Concert Reviews

I Can’t Pay My Rent But I’m F*cking Gorgeous

Semi Precious WeaponsVon Iva steamed up the Grog Shop on Friday (2.6.09) with their electro soul studded gorgeousness.  Headlining a bill with fellow street glam rockers Semi Precious Weapons also onboard, Von Iva’s pop sleaze sound blended well with their stagemates of the evening. Strutting onstage in a red ruffled dress, singer Jillian Iva owned it before she even opened her mouth. And when she did begin to sing, something very strange happened…the elusive, all too rare, dark and throaty voice of Janis Joplin or Amy Winehouse came out and bit the crowd square on the nose. To hear such impressive vocal chops live was amazing; a rarity today, especially in dark dive clubs. Her voice alone was enough to make the show a success, but her girl + girl backing band was equally impressive. One would think the absence of bass and guitar- only keyboards (Becky Kupersmith) and drums (Kelly Harris) backing the frontwoman- that an act would have a tough time forming a cohesive sound. Not tonight. The music was full of punch, catchy, and all out fun. Von Iva rolled through favorites such as “Not Hot to Trot” and “LALA” (the later from their 2008 EP ‘Girls on Film’) with enough sultriness and dirtiness to bring out the inner slut of everyone in the crowd.

Semi Precious Weapons preceded Von Iva, but this was definitely more of a co-headlining feel than anything else, as both bands seemed to have an equal fan base in attendance. The band opened the set with their signature song “Semi Precious Weapons.” Singer Justin Tranter jumped onstage and sang the ever so famous opening line, “I can’t pay my rent but I’m fucking gorgeous!” The crowd erupted. Tranter is the consummate frontman. Clad in knee high silver stiletto boots, black tights and a ripped up tee shirt, complete with wild platinum hair and black eye makeup, Tranter treated the crowd to much more bang for the buck than should be expected from a $10 show. In fact, the entire band had a magnetic frenetic energy that is rare to see nowadays. Rolling around on the ground, literally hanging from the rafters, playing bass on your head, high kicks, and hand stands over the bassist’s back, their stage show was unbelievable. Not only that, but the music was fabulous! A blend of glam and garage that they have dubbed “street glam,” the songs were irreverent party anthems. When the band played their other big hit, “Magnetic,” the crowd sang along as Tranter obligingly held out the mic for many lucky fans to momentarily become part of the show. At one point in the evening, Cole Whittle on bass let an audience member play his four string for a few notes. And I lost count of the number of crotch grabs that were inserted into the set after I ran out of fingers to keep track of them on. Charismatic and unabashedly flashy, Semi Precious Weapons are a legend in the making. The next time they roll through town, make sure you catch the show because soon they will be headlining arenas. They are, in their own words, “Magnetic, baby!”

Cleveland locals Dead Letter Room opened the evening with an interestingly toned down sound that echoed the music from the ‘Velvet Goldmine’ soundtrack. Laid back 70’s style glam with deep and probing vocals, the band was a solid opener for what was to come. They fit in the sense that they were glam but they also brought a whole new sound to the evening. Whoever booked this gig actually knew something about glam rock over the years to add Dead Letter Room to the bill. David Kay’s vocals brought us back to the heyday of the decadent 70’s that paved the way for the sound of the other two bands on the bill.

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