As fantastic as Friday night's show at The Trocadero in Philly was, the weekend actually picked up steam on Saturday night. My brother and I headed to West Chester, PA, to see The Donnas with Gorevette opening (there was one other band...I'll get to them in a moment). This was the third time The Donnas came within shouting distance of Lancaster, PA in the last two and a half years, and both of the previous times they were here, plans to go see them fell through. I decided I wasn't missing them a third time. Boy am I glad I didn't!
The venue in West Chester was called The Note. It was the first time I had been there - indeed the first time I or any of my friends had ever even heard of it. Of the three places we went this weekend it was the smallest, yet this was the show that had the largest crowd. I estimated there to be about 300 - 325 people there, crammed like sardines into the long, narrow building. When you first walk in, the bar is to your right; to your left is the wall. You've got about a two-person width from that wall to the back of the bar stools (provided the two people considered are very close friends). At the far end of the bar the place widens slightly, and about four steps lead you down to the floor in front of the stage. To the left is the only access I saw to an upstairs area that I never saw. When a band is playing and the floor is packed, going up and down the stairway appears to be no easy task.
Despite the sardine-can accommodations, The Note is not an entirely uncomfortable place, and unlike many places where I have seen shows in my time, it is not in the kind of neighborhood where you take your chances getting to and from your car. We had a good chuckle at the establishment directly across the street, though: it was a barber shop in the kind of storefront that has two full-length window boxes on either side of the door, and both windows were crammed full of KISS memorabilia. Posters, LP jackets, t-shirts, mannequin heads made up like KISS - anything you could think of! So, if you're looking for the Gene Simmons haircut, I know a place...
I mentioned in Part One that first bands are often throwaway acts. The band that first took the stage at The Note Saturday night certainly followed that rule of thumb. The less said about Fatal Flaw, the better, but I feel I should try to describe how bad they were. Picture four guys who looked like they would have been far more at home at a frat party in 1992 than a Donnas show in 2010, playing light-alternative music that makes Toad The Wet Sprocket sound heavy in comparison, and you'd be picturing something better than Fatal Flaw. We couldn't figure out how they got on the bill with The Donnas; in school, The Donnas would have beaten these guys up and stolen their lunch money. They broke out every cliched rock-n-roll move you can name, from rocking the guitars back and forth in unison to the drummer twirling his sticks. My brother summed them up perfectly when he said, "These guys would get booed out of a prom!" The most positive thing I can say about Fatal Flaw is that they eventually stopped playing and left the stage.
From there, though, the evening skyrocketed! Gorevette was up next. I arrived in West Chester not knowing who Gorevette was. I will forever kick myself for not looking them up online before leaving for the show! Gorevette, it turns out, is a collaboration between Amy Gore of The Gore Gore Girls and the legendary Nikki Corvette of the classic Detroit-based bubblegum-punk band Nikki & The Corvettes. Had I realized that, I'd have shown up with a fistful of Nikki & The Corvettes records to be signed!
Gorevette was awesome. With Lianna Castillo on bass and Al King on drums, Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette ratcheted up the fun and energy in the club exponentially. Gore is an exceedingly talented guitarist, and Nikki Corvette bopped around the stage with her Raggedy-Ann-red hair flying, tearing through a set that included originals as well as covers of classic punk tunes like The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" and The Saints' "Wild About You." Nikki also had the line of the weekend, when she told the crowd that Gorevette's CD would be available for purchase at the merchandise table, and "we'll sign it, we'll hang out, we'll drink, whatever!" What more can you ask for?
While we waited for The Donnas, I happened to overhear a conversation among the three folks directly in front of me. It seemed to be a couple and their friend. The girl asked the friend about the upstairs, and he told her that there was a bar up there, and that there was a rumor circulating that Johnny Knoxville was up there to see the show. Her eyes widened as she turned to her boyfriend and said, "I've got to get up there! Johnny Knoxville might be up there!" As she determinedly began pushing her way toward the stairway, the boyfriend deadpanned, "Oh good. Maybe if you ask him he'll stick something up his ass." OK, so maybe Nikki Corvette didn't have the line of the weekend.
The Donnas did not disappoint. For just over an hour they burned through their set. They stuck mostly to their more recent material, and that combination of punk/metal/hard rock was the perfect tonic for the crowd. Frontwoman Brett Anderson has become quite the performer over the band's sixteen year (!) history, and she worked the crowd to a fever pitch all night. At times she verged awfully close to the paint-by-numbers rock 'n' roll script (mention the town you're playing in after every other song, tell the crowd that tonight is by far the best show of the tour, do the "I wanna hear you make some noise!" routine, etc.), but there was enough of a knowing smirk behind it that you can't fault her for playing the game. And boy did the crowd respond! We all wished they would have gone longer, but this was the last night of four-stop East Coast mini-tour, and they had a 5:00 AM plane to catch.
Still, they came out for their encore, and this was when the "rock 'n' roll" act was completely dropped and The Donnas reverted before our eyes to the Palo Alto high school teens who decided to form a band based around their love of The Ramones and and Motley Crue. After revving the crowd up for their slightly rewritten cover of KISS's "Strutter" (hmmm...did they see the barber shop across the street?), they got through about four bars of the song when guitarist Allison Robertson's amp went silent. It was endearing to see the tough-chick swagger fall away a bit as they determined what happened. The roadie diagnosed a failed cable, hooked Allison up again, and the swagger was back in full force. Once again they launched into "Strutter," and once again, the amp went silent just as they reached the middle of the first verse. Allison could only drop her head in disbelief.
Now the swagger was completely gone, and The Donnas were suddenly four somewhat nervous girls grasping for a way to fill the time while the roadie fixed the guitar. Bassist Maya Ford told jokes, Bret Anderson giggled nervously, drummer Amy Cesari (filling in on this tour for regular drummer Torry Castellano) kept a beat going for the crowd to clap along with. They almost apologetically took their third stab at "Strutter" and this time made it all the way through. Feeling confident, it was time for one last song. They closed with "Take It Off," or at least tried to. Once again, the guitar failed! Determined to finish their set, they soldiered on with a back-up guitar, and tore the house down to close the night. It was a great, great show, technical difficulties notwithstanding.
After The Donnas were done, we made our way back to the merchandise table, where Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette were taking the time to chat with fans. I told Nikki that I wished I had brought my records for her to sign; she promised she would sign them the next time they came through the area. I picked up the Gorevette disc and a solo Nikki Corvette CD, and both Amy and Nikki were happy to sign. Got a laugh out of Amy Gore when she asked if I had put my email address on their mailing list at the table. I said I had, and then signed my name next to it, telling her, "There! Now you have my autograph, too!" They were both very friendly and great to talk with, and for as fantastic as both their set and The Donnas' set were, getting to meet Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore was the high point of the night.
An hour's drive back home and another night's rest...and there was still more music ahead before the weekend would be over! Part Three will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned...
(Visit That's What I Was Going To Say's Facebook fan page to see more pics from Saturday night's Donnas/Gorevette show. I've opted not to post the video I took Saturday night because the sound was even worse than Friday's video. If you'd like me to post it anyway, leave a comment either here or on the fan page.)