“We were just talking about how cool it is to see all these young ladies out there,” Kim Virant noted during her set at Friday night’s “Blow Out: Women Who Rock Opening Concert” held at the Experience Music Project, coinciding with the opening of the museum’s new exhibt, “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power.”
But the crowd encompassed more than just the young, from the little girl whose father helped put on her soundproofing headphones, to the eager teen in a Runaways t-shirt, to parents bopping along to a veritable jukebox of hits by female artists, from Nina Simone to Amy Winehouse, as performed by a supergroup especially put together for the event.
It was Go-Go’s bassist Kathy Valentine who organized the superb collection of musicians for the evening’s headlining band, dubbed the “Bad EMPressions” for the night: Valentine on rhythm guitar; Dominique Davalos, from Valentine’s other band, the Blue Bonnets, on bass; Shae Padilla, from KSM and FireSky on lead guitar; and former Hole drummer Patty Schemel on drums.
The EMPressions kicked off in high gear with a fierce instrumental version of Heart’s “Barracuda,” with Padilla laying down some stinging guitar lines. Valentine turned in a buoyant “Vacation” (one of the Go-Go’s many hits), and Davalos took at turn at the mic to rock her way through Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits.”
The band then settled in to back a rotating series of lead vocalists, who drew on an amazing variety of songs. Bow Wow Wow lead singer Annabella Lwin (who humbly stated “I’m so blessed to be on this stage tonight”), performed the torch favorite “Fever,” as well as the Bow Wow Wow hit “I Want Candy,” Schemel handling the complicated percussion part with ease. Kim Shattuck of the Muffs jumped up and down in giddy delight in between delivering pop rock treats like Blondie’s “Go Away” and the Muffs’ own “Sad Tomorrow.”
Local singers also turned in some terrific performances. Shelby Earl’s smooth voice was perfect for the Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” (she also performed her own “Under Evergreen”). Star Anna’s intensity made her renditions of PJ Harvey’s “C’mon Billy” and Nina Simone’s “Go to Hell” riveting. And the vibrant Choklate had passion to spare in singing Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and Aretha Franklin’s “Baby, I Love You.”
L7’s Donita Sparks brought the set to an upbeat close with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” (“It’s a pop song, but the lyrics are pretty punk,” Sparks explained), and L7’s own hard rocking “Sh*tlist.”
Opening sets were by local teen act Bleachbear, who performed a wistful “Time After Time,” a Cyndi Lauper song. Other warm up acts included short sets by musicians whose stories inspired the recent ACT production about Seattle women in rock, “These Streets,” including, Capping Day who performed their best known song, “Mona Lisa,” which won them a contract with EMI Records in a battle of the bands-type contest. “These Streets” playwright Gretta Harley also performed a few songs, including a new original number.
The show came to a conclusion with all the musicians returning to the stage for a celebratory version of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” which had the audience singing and dancing along as well. It was clearly a night no one wanted to see come to an end.