Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Singer/song-writer/indie-rock prophet Rocky Votolato rang forth from the Graceland stage as a pulpit, commanding his audience with his almightly guitar and the reedy power of his vocals in ways with more commanding presence and authority than an army of bands can generally muster. Touring in support of his latest release Suicide Machine the Waxwing frontman on his own poured out his soul, drenched us in powerful rock anthems, and inspired us with his passionate lyrics and staggering talent.

With his messages ringing personal as a metaphor for political (or is it the other way around?), his songwriting prowess and stage-presence evoked the earnestness and intensity of a young {and American} Billy Bragg. To confirm the reports — yes, the obvious Jeff Buckley comparison was also evident. And when I say his lyrics were personal, what I mean to say is: secluded, intimate, heartbreakingly painful, agony- that- might- be- too- painful- to- disclose- to- a- closest- loved- one- or- perhaps- even- an- $85- an- hour- professional sort of personal. Consider these lyric snippets {all of which can be seen by visiting Rocky's website}:

From "The Light and Sound":
"I don't want to have to bury you like this. / Something's gotta get your attention. / If I have to crack open your skull with my fist. / I'll let the light and the sound escape."

From "Death — Right"
"You'll die young if you live so carefully. / There are risks you must take to pay this world. / I know it would never be that easy. / I have not yet earned the right to die. / I want you to hear me screaming. / I want you to notice what goes on. / Temptation and evil demons crawling the earth hiding in every corner."

From "Prison is Private Property"
"The have nots have had enough and now they're out to kill the king. / Of what looks to be an evil empire where short-term earnings mean everything. / There's a pressure to deliver here, you're gonna get hurt if you don't play this game. / Nobody will ever know, just the CEO to the CFO."

Yow, that's some heavy shite. Yet note the element of hope through the despair, the desire to beat great odds, to seek greater outcomes — to achieve something personal, unique, and good, no matter the battle it involves.

But in no way do I mean to imply he's ponderous. What keeps Rocky Vototalo earnest and wonderful rather than emo-cliche is his integrity. Nothing he presents is pretense — you can tell his expression arises from a lack of compromise, a devotion to pure expression, a defiant lack of pandering to what's trendy, and an sheer love of significant musical expression.

Rocky managed to convey musically the values he stated lyrically. Live, it felt like extracting these songs from his core and sharing them with a crowd must have been both cathartic and exhausting for him; I can only imagine how wrung he must have felt, after reliving each one with us. Personally, I felt guiltlessly exhausted, like a hard-days fruitful energy spent, just from watching.

Yeah, what igDana said. I'm not sure I can add anything to that eloquent {and completely accurate} description, but I can summarize: Rocky gets an imaginary A+ for songwriting.