The Gossip, Erase Errata, and Mika Miko, the Middle East Downstairs, September 14, 2006
It is 9:56 and Bianca Sparta, the drummer of Erase Errata, looks pissed off. Tick, tick, tick: pony tail of long hair swept back low to one side, she pounds through the sound checks on bass, snare, toms. And then she runs off stage to the middle of the bubbly crowd at the Middle East downstairs, has a quick conversation with a friend, and then rushes back to the stage. Smiling a little now, she counts off and the band launches into "Cruising" without looking back.
Erase Errata played with some kind of tantric muse on their side on Thursday night, inflicting on the crowd a wide range of mesmerizing musical eidolons. Primed from the beginning by Grrl-rific collaboration in an opening tour with Le Tigre (in 2000), whose founder (Kathleen Hanna) sang for Bikini Kill, Erase Errata have lost weight since the early years: they slimmed off scattered tendencies in their material and lost guitarist Sarah Jaffe without, it seems, losing their edge. They sound just fine these days, as front woman Jenny Hoyston multi-tasks on guitar while singing into a mike clutched in her left armpit during some songs, playing a sputtering horn in others.
Following openers Mika Miko — a five-piece girl band from L.A. with a gleefully satisfying method of howling back and forth into a giant red banana phone and mike — Erase Errata unleashed the riot with a windmill of adrenaline-punched numbers, driven underneath by Sparta's insistent syncopation, and overhead, by Hoyston's glowering lyrics. Songs from the latest album, Nightlife, painted chaotic soundscapes with string scratching that recalled galloping horses, helicopters, and F-22 jet squadrons roaring in figure eights around the sky. All the while Hoyston spoke stories based in current debates, from the value of civil liberties to losses gained by the Iraq war. In the closing minutes of “Tax Dollar,” she states "I'm a traitor to humans," and you believe what she’s saying. She delivers the line without drama or despair or anger, just a little bit of shock.
And then we have the Gossip’s Beth Ditto, the third leading lady of the night. Feet spread wide, hoop earrings bangling, Erase Errata's Kill Rock Star labelmate shimmies across the stage and gives it to the crowd with an ease that would make Betty Boop jealous.
The Gossip is a musical culinary experiment imagined by kids with their fingers in the honey jar. The soul-punk combination is like marshmallows and pickled onions — two separately delicious ingredients, but together? Don't doubt; the Gossip will rock the food off your plate. Ditto's warm, crackling voice cuts grooves through the rest of the bluesy, garage-band backing. The net result swaggers with a certain predictability: raw vocals, strong bass line, but the live show meant they could convert the downstairs into a dance club. (Best of all was watching Hoyston bop along the side ramp, both fists in the air, handkerchief flopping ’round her neck in a decidedly un-rock-goddess way.) During "Standing in the Way of Control," bassist Brace Paine doubled over to deliver the low lines to a full room of eager booty shakers. It wasn't all so bright: Ditto summoned Jenny Hoyston onstage later in the set for "The southern women's convention: Texas meets Arkansas," which translated to a stinking cover of Aaliyah's "Are U That Somebody;" the crowd was rapt nonetheless, and "Listen Up" and encores were met with loud approval. And no one went home hungry.
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