Friday night in Philly in Fishtown, corner of Frankford and Girard Aves., around 9:30. A middle-aged white male yelled, "Same to you, asshole!" in one of those voices that send goose bumps up and down your spine -- the type of voice that's not only loud but also filled with unadulterated rage, the kind that leads to unpremeditated murder. The white male, who had the haggard look of someone who's borderline homeless, had said those words to a cab, which peeled right onto Frankford Ave. The white male stalked down Girard Ave. past a car or two to another cab. He got in, one foot in the street, and told the driver that the other cabbie was "a faggot". The white male closed the door behind him and yelled out the window, "He likes dick. DICK!!!"
And that's what I witnessed as I went into the bar/club Johnny Brenda's. I'd been there before with uneventful trips to and from my car. Maybe the 40-degree weather was what set that crazy cab passenger off.
I walked through the downstairs bar and went upstairs to the club. Johnny Brenda's website earlier in the day said the opening act, Prussia, were supposed to go on at 9:30. They walked on stage at 9:45. They must've already done a sound-check 'cause they picked up their instruments and got right into their half-hour set. I wasn't really into it; though, to be fair, I wasn't there to see them. These Detroit-ers had this synth-rock sound going on. Impressive how most of them were multi-instrumentalists.
After they finished up, the headliners took about 30 minutes to set up. While waiting, I did a little people-watching. I felt like an out-of-towner -- kinda true since I live at the tip of Northeast Philly, and even though it's only about 10 miles away, it's world's apart in the modern sense. My neighbourhood is full of sports-loving, functionally-illiterate, middle-class morons who rarely venture out of their row homes. The sold-out Johnny Brenda's was packed with 20-something hipsters; when they weren't murmuring in their low single-digit cabals, they were flicking through their iPhones, Apple lighting up their faces in the dark room so they could get their mobile fix, satisfying them until their technology-addicted brain craved more instant-gratification wireless activity.
Coincidence that I'm judgmental about technology while I do a blog post on Google?
Class Actress hit the stage at 10:45. (Hey, just like the Johnny Brenda's site said they would!) And they were amazing, thanks to the venue's sound system; one of the best for a place that size . . . about 300, in case you're wondering.
Class Actress have gotten pigeonholed with the label 80s synth revival. A bit unfair, I think. While synthesizers dominate their sound, singer Elizabeth Harper's voice sounds nothing like what came out of the Reagan decade. It's throaty with the allure of a siren, while at other times angelic, promoting Victorian values. And as far as the music goes, the two guys on keyboards play more like what you'll hear in a 2012 dance club.
The four piece (there was a drummer, too -- not sure why since it sounded like a drum machine drowned him out) started with "All the Saints". A wise choice with that catchy riff at the beginning. Still perplexes me why it's in the middle of their debut album, Rapprocher. Should be up near the front.
Their second song, I think, was "Keep You", which seems to be their big hit. A couple songs later came "Weekend", another danceable ditty popular with the kids.
They played for about 45 minutes with a one-song encore. "Limousine", I believe. It's about what to expect, since they only have an EP and album in their samplers, and the ticket was an unbelievable $12.53 (I bought it the Monday before the show after I downloaded Rapprocher from Amazon).
Now with all that boring music-geek shit out of the way, let's get down to the sultry stuff: Harper's stage presence. Jesus Christ! What a beauty, as The Tubes used to say. Not supermodel beauty, but the beauty of a performer whose sex appeal increases with audience adulation.
Unfortunately, winter weather prevented Harper from dressing salaciously. She wore black shoes, pants, jacket, and a white, long-sleeve dress shirt -- the kind with undone cuffs sported by knockout women and homosexual men. About halfway through the set, she lost the jacket. Yes! Gave her more wiggle room so she could run her hands through her lush dark hair and over her body, sans erogenous zones. Sexy performer she is, her shirt was undone two or three buttons, giving perverts like me in the crowd a peek every once in a while at her black bra. Good goddamn!
With visions of that class act, I skipped out of Johnny Brenda's to my Civic a couple blocks away. Plenty of cabs, no psycho white males. Lovely. . . .