JILL BARBER with HEIDI HAZELTON , JON-RAE FLETCHER AND THE RIVER and COUGAR PARTY at Rancho Relaxo, September 17. Tickets: $5. Attendance: 150. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
With its mellow lighting, homely stucco and quietly hip crowd, Rancho Relaxo 's upstairs was right toasty Friday night. Some jackass who wandered in for a beer joked loudly, "Guess this place is gonna be packed with feminists, eh?" when told he was at a girl-centric album release - and disappeared after being duly ignored.
Sublime cabaret folkie Jill Barber came on around 10 pm. As she tapped a wine-red boot, her smoky renditions drew people near the stage, where they crouched and sat cross-legged, spellbound.
Barber swayed with her electric acoustic through a tasteful 20 minutes, singing songs from her intimate Oh Heart album, which was being sold at a table alongside copies of Shameless, the dissident mag For Girls Who Get It (and guys who get girls who get it, I would add), and the indie star-studded Good Grooming For Girls comp from Shameless and Permafrost Records. Among others, the CD features Barber, Controller.Controller, Arcade Fire and Sick Lipstick. Get it at quality record shops and www.shamelessmag.com.
Next, Jon-Rae Fletcher and the River had their hearts in the right place, but they performed with the kind of relentlessly nerdy energy that can keep a game of Dungeons and Dragons going till the sun comes up. The seven-piece alt-country band, which includes lap steel, keyboard and accordion, was awkwardly squeezed together.
"Does anybody else wanna get onstage with us?" the bespectacled Fletcher quipped between the piercing vocals of songs with hooks like "It's great to be here in this room!" that were so impossibly happy they made my eyes roll.
They kept going and going. By the time the guy selling the flashing roses showed up, their set was pushing an hour.
Cougar Party , a fierce hardcore band featuring young members of the Plath and Mach Tiver ended the night with screamo histrionics and screaming drummer Shannon G 's good words about women getting exposure by playing shows that would otherwise be exclusively male.
By now, only 12 people were left. Almost everyone went home after Jon-Rae and Co. hogged most of the night.