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Rising to occasion in Heels
By James Reed, Globe Staff | February 1, 2009

When the tour is called Hell on Heels, you can bet the bands are going to look fierce, as Tuesday's lineup at T.T. the Bear's proves.

Semi Precious Weapons, a new favorite of blogger Perez Hilton, is the flashiest band on the bill, sounding like a filthy mash-up of AC/DC and David Bowie. Led by platinum-blond firebrand Justin Tranter, the New York rockers trace their roots to Boston, where all four band members studied at Berklee College of Music. Tranter is fond of performing in heels, and luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman just crafted his first male high heels - size 12 4-inch stiletto boots - especially for him.

Fresh from the new Jim Carrey movie "Yes Man," in which they played the band fronted by Zooey Deschanel's character, San Francisco trio Von Iva is like the female counterpoint to Semi Precious Weapons. Drummer Kelly Harris, a blond bombshell who admits she looks like Tranter, likes to say Von Iva and the Weapons play "street glam," with an eye for bringing the Studio 54 era into a modern context.

Nico Vega, a rock trio from Los Angeles, isn't quite as concerned with the dance floor, but it, too, features a fiery female lead singer in Aja Volkman. The band's new self-titled album is out Tuesday but has already been streaming at MySpace.

We caught up with the bands earlier this week to see what life on the road is like in heels.

KELLY HARRIS Von Iva, drummer

Q. What's your idea of hell?

A. Being trapped in a room with a bunch of conservatives.

Q. Who wears the best heels in the band?

A. Definitely [lead singer] Jillian [Iva]. She really can do a lot in a pair of heels, and she goes through shoes really fast. When you see her live, you understand why. She likes to stand on my kick drums, so I have little pock marks on them from her heels.

Q. So who would win a race in high heels: Jillian or Justin from Semi Precious Weapons?

A. Oh, you can't put me on the spot like that. Jillian is in my band, and Justin is like my husband on the road, so I can't pick.

AJA VOLKMAN Nico Vega, lead singer

Q. What's your idea of hell?

A. Hell would be like if I had to spend the rest of my life with George Bush and Dick Cheney.

Q. Who wears the best heels in the band?

A. Probably [guitarist] Rich [Koehler]. I actually perform barefoot. Wearing heels would be just one more thing to worry about onstage.

Q. You guys have a different sound than the other bands on this tour.

A. We're the least dancey of all the bands. We're sort of all over the place. It's probably a great accident if we make people dance. If there's a common denominator for this lineup, it's the energy we all bring to a performance.

JUSTIN TRANTER Semi Precious Weapons, frontman

Q. What's your idea of hell?

A. Pleated khakis.

Q. Oh, c'mon. Surely you've worn them before.

A. No, never. Well, OK, at least not since I was 14.

Q. Who wears the best heels in the band?

A. Me. I'm the only one who wears heels in the band. The rest of the guys are your typical womanizing men.

Q. And when did you realize you could work it in heels?

A. At a friend's birthday party when I was like 23 or 24 years old. It was the easiest thing that ever came to me.

Q. Tell me about your audiences.

A. Well, when we played in Boston, there were a bunch of frat dudes in white baseball caps singing along to our songs. I didn't know if they were there to hurt me or to rock out. People tend to lose their [expletive] at our shows.

Q. Kelly wouldn't tell me who would win a race in heels, you or Jillian.

A. Oh, my God, I would so totally win.