely got the energy levels pumped up.
Lennon Murphy opened the show with a powerful stripped-down set. Playing electric piano with only a drummer for backup, she generated a kind of punked-out Tori Amos vibe. Her powerful vocals and concise songwriting cast a spell on the early arrivals. The highpoint of Lennon’s set came when her drummer switched to acoustic guitar and she led a few fan club members in a sing along version of “Goatfucker.” As strong as the set was, Lennon kept saying, “If you like this, you should see my rock set.”
Originally tagged as the tour headliners, the Canadian pop band Lillix didn’t come off all that well. Their slot in the show didn’t do them any favors either. Following the high energy mayhem of the Start and followed by the energetic funk of Brassy, Lillix’s pop tunes sounded tame and all together too polite. It didn’t help matters that some local hipsters were heckling the band for looking like they were skipping school. Guitarist Tasha Ray Evin fessed up that the band formed in middle school with a 9-year old drummer. When the hipsters wandered off, the band at least had fun playing. They might have fared better following Lennon or opening the show.
All in all it was a good night for rock and roll. I came to the show knowing a little bit about Brassy and Northern State (who had dropped off the tour before reaching St. Petersburg). I came away at least entertained by all of the bands. The Start and Lennon were fairly impressive and I was blown away by Brassy. Now I’ve got to check out what these bands sound like on disc.