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Monday, June 22, 2009
Show Review Crush: Miss Derringer and Girl in a Coma, Harper's Ferry 6/21/09

The first thing you're going to notice when you see Miss Derringer is the outfit of their frontwoman, Elizabeth McGrath. Gracing the stage Sunday night, my show-going friend Joe and I saw her in black tights and black leotard, white fringe cuffs and white ankle boots, and the tiniest white cowboy hat perched atop her blonde-on-top-black-on-bottom coif fashioned into a low bun-like protrusion in the back of her head, making every Bumpits-wearing girl proud.

She looked cute. Really. And the band behind her matched, too, all in black and white, some differentiating themselves with bandanas or hats, all of them with white arm bands around one bicep.

You're initially visually stimulated and you have high hopes with a band with this kind of gimmick. They looked like outlaw cowboys and their brand of punked out, doo-wop blues and country / rockabilly seemed to fit the gimmick they were going for. You really want Miss Derringer to live up to their outfits.

Which they don't.

Opening up with "Click Click (Bang Bang)," the first track off of their new album Winter Hill, you watch McGrath give in to some bizarre stage movements while the rest of the band seemed hard-pressed to move at all. McGrath's movements seemed as if they were an effort to reach back to the bounce and snap of '50s girl pop, but she fails. In show-going-friend Joe's words, "She looks like you just wind her up," but in a bored sort of way. McGrath would rest a resolute fist on her hip while acting out semi-tepid lyrics. For example, during the song "Black Tears," you watch as McGrath acts out the lyric, "Black tears through eyeliner for you," with a fist at the edge of her eye, mock-crying in rhythm with the Do The Mashed Potato drums, lazily pointing at the crowd when the word "you" escapes her lips. It was like watching your 10 year old cousin at the annual Christmas pageant - cheesy, bad acting.

Which is a shame because I actually did like the music. McGrath's voice has a sad Loretta Lynn-like quality to it. But actually watching this band perform was painful, especially considering how much effort they seemed to be putting into appearances. Her dancing felt phony, and she didn't seem to feel the achey breaky heart lyrics leaving her pout. The rest of the band was immemorable.

So buy the album. But don't go to the show.

Thank god for Girl in a Coma closing out this show. I've been looking forward to seeing this band ever since having found the song, "Say," from their 2007 release Both Before I'm Gone. I listen to this song on repeat on the boombox in my bathroom when I'm getting ready to go out at night or get up in the morning. 'Please, please,' I thought to myself on Sunday night. 'Let Girl in a Coma be amazing, and let them please play "Say."'

Joe said it best when he described these Latina chicks from the San Antonio as, "an atomic bomb," when they burst on to stage. It seemed like the polar opposite to the band that preceeded them - with Girl in a Coma (a band name with a throwback to The Smiths' song "Girlfriend in a Coma," appropriate since they've toured with Morrissey, among a slew of excellent others), we saw no posing, no acting, just good ol' rock and roll with newer songs off of 2009's Trio B.C. feeling blues-inspired, too. In singer/guitarist Nina Diaz, we find a vocalist with an interesting through-the-cheek wail pumping up and down on her guitar. Sister Phanie Diaz on drums provided original punk rhythms with Jenn Alva's bass playing idol-worthy.
And yeah. They played, "Say," with Nina dedicating it to Miss Deringer. And it was better live than the recording. Notable others were "Vino," and "Slaughter Lane," off the new album.
And at the end of their set, they did the fastest, hardest, COOLEST cover of Radiohead's "Creep," I've ever heard. I may have found a new favorite song.

So buy the album. And go to the show. And then maybe buy a t-shirt. And then follow them to their next gig.