Those that found themselves in the club were treated to contrasting performances -- each musically diverse but holding to the same emotional content. These juxtapositions ultimately were best exemplified by headliner Kristeen Young as she moved from song to song.
There was a sparseness to the stage as Bruiser Queen launched into its first song. The St. Louis duo's set was a study in simplicity and minimalism with the punk aesthetic of less is more. The music featured John Bonham-esque drums, take-no-prisoners guitar work (with a dash of ocean side surf) and vocals which shared the power and richness of Ann Wilson coupled with a snarling attitude that would make any guy shake in his Doc Martens.
Morgan Nusbaum and Jason Potter have taken the recent concept of the drum and guitar duo away from the blues-inspired mold of the White Stripes, the Flat Duo Jets and the Black Keys. They take the simplicity of this setting and bring together modern songwriting with touches of the past. Their sound harkens back to what makes loud guitar-based music great, but they keep themselves from falling into anything derivative.
CaveofswordS is an amalgamation of sounds and sights. The St. Louis trio seems to get its inspiration from dream pop, down-tempo and the electronic sounds of groups like Depeche Mode. Sunyatta McDermott's sultry voice seemed to swirl through the club much like the black and white video projection that wrapped around her and her bandmates, Kevin McDermott and Eric Armbruster. Backed by beats that are equal parts Portishead and A Tribe Called Quest, CaveofswordS' music is ready made for the darker elements of human sexuality. An atmosphere and framework of guitars and bass from Kevin McDermott and Eric Armbruster not only moved the songs forward but supported Sunyatta's voice, electronic-tones and thick beats.
Headliner Kristeen Young is a juxtaposition unto herself. Her music can be schizophrenic -- in a good way. The former St. Louisian, now New Yorker, has a voice -- more operatic than it is rock 'n' roll -- that's deservedly the focal point of her performance. Gyrating from behind the keyboard and out front for the audience, Young has the style, sound and energy that evokes a dream of a female Ian Curtis crossed with the modern-electronic glam of Lady Gaga.
Unlike Lady Gaga, however, Kristeen Young raises the bar in musicianship and vocal acrobatics. With a four-octave range that recalls goth-diva Diamanda Galas, Young shifted back and forth from the dance-oriented sounds of her latest release "V the Volcano" to solo voice and layered keyboards. The later showcased her vocal talents and a songwriting prowess of dissonance and beauty.
The fury of this female-led, three-band bill rivaled any ultra-masculine musical form. These women were not playing at any parts; rather they brought something fresh and sexual to the stage. In this study of contrasts at Cicero's, it was clear that they are all intent on making music that means something to themselves and to their audience. As diverse as it may be, the music resonates widely.