Blue Jay Café isn’t exactly the ideal place for a band to play. It’s essentially a fancy diner, with a rounded middle part that faces you away from the makeshift stage on a platform where a booth used to be. There are wires snaking all over the ground, and it’s easy to tell who are friends of the band and who’s just there for the red stripe and boiled shrimp special.
You can tell it’s not a place that bands play often, and immediately the atmosphere seems to set up the band for a cramped and makeshift live show. Still, Women of the Tenderloin is determined to bring it. Chris Moore, a tall skinny guy with nerd-chic glasses and a sharp-looking shirt sits on a bench fiddling with an electronic tube driven noise machine – a nice change from the laptops that seem to permeate the electronic music scene. The other half of WOTL, Sky Madden, equally lanky with a curtain of hair that has a tendency to fall into her face when she plays, has a keyboard with one side labeled “legs/skin” and the other side labeled “mouth/hair.” Everywhere on the stage are guitars, beat loopers, and speakers – I have never seen a college band with so many instruments.
When they begin to play, I instantly get what they’re going for. Like bebop musicians with synthesizers it seems improvised yet intelligent, and the No Wave/Aphex Twin inspirations are clear. They are minimalists, slightly disorganized, but ultimately weird and endearing. It’s hard to distinguish one song from another, and their set seems to be an endless riot of noise. Somewhat Darkwave, they remind of Bauhaus sans vocals, or The Locust sans screaming. I haven’t seen anything like this since I watched a drag queen in a head-to-toe spandex body suit scream covers of Yoko Ono songs. Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is going on, but all I know is that I like it. The crowd has mixed reactions. One guy exclaims, “I feel like a Goth,” bopping his head along to the music. A shaggy haired guy to my right appears to be digging it, tapping his feet and sucking on his beer. The people eating their boiled shrimp appear to barely notice, but I’m down with the vibe. Toward the end of their set, Chris invites a friend in the audience up to do some “ambient vocals” which seems to consist of the friend droning quietly over the beat. The WOTL definitely lack a definitive stage presence and performance, but considering the venue, it’s understandable. However, WOTL has all the base ingredients to make the perfect, freaky funked-out band. A couple furry jackets a la parliament funkadelic and some on-stage hi-jinks would only serve to elevate a good sound into an enjoyable performance. In-between sets, the band chats with patrons, smokes cigarettes, and fiddles with the various sound-making machines. They seem like cool, down to earth people, intent on doing something different. It’s a shame there aren’t more college bands like WOTL – People who aren’t afraid to make music that not everyone will like, who are more concerned about rocking out than pleasing a crowd. WOTL is worth seeing – once they play a venue with a stage large enough to accommodate performance. Seeing a band with potential like this is always amazing – genuinely talented people are few and far between, so a band like this in its infant stages is great. Woman of the Tenderloin as their sound locked down, and just needs to develop an atheistic. With the right kind of venue and stage presence, I can see WOTL becoming a hit, even if it’s only amongst freaks like me.