Female rocker L.P. warns that loving ain’t getting easier
The woman must gargle with razor blades. She yells like Janis, reaches the ungodly heights and punky vibrato of Pat Benatar, and growls like Joan Jett. Emerging rock star L.P. – that’s her name, just the initials – brought her band and her power vocals recently to Southpaw in Park Slope. The show evoked the rare magic that happens when artist and venue fuse to create a pure grassroots rock experience.
“It’s all sexual,” L.P. moaned about her performance energy source. She stood on stage in her boot-cut jeans and tight black T-shirt under a black corduroy sport coat stomping her foot and tightly wailing on her guitar. The seduction began when she strutted out into the wash of sultry red light, her wild curly hair painting a chilling silhouette, put the microphone tight against her lips and screamed, “Get wasted on love, get wasted on life, get wasted on everything that’s right.”
The four men behind her slammed loud power chords, splashed cymbals and laid out rumbling bass chords. The sound waves ruffled the shirts of fans and bar-goers standing, mesmerized, on the dance floor. Although a few of her lyrics scampered into cliché, their tightness was a saving grace, keeping the audience in the mood.
Old record albums and band posters cover the walls, and beer reigns supreme as the drink of choice at Southpaw, where amp heads above the bar and the diamond-tread metal walkways make the whole place feel like a stage. Raised platform areas, complete with black metal railings, put spectators on the same level as the performers. The performance stage offers plenty of room for bands to jump around and rock out.
“It’s my favorite,” said L.P. about playing at Southpaw, which opened its doors in June of 2002 and since then has emerged as one of New York City’s most advantageous venues for emerging artists and special events. Carved and created out of a former discount store on Fifth Avenue in the middle of Brooklyn, Southpaw has developed a reputation for inclusiveness, seen by the white lesbian Jewish hip-hop duo, God-dess, L.P.’s opener, with a great show that got people bouncing and wanting more when the curtains spread for the evening’s top billing.
They got a great live show, and a few plugs for the band’s new album, “Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol.” The album is worth owning for its catchy pop rock and meaningful lyrics, but falls short on capturing L.P.’s amazing voice, which comes off softer on the album than live, where the band rocks loud and hard and L.P.’s voice wails.
The album’s song lengths are short enough to avoid redundancy, but long enough to satisfy, and a couple of the songs inspire further listening. “Get Over Yourself,” with its slow beat, sexy fuzz bass and great guitar textures reveal musical details and subtleties that are lost on stage. The ending of the title track, “Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol,” has L.P.’s best live singing, the acoustic softness exploding into epic guitar solos and emotion-wracked singing. Songs like “Little Death,” a provocative song about sexual power, sketched by her howling and dusky vibrato that adds an enticing madness, preserve the band’s musical ability to rock ever faster and harder.
L.P.’s social consciousness seems to inform lyrics like “It’s just small minds and money that constitute this game/They dictate what is beautiful and that’s a goddamn shame.” But the singer clarified that “It’s just about people,” as her band tuned up between sets, mopping away seat. “Things you should know,” she coyly advised.
Songs from “Suburban Sprawl” defend the humanity in bad relationships, managing to elicit empathy for both sides. “Nowhere” evokes the desperation of having cut some losses, when the plaintive recognition creeps in that abandonment might just follow hurting the one you really love. The majority of the songs focus on the injured party lashing out and trying to cope. “Life’s a bitch then we die,” sings L.P. about the vulnerability that comes from truly caring from someone who might not reciprocate the sentiment. “Heartless” is nearly hopeless in its forecast for gaining trust. “I thought there was one less person in the world who could bring me down/You always told me not to worry, but lately it’s a different story.”
The show ended with a thunderstorm of drums, distorted guitars, feedback, and L.P. repetitive reminder, first sung, then screamed, “You don’t know.”
The characterization seemed like the perfectly ironic imperative for the singer herself, and her searing love ballads.