Story of Junk

Sister Action

Educational, ridiculous, and inspiring: Music for Homemade Instruments
Hiroyuki Ito
Educational, ridiculous, and inspiring: Music for Homemade Instruments

Memorial Day weekend at Jones Beach, Cree Summer seemed to be aspiring to superstardom as her divine right, like decades of cock rockers before her. At least in performance, her spirited boogaloo wrote another heart-stopping chapter in the excruciatingly short lineage stretching from Janis Joplin to cult band Big Sister.

"Live '99" was Lenny Kravitz's medicine show (and the Black Crowes' backyard barbecue), yet it was Kravitz's protégée Summer who delivered the sensuality and organic proselytization crucial to interstellar funk. This concert, in a sense a bid for control of rock's legacy, was pretty much the exclusive triumph of the Sisters. Witnessed: the tattooed mad maenad Summer with her dreamcatcher-adorned backing vocalist and sharp-dressed bassist copping outlaw style in a Sly Stone–inspired white chapeau; Kravitz's Kali-esque drummer, Cindy Blackmon, who can thunder where Sheila E. floats, red sequins and hot pants illuminating her in a sea of male band mates resembling pallbearers.

This diva daring was crystallized in what may well become Summer's signature anthem, "Curious White Boy." Oddly dissonant on the album Street Faerie, it spiced her two short sets as an inexorable battle cry, a gender and race critique that nonetheless compelled her targets to head-bang. As Summer spun and sprung and sweated with Bantu grace, menacing skull-and-crossbones on her mike stand, the backup singer spat out the song's haunting indictment: "I met your Daddy already." Neither Everlast's posing (alas, he didn't jump around) nor the Crowes' explosive set nor even Kravitz's Nosferatu soul revue could detract from Summer's script- flipping faerie tales. —Kandia Crazy Horse

Someone Else's Blues

Any sufficiently obscure garage-rock song is functionally indistinguishable from a Billy Childish original. Playing at an overstuffed Coney Island High with his band Thee Headcoats (and their ladies' auxiliary Thee Headcoatees) last Friday night, he blurted out almost two hours' worth of mutilated but recognizable turbo-variations on 12-bar blues, drawn from the 80 or so albums he's recorded with his various projects and the breadth of other people's material that squeezes into his seemingly narrow aesthetic. In Childish's vision, garage is a statement of class consciousness, the music of the despised, which is why his conception of it includes songs he learned from both Son House and the Undertones. He waves his Chatham, Kent, accent loud and proud; his songs are crammed full of loathing, mostly self-loathing ("What's wrong with maaay!" goes the hook of one). As on his records, the microphones sounded like shredded castoffs, though that evidently wasn't the idea: the band adapted to persistent equipment problems with some instrumentals and a cappella stuff, including a way more convincing "John the Revelator" than you'd expect from a gangly English Shambhala meditator.

The centerpiece of the set, though, was the New York debut of Thee Headcoatees, who are both a straight-up girl group and a wicked parody of one: three grown women (like Ginger, Bongo Debbie left last year), none of them especially pretty-voiced, backed up by the Headcoats' mortar-and-pestle riffing and chirping away about Childish's usual embittered fixations, alternating with even nastier covers— they opened with "Strychnine," for Bo's sake. They switched off who got to sing lead and who did the background aaaahs every song or two, with great big grins on their faces. Best in show: Kyra LaRubia, whose histrionic, guttural take on Childish's "When You Stop Loving Me" went from goofball dramatics to real savagery. Their best stuff, like their brother band's, is cheap, mean, and hungry, but the distance their pop-princess attitude affords them from their songs leavens their desperation with giddy fun. —Douglas Wolk

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