Girl group plays muscular rock
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., March 30, 2003) – There would be something quaint bordering on funny about seeing any band of young musicians playing original rock music that owes its greatest debt of influence to Aerosmith. While that dinosaur rock band still occasionally comes out of its lair and wanders the earth, for the most part its vintage, classic-rock sound is the stuff of nostalgia for baby-boomers too old to rock out to the contemporary sounds of Foo Fighters, Zwan and Linkin Park.

There would be something even quainter bordering on funny about seeing a band comprised entirely of women playing such music ordinarily associated with beer-drinking guys with big bellies for an audience comprised overwhelmingly of twenty-something females.

But this is precisely the picture of what took place at Club Helsinki on Saturday night, when all-female, New York band Antigone Rising performed its original brand of classic rock for a packed house overwhelmingly imbalanced toward the distaff side.

Along with being quaint and a little bit funny, however, Antigone Rising was quite a bit entertaining. The group boasted plenty of old-fashioned, blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll virtues that went a long way toward making its show a success. While boasting the dynamic, attractive, one-named lead singer, Cassidy, the band functioned as a tight, democratic ensemble.

While Cassidy’s histrionic-bordering-on-operatic vocals were clearly at the center of the group’s sound, they were balanced by the sisterly harmonies of guitarists Cathy and Kristen Henderson, and the snappy, lockstep rhythms of bassist Anne-Marie Stehn and drummer Dena Tauriello. All together, the quintet displayed the sort of selfless camaraderie and joy of togetherness that one experiences with groups like Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

The band’s songs ranged from some funky folk-rockers built on Crosby, Stills and Nash-like grooves to more punk-influenced numbers like “Rosita,” which featured a tango-rock bridge. Anthemic numbers like the group’s signature song, “Right or Wrong,” were old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll suites, in this case opening with a Peter Frampton-like acoustic riff before morphing into a charging, electric rock section recalling “All Along the Watchtower,” before doubling back for a dreamy, Frampton-like sequence toward the end.

The group’s songs for the most part were built on strongly defined, muscular chord changes and hooky choruses. Cassidy was a versatile singer who could wail soulfully one moment and chant with rap-like ferocity the next – think Ani DiFranco meets Pat Benatar, with more than a little Steve Tyler thrown in for good measure.

The musicians’ occasional attempts at instrumental soloing may have been inspired by the contemporary jam-band scene, but they came across more in the spirit of ‘70s soloing, especially when Kristen Henderson shed her acoustic guitar in favor of a percussion set.

The group openly acknowledged its debt to classic rock on a number that variously quoted or alluded to the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Grand Funk Railroad’s “American Woman.” The group also delivered a Southern California, pop-punk version of the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen a Face” that quoted the “li-li-li” section of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer.”

Besides the fact that the musicians are too young to be playing this music as an exercise in nostalgia for a crowd that mostly wasn’t even born when songs like these were first being played on the radio, what made their show such a fetching success was their utter sincerity, commitment and lack of pretension.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on March 31, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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