Three Imaginary Girls

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

Semi Precious Weapons


Perez Hilton’s leap into the music business is, in nearly every way imaginable, a complete failure. He was given his own imprint at Warner Brothers and thus far, his only signing was a French pop star named Sliimy, who was already on a European imprint of Warner – this meant that the former Mario Lavandeira turned catty gossip blogger has basically been used to give an American promotional boost to an artist already part of the label, not his own discovery. It’s looking more and more like a tax write-off than anything else. When Hilton got into a spat that turned modestly violent with Black Eyed Peas’ at a Canadian music awards show, he got little sympathy from any existing artists. In fact, quite the contrary, the most critical people were known musicians. Despite those setbacks (did I mention Black Book magazine pointed out that nearly every musician Hilton supported on his site was already written about favorably on the in the indispensible British music site PopJustice?), Hilton jumped in feet-first to promote his first musical tour.

The tour has been, unsurprisingly, a disaster as well. It’s sort of unfortunate because many of the acts on the bill are actually pretty good. One of the headliners was the Norwegian star Ida Maria, who has a rock and roll swagger, pop hooks and often piercing and emotional lyrics. She suffered a meltdown on stage at the Boston show, the fourth on the tour. She was replaced by Seattleites Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head.

When the time came for the Seattle show, last Monday night, it was at the Showbox at the Market, an 1100 capacity venue that was nowhere near close to being full. I believe it was the smallest crowd I’ve ever seen at that particular club. All but one bar was open and there was never more than a person or two in front of you to get a drink. I heard the guestlist for the show was a mile long, with hundreds and hundreds of names, but very few people ended up showing up. I also heard that the Showbox eventually started letting people in without a ticket. That’s normally an event that would upset the people who bought tickets for the show in advance, but I doubt there were that many people to get upset.

The two out of town acts on this tour, Semi Precious Weapons and Ladyhawke, deserve better (NPSH does too, but I’ve been seeing them play smaller shows for years, so there was a little bit of pride seeing them play one of the bigger clubs in town – even if it was on a Monday, before a small crowd).

Semi Precious Weapons is a glam rock band, where both the words “glam” and “rock” should be capitalized. After witnessing a few minutes of their lead singer Justin Tranter, I tweeted that he is what would happen if “Jack Shears [of the Scissor Sisters] ever knocked up Kevin Barnes [of, uhh, of Montreal] (or vice versa, I suppose)”. Tranter is catty and seems to love the attention that being a rock star provides.

The obvious thing, though, is that he treats his sexuality as a fluid commodity. Sexuality is the driving force behind Tranter, who told the crowd at the Showbox “you’re all beautiful tonight; I bet everyone here is getting laid tonight; except you,” after pointing out a child in the crowd who couldn’t have been any older than seven or eight. He danced around the stage in a pair of stilettos whose heel was so thin they could be used as a weapon.

The band’s music is a heavier version of glam rock – maybe Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie with more power chords. They do rock – and the band put on an energetic, forty-minute set, with almost everyone in the crowd jumping around and moving about the stage. The guitarist ran into the crowd and played in the middle of the floor during the final song (“Magnetic Baby”). Tranter is an electrifying performer who paid little attention to the size of the crowd. Instead, he long ago realized that being a rock star means not having to back to your hotel alone, but being an exciting one meant he has a bigger crowd to choose from for who goes with him.

Ladyhawke, the New Zealand singer born Phillipa Brown, also made the best of a difficult situation. After there was a large exodus after Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head finished (those young kids had school the next morning!), Ladyhawke was playing to the thinnest the crowd was all night.

Ladyhawke, either Brown’s personae or the full band she fronts, have a dance rock sound, getting people to move on the floor while using power chords and a four-on-the-floor beat. She’s got some very catchy songs and certainly understands how to craft a hook.

Playing her first Seattle show ever, Ladyhawke went a few minutes beyond the stage curfew and played and added a couple of songs to their setlist (which I could see from where I was standing). I was a little disappointed that “Manipulating Woman” wasn’t on the setlist, but it served me right because when it was played, it was a very pleasant surprise and sounded great inside the Showbox.

I hadn’t written about NPSH much because I had already written about them a bit and this review is getting long enough as it is. I will just point out that one of the last times I had seen them play was a sold out show at the bigger Showbox Sodo, opening for my favorite pop star (and Hilton’s most outspoken – and funniest – critic) Lily Allen. There’s no doubt who got the last laugh there.

Perez Hilton’s name will hopefully be forgotten soon, but Semi Precious Weapons and Ladyhawke tried to see to it that their names would not be as well.