A lesbian and two gay rockers heat up New York’s music scene
Finally, a lesbian rocker has come forward to give Joan Jett a run for her money. Bounding onto the stage at Southpaw in a white denim suit and black motorcycle boots, L.P. launched into one of the new tracks off her release, “Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol.” With a head full of brown baby-doll curls, upper lip curled into a sexy, sinister smile, L.P. channeled rock idol Jim Morrison as she kicked and crashed, hurling the mike stand around the stage to the screaming delight of a crowd of lesbian fans.
Yes, L.P. has the moves down, rocking with all the gusto and bravado of a musician made to be adored. But any critic worth her salty weight knows that when you get down to it, it’s all about the music, man. And L.P. doesn’t disappoint. Backed by a band of five very amiable looking fellows, L.P. turns it out, proving that behind those dark eyes lurks the soul of a songbird—and the voice to back it up.
L.P. grew up on the outskirts of New York City, the daughter of an opera singer who made it to Carnegie Hall before she hung up her career to raise a family. L.P. says that after her mother died, “I figured she was always sad she didn’t go after it and then music just became what I did no matter what.” She immortalizes her mother with the original song, “All I Have,” the sort of infectious tune that invites humming.
In fact, every tune L.P. serves up is heavy with familiar thrill, like riding a favorite roller coaster again and again. Often compared with The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, nowhere is this more evident than in “The Darkside,” the second track on L.P.’s new release. This fast-paced tune smacks of past regret and lessons learned, but, despite its name, is more self-effacing than dark.
The key to this talented singer’s certain success may lie in how she makes her smoky, sexy voice speak just to you, while at the same time endowing her songs with such universal appeal they seem destined for radio play. Just when she has you center stage, L.P. rains down one of her sugar-coated invectives like, “Get Over Yourself.” You can’t help but laugh, and enjoy the irony.
Rock and roll is a hard mistress to please, but L.P. proves her chops better than most, laying down raw rock with “Little Death,” and sweetening back up with “Nowhere,” a melancholy tribute to love. It is hard to resist a rocker who holds no punches, who puts it all on the line and demands her due. L.P. has made it nearly impossible. Look for her at Harry’s Roadhouse in Asbury Park on Sunday, August 8, when she wraps up her East Coast tour. Tickets are available at goodcoppr.com/lp.
On a late spring evening at Loft 343, a warehouse space on Canal Street, a group of local musicians—gay men in 1980s garb, hipster dykes, and straight girls in short frocks—gathered for the CD release party of Justin Tranter’s “Tear Me Together.” A bearded man passed out free beer. To the left of the stage, a woman who looked to be the singer’s mother cheered excitedly. The scene was slightly off, and when Tranter—a tall, young, glam rocker boy wearing eye makeup and lots of shiny bracelets—entered, the reason was apparent. Tranter is slightly off himself, coming across as the love child of Ziggy Stardust and Hedwig of the “Angry Inch” fame.
From a stage the size of a Saltine cracker, Tranter seemed to defy gravity as he hopped around, delivering a barrage of breakneck music that sets the crowd bouncing. Each song had a different feel—this one edged with pop, that one clearly influenced by metal, the next a crooner’s ballad—but Tranter’s vocal skills are strong enough to imbue each one with his own special signature of angst and an almost girlish innocence.
It’s easy enough to affix the label “gay rocker” to Tranter, whose first cut on his new release is titled “Gag Reflex” with lyrics like: “You might want to watch your step/ because I was born without a gag reflex… I was given a special gift/some might call it a curse.”
Tranter has both skills and a wicked wit to back it up. Fluctuating between the grinding howl of hair band guitar riffs and his sing-song/crooner style, Tranter belted out, “I’ll wait here all cute until something else comes along/ like death or someone cuter/ or someone funnier/ or someone who might like better songs.”
His style is composed of the large, dramatic histrionics that are annoying in friends but delightful in a rock star. His demented sense of humor apparent in tracks including “Kill Me Close,” is also illustrated on the liner notes of “Tear Me Together.” In one panel, he floats fully dressed in a bathtub, blood pouring from his nose, an electrical cord snaking up the side of the tub. In another, he lies face down in the dirt, a bullet wound behind his left ear. Let’s bet mom loves that.
As gay rockers go, Freddie Mercury can rest in his grave knowing his legacy is safe. But there is no denying that Tranter is onto something with this fast, funny, warped, happy noise. This is one stylish little faggot who has the market cornered on a good time. Don’t miss him at 8 p.m. on August 29 when he rocks the stage at Fez, under Time Café, at 380 Lafayette Street, just below Cooper Square. More information is available at justintranter.com.
He appeared almost nebbishy under his newsboy cap, on a largely empty stage at the Chelsea show hall The Cutting Room. Backed by a group of guys who, with their piercings and long hair, would blend in well at Daytona Bike Week, Bill Budd at first seemed out of place. But he surprised by laying down a very solid set. Singing and playing keyboards, Budd came off with strong, unwavering vocals and tight compositions. The title track, “And So Here…” has an early 80s feel to it, a combination of New Wave, electronica, and folk influences.
Budd wins you over with sweet songs like, “Tim,” singing, “Tim can meet me in the mostly safe wreckage of our house.” In fact, sweet, wide-eyed innocence seems an entirely apropos description for Budd, who sings largely of lost love, bruised egos, and hope of resurrection amidst the ashes.
Both “Tim” and “Your Shadow” employ Budd’s love of fictional narratives. “Tim” looks at a new relationship between a young, self-confident man and an older man with insecurities. “Your Shadow” is a fictional story about one man’s attempt to rebuild a city after a natural disaster. “Haven’t crossed the bridge in days, but I can see the buildings growing,” he starts. “I still feel you blame yourself… you know what could happen now, we could build our bridges stronger… Not even earthquakes could swallow your pride/ so I’ll stay across the bridge, watch the day, watch your shadow.”
The combination of his deep, throaty singing voice and the extensive percussion and keyboards heard in the tracks make Budd come across as though Joan Armatrading and David Gray meshed into one slightly less gritty stage act.
In fact, it is almost a relief after all the heartache and lost love when you reach track seven, “The Un-Me.” He sings, “I follow you through broke-down station stops/ghost train stations calling your name.” Recapturing his power, he wails out, “I’ll drink a toast to myself babe/ cause I’m gonna be alright/ I’ll drink to myself babe because I’m giving up this fight. I’m saying this was the last time you’ll ever see the un-me. That was the last time I’ll ever be the un-me.” Budd has said the song is about his coming out a second time in his 20s, after realizing he was not as self-confident with his sexual identity as he originally believed.
Budd continues to perform with the band Cold Son, which he formed in 1995, and, according to his web site, coldson.com, his music is played on radio shows from Australia to Austin. This Philly boy has made a name for himself as a member of OutMusic, but it is his strong, theatrical singing voice that is sure to prove his best asset.
Watch for Budd at FAGapalooza on September 18, and possibly as part of a new Rock N Roll Fag Bar night at nightclub SBNY.