On Saturday, April 2, Uh Huh Her hit the dimly-lit, masculine stage of Velvet Jones with a wave of femininity.
‘Femininity,’ however, should not bring to mind an image of bubbly blonde girls playing rockabilly riffs and singing about their latest romantic foibles. Rather, Uh Huh Her reimagines the girl band.
The show was set to start at 8 p.m. and began at about 9:30 p.m., so the final appearance of the opening act, Los Angeles-based duo Diamonds Under Fire, was more climactic than it should have been. When frontwoman Vanessa Silberman walked on the stage, the audience watched her with rapt attention for the length of her set. Standing more or less alone upstage (the outfit’s drummer was placed, almost comically, far away from the audience), Silberman broke from the norm. In a music scene full of pretty, glamorous female musicians, Silberman provided an aesthetic more akin to Joey Ramone and a musical sound reminiscent of ’90s rock with static guitar and angsty vocals.
After Diamonds Under Fire’s set, two stage hands entertained concertgoers by playing heavy Nirvana riffs during their sound check. The perplexed and jovial audience cheered throughout their shtick, and were surprised when the girls of Uh Huh Her joined them onstage and played through the set’s opening song.
These stage hands turned out to be Brad Thomas Ackley and Josh Kane, the two musicians accompanying Uh Huh Her on their U.S. tour.
It seemed that the intense touring schedule had taken a toll on the group. While Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey sauntered onstage with messy hair, sequins and emanating a decidedly Los Angeleno glamour, one of the first announcements Grey made to her audience was “I’m sorry, I’m just so fucking tired.”
They looked tired, which gave the performance a laissez-faire feel. Ironically, Hailey, who has a steady role on Showtime’s “The L Word,” was the less talkative of the two, looking worn and chic in a muscle shirt and feather earrings. Still, the girls shared the stage nicely and their cooperaive exchange of instruments and smooth apportioning of vocals highlighted their performance. During the mid-set performance of “Dreamer,” Grey took the stage solo, singing and playing dreamy sequences on keyboards while Hailey sipped her water and waited.
The draw of Uh Huh Her’s performance was their stylistic choices. The girls opened their set with songs from their first album, Common Reaction, and rounded it off with tunes from their upcoming and more “dancy” album, Nocturens. It seems that their rumored split from their previous label, Nettwerk Music Group, has done them some good. Alternating and unique music styles comprised the second half of the performance, at some points sounding like a rough, female version of Toadies and, at other times, featuring more electronic, pop-like beats.
Given the band’s history, this all makes sense. Hailey produces diverse media, seeing herself equally as an actress and as a musician. Grey herself has schooling in classical piano and played keyboards in Mellowdrone and alongside artists ranging from film composer Hans Zimmer to hip-hop artists Dr. Dre and Busta Rhymes.
Probably due to the reciprocal weariness between the audience and the performers, Velvet Jones was pretty quiet between songs. Despite the silence, the girls managed to save me from the one pest that often plagues me at indie shows: boredom. While the jaded ladies declined the audience’s wayward invitations for an encore, I can say that I would have stuck around for more.