PARTYLINE with the TENNESSE TWIN, KATIE STELMANIS and the LIBRARIAN'S TOUCH at the Boat, July 20. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 100. Rating: NNN
Musicians who came of age (and to quick notoriety) through Riot Grrrl seem to be of two minds about the future: persevere through the backlash and become more innovative ( la Sleater Kinney, who finally called it quits after releasing their most widely successful record to date), or overhaul your sound electro-style (Kathleen Hanna's trajectory toward Le Tigre).
Powerhouse Allison Wolfe (ex of Bratmobile, Cold Cold Hearts) is one exception to that rule: she's stayed true to her roots. Her new band, Partyline , headlined a four-band gig at the Boat in Kensington Market Thursday with two Toronto side projects that owe a big debt to the age of "idolize your grrrlfriend."
Boasting the city's sexiest new band name, the Librarian's Touch started out shy, like two sisters on one keyboard, like kids playing Heart And Soul. Alternating punchy chords with new wave melodies, the pleasantly discordant duo made up of members of Fox the Boombox and Sick Lipstick gradually seduced listeners with crunchy anthems and synth-guitar riffs. Each successive song sounded tighter and more complex; at their best, the pair evoked memories of the Need, replete with circusy organ and screechy hooks. Watch for these girls to kick ass in six months.
Experimental composer Katie Stelmanis , of T.O. Riot Grrrl patriots Galaxy , wandered onstage while most were busy buying drinks and bantering, but her baroque vocals (imagine an impassioned mix of Corin Tucker and Kate Bush) silenced the crowd. Stelmanis is a classically trained singer, so it's no wonder she delivered the night's strongest vocal performance soprano incantations accompanied by synth pop over pre-recorded tracks. Her cute 80s garb (what Blossom might have worn to a Bikini Kill show), offbeat mannerisms and breezy stage presence made hers the highlight of the evening's eclectic offerings.
After straight-up country waltzes by Cindy Wolfe 's Tennessee Twin , Washington, DC's Partyline, featuring her twin Allison , played to a diminished crowd of 50 at around 12:30 am. (Do indie kids feel the pull of early day jobs, or do they just not know their history?)
During Partyline's hot and fast set, drummer Crystal Bradley kept the beat while Wolfe kicked and cartwheeled around. Appreciative keeners ate up her Valley girl banter.
Wolfe ended things by doing the splits, giggling and wandering into the crowd. You might argue that her sound hasn't evolved since the Bratmobile days, but we rarely penalize boy punk bands for redundancy. Partyline were solid and enthusiastic, dancing for the revolution the best way they know how.