Never underestimate the power of women in the music scene. Don’t even dare. Last Saturday I had the honor of attending a celebration of women who rock the stage. A woman who had never put a show on herself, Julia Mulligan, saw a chance to bring something to life and took it – with amazing results. Her ties to the scene run deep as she is part of the reason behind the success of her husband’s band, Winter’s Descent. That and ties to the Funhouse at Mr. Small’s, one of Pittsburgh’s well known venues, collided to give her a chance to show the power that hides behind her beauty. Inspiration came in many forms, including a makeup palette of all things, and once the idea was formed she dove in and took calculated risks to bring together a night that everyone in attendance agrees blew us away.
Her first risk? A slight mix of genres. Silence Follows isn’t quite as heavy as the other bands. Their lead singer, Jennifer Bruce, showed up on stage representing the softer side of women in a long dress and sweet voice. Femme at it’s height. That sweet voice quickly escalated to grabbing vocals and pulled the crowd forward where they began to sway and dance to the music. Her rendition of “Whipping Post” actually caused me to pause in my photography to just watch the energy that she, the other band members, and the audience shared during their time on stage. Rarely have I seen an opener bring this much life to a crowd from the very first song. Without theatrics, wearing a soft smile most of the night, this woman started the fire in all of us. I don’t think the night could have started any better.
Next up was Horehound, with lead vocalist Shy Kennedy. Covered in tattoos, dark hair pulled back, and a look in her eyes that said she knew she was about to give the crowd something they needed. Her stage presence alone made you give her your attention, the music raged and she gave her best… including killer vocals that had a way of splitting into a metal growl almost unheard of, most certainly unique. I wasn’t the only one who stood attentive, trying to figure out how she did that! People who had never heard her before looked at each other in shock before smiling and screaming in amazement, horns raised. As her firm gaze stared across the ocean of people in front of her I was captivated by her calm and the depth beneath it.
Not to be outdone, Carly Simon-Warneke stepped up to the mic with her band, Defy The Tide, and a wicked grin. The moment the music began, the crowd went wild. Hair flipping as heads banged in time, audience members growing suddenly quiet, their faces raised to the sky as they reveled in the rage and beauty of the music surrounding them. It was almost a time of metal worship that cut those of us watching to the very soul. Arms raised she closed her eyes, voice reaching out to her congregation, hair thrown wild and heart open. She threw every emotion she had into the performance and you could feel it from the farthest parts of the crowd. By the end of her set she was glowing from an inner light as the fire raged in all of us… but with a satisfied smile, she walked off the stage, leaving us hungry for more.
By this point members from the other show that night began to come in. The music had reached out to them and this crowd of people in tan shorts, sandals, and teal sun dresses began cautiously finding their way among the standard black shirts of the metal crowd. They were open-mouthed and wide-eyed at the display of talent before them but had no idea what they were in for next. Julia’s second surprise of the night, Reign of Z, had them pulling out their phones to record their vocalist Zosia West. Metal and stage makeup often go hand in hand but what she brought was shocking, scary, and strangely becoming. Over leather and chains lay waist length gray hair. Glittering lips and dark shadowed eyes betrayed you when you found yourself gazing into white rings of demon eyes. Cloaked at first in a glimmering green her stage show was pure theater. The band’s female drummer, Amanda Lynn Blackwel made her presence known by the amazing beats she tore into behind the kit. I cannot tell you what it’s like to see her in person; Black hair flying as her body moves with the motion of her art, plastering against her face from joyful, encompassing, exertion… it is her skill, seduction, and it is so bad-ass to watch her. They were the risk. A band put together rather recently, this show was their first on stage together. Julia knew the talent in each member and had placed them as headliner, sight unseen, knowing what they would do together. They brought intelligent lyrics filled with emotion, a look not often seen in Pittsburgh, a sound all their own… if this is how they start, I can’t wait to see the next step.
Will Julia do another show? Let’s hope. She says that if she does she wants to space them out so that she can give each of them the attention they deserve. This may be the start of a new promoter in Pittsburgh, time will tell. It’s a show to put in the books, for sure. Female driven music that practically brought a crowd to it’s knees before the stage, a show created by the imagination of a strong woman in the scene… This was more than a show, it was a celebration. To see a portion of what I got to see that night, follow the links to these bands, and stay up to date on their shows. I know you will love the music as much as I did and you can tell me later, with light in your eyes, how glad you were to see them live.
Silence Follows – www.facebook.com/SilenceFollows/
Horehound – www.facebook.com/horehoundband/
Defy The Tide – www.facebook.com/DefyTheTide/
Reign of Z – www.facebook.com/ReignofZ/