Monday, June 1, 2009

You don't know me I am an introvert, an excavator...

Santigold w/Amanda Blank and Trouble Andrew
Ram's Head Live, Baltimore

The innovator herself, Ms. Santi White (AKA Santigold-- previously Santogold before she was nearly sued by an infomercial star!), played to an appreciative but under capacity crowd at Ram's Head last night. (Her show at 9:30 Club next week is sold out--what up Baltimore?) She's quite the performer and perfectly adorable-- those Gap ads don't do her justice. (Like Karen O, she often dresses like it's the late 80s, so her loveliness goes unnoticed.) All I can say is that I danced like I was in my living room with the shades drawn. I even hit the stationary woman next to me (I apologized!), and got beer spilled down the back of my pants, but it was well worth it.

She played most of the songs from "Santogold" plus a fab tune from her days heading the Philadelphia-based band Stiffed. She was joined onstage twice by her two openers, Amanda Blank (whose set we missed), and Trouble Andrew, who was quite entertaining himself. During the show she was flanked by 2 back-up singers/dancers, who were as cool as members of the British guard, and who Santi described as "badass bitches." When she brought members of the audience onstage for one of the encores, she cautioned them to stay away from these humorless ladies. They were dressed like they stepped out of a bad 80s sitcom, but they pulled off their moves with aplomb.

It's challenging describing Santigold's sound to others. City Paper described it as "the Pixies fronted by MIA. " A friend said he imagined that's how Beck would sound if he took female hormones. While even Santi herself understands the MIA comparison, I do not. They're both women of color playing genre-bending music, but for me that's where the similarity ends. The Beck comparison is probably more accurate (who could dispute his genre-bending?). However, to me she sounds like Siouxsie Sioux if she was born in Philly instead of London. Sure, her self-titled debut album contains some rapping, but she's not rap or hip-hop. In an interview with the NME she famously called being labeled hip-hop racist. She's got a point. Like another Brooklyn band I love, TV on the Radio, she's an African-American woman playing indie rock. I'm not sure why that's confusing to music writers or music fans, especially considering that African-Americans invented rock 'n roll.
The evolutionary mechanism that's given us humans the ability to make quick categorizations is becoming quite a liability, especially given the increasingly global nature of the world. It's no longer safe or good to fit everything into a little box. Ms. White certainly doesn't fit in one.

I think that's why her music resonates with me. Even though it's an innovative blending of styles, it's somewhat familiar as well. Perhaps it's also because we're contemporaries (like TV on the Radio, or the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, or Beck) and we grew up listening to the same kinds of music. (It's cool to have been born in the 70s!!!)

So if you haven't heard her, check her out!

Trouble Andrew's "mascot, " complete with skeleton mask (?) ! He didn't play an instrument or sing, but occasionally honked an ear-piercing bull horn and scattered dollar bills in front of a fan... I could have done without the shtick, especially since they had a decent sound. They warrant further examination, I think.

Cool chicks, Crystal and Miriam, check out a door to nowhere.

Well you're a liar and your cues are all wrong, but I can't count all the ways you woo me...

And I like sometimes to wave it high, up where everyone can see...

1 comment:

  1. Provocative intro to someone whose music I've never this blog a music ed course?
    Will check her out but sorry that Baltimore doesn't appreciate her as much as DC. Also liked the comments about the fact that indie rock coming from an African American woman is confusing the heck out of folks...who want to label everything...reminds me of pop psychology and pat diagnoses. Keep it up.