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Monday, June 9, 2008

Miss Derringer : Show Review + Pics

Live at The Roxy
6.7.08 - West Hollywood, CA
by Joe Cortez
photos by Derek Liu

There's something about the idea of band like MIss Derringer that I love. One listen to their music reveals a range of likely influences as diverse as The Shangri-Las to Johnny Cash. Exceptional taste to be sure but as the curtain rose on the Roxy stage last Saturday night, revealing the quintet in all their glory, there was the realization that this was a band created solely for the purpose of filling its own niche. Call it alt-country-cabaret. Dressed in matching black western attire and turning out rockabilly infused licks, you can almost imagine them playing at the bar in a Tim Burton directed remake of "Johnny Guitar."

What's truly affirming about this group is the fact that there is genuine substance beneath the surface. Their songs have the appeal of simple pop ditties but cover terrain rarely traveled in contemporary commercial music. Hangings, deadly car trips and charcoal tear ducts, all served up with a deliciously subversive wink to the audience. Beyond that each member is an exceptional musician in their own right, coming together under the banner of Miss Derringer to create a tight sound that is punctuated by bouncy beats and rocking riffs. Even with such talent, it my be difficult for the band to overcome their own niche-y sound as they seek to gain a larger audience. Listening to the other bands on the bill for the night, Derringer stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the more traditional and straight forward rockers The Western States Motel and Nico Stai. However, it would be difficult to imagine anyother band suitably sharing space alongside these galloping goths.

For all the band's charm as purveyors of the pop occult, pouty singer Liz McGrath, who could have been a double for Marlene Dietrich had she been born about seven decades earlier, is the band's secret weapon. Her vocal stylings have a kind of bygone wistfulness, evoking a time when girl groups pinning about the boy that got away were the norm as she deadpanned through a series of choreographed dance routines.

If there was one thing that was lacking from the performance it was the feeling that while Derringer had possession of the stage they never quite took ownership. The boys in the band seemed to be having a great time during their set, however singer McGrath seemed almost timid and reserved between numbers. A contradiction given her burlesque attire that left just enough to the imagination while remaining classy and appropriately theatrical. I have a feeling, however, that the band was suffering more from exhaustion than malaise considering their forthcoming tour in support of Blondie for a series of east coast performances. After all, if they have Debbie Harry's approval they must be doing something right.

Check out MySpace.com/MissDerringer for more info.

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