Turn Your Head and Cough
Hanging with Storm and the Balls.
Generally speaking, showing your boobs to an entire band is not considered very classy. Somehow, though, Storm and the Balls don't seem to mind.
We're sitting in keyboardist James Beaton's dining room discussing plastic surgery, criminal history, and--oh yeah--the band. Storm Large and bassist Davey Nipples are rehashing a TV abdominoplasty doc they saw recently, and I offer that I've had breast reduction. "Pull back your jacket," Storm requests. I oblige, maybe more so than she intended.
She's not offended. In fact, during the course of our conversation she announces proudly that she's a "jizz-burping gutter slut." Well, then.
As a jazz-punk crooner reminiscent of a 1920s cabaret singer, her act includes plenty of cock talk and panty shots. It's not unheard of for her to allow a frat boy to grope her falsies, all the better to kick his shamed ass back into the crowd.
Anyway, I've definitely broken the ice. Melted it all over the floor. "That is one way to get us to talk," says Mr. Nipples. "I feel we've all grown closer."
In less than a year, the Balls (Storm, Davey, Beaton and Brian Parnell on drums) have amassed a fervent following through every-Wednesday shows at Dante's. Too original to be dismissed as a cover band, the Balls blend and twist a bunch of different songs, genres and realities, shake and pour. They set Nirvana's "About a Girl" to a sassy funk infusion of various songs; Billy Idol's "White Wedding" becomes a collage of mellow rock. The resulting "lounge-core" martini is a Bond-worthy concoction loaded with intoxicants.
Storm, a charismatic blonde of imposing stature and forceful nature, swept into Portland after 11 years in San Francisco, planning to quit the music business after an old band crumbled. She landed a job behind the stick at Dante's, and the bar offered her its stage Wednesday nights. She dreamed up a cover band that "embodied the hip-hop ethic of cut-and-paste," as Beaton says.
"When we first started, a lot of people were saying, 'You're the most original band in Portland!'" Storm says. "I'm like, 'We're a cover band. What are you talking about?'"
Beaton toured with Everclear between '99 and '01, and always kept a hand in the local scene. "Everclear was really my first paying gig, and meeting people was the highlight of it," he says. "Playing the same songs the same way every night wasn't really my cup of tea."
Davey Nipples is best known as the bassist from Sweaty Nipples, but he also toured with Everclear. He's the only member of the band never to have been arrested. "He knows how to run," Storm says.
The band's lack of inhibition is obvious, and it's the crucial ingredient in its performances. A Wednesday night finds me at Dante's, joined by a parched crowd demanding a downpour of compelling vocals and convoluted instrumentation. They're not disappointed.
"Tell me to sing," Storm orders.
"Sing, bitch," comes the wicked reply.
She gives it up full force--nibbles at earlobes, growls in faces. Her body pulsates gracefully, eyes vicious and voice roaring. There's no denying it: The girl can sing. And you will listen.
Beaton, the band's grounding force, knocks out light, over-the-top tones. Then, before you can swallow, he changes things up, shocking your system with a jolt of in-your-face energy. Parnell, quiet in person, takes on a new personality with sticks in hand. He's the James Dean of drummers, combining punk's edginess with the sultry timing of jazz. Davey, head low, surveys the crowd as he strums dead-on down-low tones.
Later on in the evening, as Storm makes her way through the crowd, some drunkard informs her she has dust on her ass. Could he be so kind as to wipe it off? She's polite, nicer than I would be. Then she asks me to wipe her ass off, which I'm more than happy to do. The guys look on as I brush my hand across her butt, adding a smack for a little extra fun.
After all, this is a band that seems to crave a little extra on the side. And for the fans who pack its shows week in, week out, there seems to be no end to the hunger. They want what Storm and the Balls have to give them--harder, faster, more, more, more.
Storm and the Balls play Wednesday nights at Dante's, 1 SW 3rd Ave., 226-6630. 9 pm. $5. 21+.
THE TERRIFYING NEXUS OF MUSIC AND NEWS
HISS and VINEGAR
MAKE YA FAMOUS
Last year, we here at WW took time out from making fun of furry pets and tripping Boy Scouts in the street to publish our first-ever Portland Musicians Directory. The deal was, we invited area bands to sign up for the directory via our website, providing contact information, a short description and a few other odds and sods. We did our best to make this process CRYSTAL CLEAR. Of course, the thing comes out, and a bunch of people come crying about "How come my favorite band wasn't in your directory, dude?" Well, 'cause we hate you and your favorite band, and wanted to do something special to ruin your day, obviously.
So let's take this from up top. We're publishing our second-annual Portland Musicians Directory on April 9. Any working band or musician in the Portland metro area (and, OK, you too, Salem) can snag a listing in this directory. Simply find your way to www.wweek.com and follow the links to the cleverly named Musicians Directory Sign-Up Page. There, you'll be asked to provide basic info on your band or act, and how to get ahold of ya. You need to do this by NEXT FRIDAY, March 21. If you would like your band's photo to be considered for inclusion in the guide, please mail a print suitable for publication to 822 SW 10th Ave., PDX 97205, attention MUSICIANS DIRECTORY, by the same date.
Now that we have used up our all-caps ration for the week, here's the rest of our program.
DANTE'S TONES DOWN THE WHOLE FIRE THING
Why is it that rock and roll only makes the front page when something really bad happens? After all the coverage of last month's horrific Great White incineration in Rhode Island, many Portlanders' thoughts turned to the safety situation at local clubs. For one, Dante's, probably the most fire-positive bar in town, took its usual antics down a notch following the R.I. tragedy. "It would be in poor taste to have fire this week," general manager Adam Mackintosh said shortly after the Great White blaze. Mackintosh said this period-of-mourning moratorium would end soon, pointing out that Dante's stocks twice the legally required number of fire extinguishers and has more fire exits than regs demand. "We're terribly safe here," he said of the club, which often hosts fire-dancers and other inflammatory acts.
LIFE'S RICH PAGEANT
Macy Gray, while knocking out a sub-capacity Roseland crowd last week, offered this judgment on Our President's recent war-prep press conference: "Not only was it bullshit, it was boring bullshit."...The movers behind B Complex, the inner-Southeast venue that never managed to convince the OLCC to give it a liquor permit, are trying again at the Medicine Hat on Northeast Alberta Street. We'll keep you posted...The Standard, a killa band of emotional-outburst vocals and structurally engineered riffage, is leaving Portland for North Carolina. Bon voyage...Electronica Wunderkindern Dahlia have a track on the new double-CD from the famed English compilation series Hed Kandi. They share space with Moby, Underworld, Julee "Twin Peaks" Cruise and others.
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