Girlschool & Crucified Barbara lead Rock Surge NYC 6-14-15 w/ Old James & Velvet Black

On Sunday, June 14th, 2015, the monotony of the boy’s club that is Heavy Metal was about to be broken wide open. In the intimate confines of St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, lucky metropolitan area fans were about to catch the final show of pioneering U.K Heavy Metal band Girlschool and their Guilty As Sin tour, which is their first stateside jaunt since way back in 1993. Their direct support had come all the way from Stockholm, Sweden, in the form of the hard charging Crucified Barbara, another all-female assault of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal grandeur. Spanning two generations, this special billing was something not to be missed, and despite its being a Sunday night, the venue quickly filled up with punks and metalheads alike.

Before the ladies could take over the stage, however, fans were treated to a solid set by the loud and brash Velvet Black. Coming from Quebec City, QC, in Canada, the three-piece had a Hard Rock exterior with a grungy, bluesy soul lurking underneath. The highly talented Gee proved to be a versatile singer live, his infectious voice and killer bass guitar playing blending well with drummer JP’s rhythm and guitarist Jessy’s fretwork. Their highly instrumental set at once resembled classic Alice in Chains and Nirvana, mixed with the attitude and panache of a George Thorogood. It’s little wonder these guys won some serious battle of the band competitions in their native Quebec. Gee’s charismatic delivery ensured the fans’ attention was on him, and with a debut album in the works for Native Alien records, good things are afoot for Velvet Black. Fans were even treated to a relatively rare sight in the world of Heavy Metal, which was Gee adroitly playing a harmonica for the song “Rise and Shine.” They gave the crowd a sterling cover of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” as well.

Next up was another visit from a Canadian band, this time in the form of Old James. Continuing the theme of noisy, garage oriented Hard Rock, lead singer Brian Stephenson led the way with a highly energetic vocal performance. Featuring tons of theatrics, the shirtless, long-haired front man was the picture of Spinal Tap-esque moves and poses, infusing barrels of energy into St. Vitus as the band even treated fans to an exclusive tour performance of the song “Kill Off the Rose.” Also on Native Alien Records, the Toronto four-piece has been called one of the best Hard Rock bands in Canada. The crowd was engaged by their performance, enjoying Old James’ flair for ’70s Rock and hard edged modern Garage Rock sensibilities.


With the crowd now gathering thick in the main room, it was time for the ladies to take over the night. The red and black banner hung behind the stage with the urban backdrop over the words “Crucified Barbara,” leaving no doubt that the heat was about to be turned up. People were very excited to see the Swedish quartet returning to New York. One fan even traveled all the way from  Bozeman, Montana, following the band Grateful Dead style more than halfway across the country.


To a raucous shout from the crowd, the Stockholm natives took the stage and blasted straight into “Shadows” off their sizzling Despotz Record debut In The Red. The hard charging rocker, with its multi-voiced chorus, pulled in the crowd and had hands in the air, in time for another new one, “To Kill A Man.” As Crucified Barbara explored the darker side of their natures, their enthusiasm for the New York crowd was plain to behold. At stage left, guitarist Klara Force glared at the crowd, a small smile of appreciation dancing on her lips as she ripped through the chords. To stage right, Ida Evileye was a whirlwind on the bass, blonde hair flailing with each bang of her head. Meanwhile, behind them all, drummer Nicki Wicked hammered her kit, her pleasant smile the exact opposite of her deadly serious playing.


Numbers like “Rock Me Like the Devil,” with its trade-off chorus, showed the ladies countering singer Mia Coldheart’s rough-edged vocals with some clean lines of their own. The speedy, metallic drive of album single “Lunatic #1” showed off Mia’s amazing vocal talents. Her brown hair veiled her face as she sang, once in a while giving the crowd a view of the black mascara she had drawn in lines down her cheeks. Her Punk meets Glam-Metal snarl has much more in its repertoire, though, and after another angry anthem in “I Sell My Kids For Rock-n-Roll,” Mia Coldheart displayed the nuances of her voice with a spellbinding rendition of “My Heart Is Black” off of 2005’s In Distortion We Trust. When she held aloft her own Excalibur – the black guitar she plays so well – and said, “I dedicate my love to this flying-V,” the pause of silence in the song was immediately filled with whoops and shouts from the gathered crowd.


The final triumvirate of “Crucifier,” “Electric Sky,” and “Into The Fire” melted the walls off of St. Vitus, leaving no one unmoved and unconvinced that these ladies kick more ass than a bad-tempered headmaster from the 1950s. “Crucifier” ventures into Speed Metal territory, where doing it live the ladies destroy with precision and a streetwise snarl. “Electric Sky,” a stadium-rock anthem with an infectious chorus, had fists pumping while scorching closer “Into The Fire” was the exclamation point on the whole set. Crucified Barbara was amazing in such an intimate setting, but don’t expect them to remain in such small venues for too long here in the states. Their music is a fundamental artery straight from Heavy Metal’s storied heart, and its direct approach is a breath of fresh air and a black leather boot right in the ass. As the ladies took a bow, it was clear the crowd would have been thrilled to see them play for another hour.


The buzz of excitement was now firmly in place at St. Vitus. This happens when fans at a show really begin to comprehend how spoiled and lucky they are of a given night. With Crucified Barbara behind them, the walls still sweating from their torrid performance, fans knew that the elder stateswomen of New Wave of British Heavy Metal were about to take the stage. Girlschool, coming from the U.K., had not been to these shores since 1993. They began life in 1975, at a time when women were only just beginning to acquire equal rights in schools, workplaces, and their own homes. In the world of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, women had an even bigger struggle ahead of them. For Girlschool, they knew only one way to deal with it, and that was to throw up the two-finger salute and soldier on.

As founding drummer Denise Dufort sat behind the kit, the roar from the crowd was a palpable wave of heartfelt appreciation. Kim McAulliffe and Enid Williams took the stage right after, venerable yet beautiful. Last came Jackie Chambers, greeting the crowd with a smile as she prepared to tear the place down. As pioneers and professionals, they carry themselves with both the experience of decades and the exuberance of having just formed a band. Rumbling right into “Demolition Boys,” it was instantly clear that Girlschool is as much Street Punk as they are New-Wave-of-British-Heavy-Metal. As evidenced by the number of mohawks and punk rockers scattered through the crowd, one could see the crossover appeal that Girlschool maintains. Their energy as they plowed through enjoyable, hard charging songs like “Come On, Let’s Go,” “The Hunter,” and “Hit And Run” was amazing. They may be advancing in years, but much like their male British colleagues in Iron Maiden, the ladies of Girlschool had more energy than some bands twice their junior.


Between songs, Kim McAulliffe was super polite and gracious, her warm accent inciting many a smile from adoring fans of all ages. As she introduced one song as, “I have two words for you, but they’re not rude,” the crowd tittered along with her infectious smile. When she grinned and said, “I never say rude things,” there was a burst of laughter and applause. Rude? Perhaps not, but the jamming, Hard Rock edge to their music was inarguable.

On this tour, Girlschool busted out some brand new songs, namely “Come the Revolution” and “Take It Like A Band.” Both songs were sizzling, and if this is any indication of what their new material is going to be like, fans are in store for some seriously great material. A whole new generation of young girls growing up will have another example proving, “Yes, you CAN do anything the boys can do.'” And this, of course, is priceless by itself. For the rest of humanity, life is good when music is this awesome. Fans were thrilled by the new numbers, and their jostling and jumping only increased when Girlschool hammered out “Screaming Blue Murder” and “Kick it Down.” The former has a very Punk Rock gang vocal trade-off, which ups the attitude considerably. These songs transported the crowd back to smoky London nights in the Thatcher years, the blue collar aesthetic clear from the get-go.

Girlschool closed out their set with “Race With The Devil” and “Emergency,” both of which had the packed venue jumping. It was a marvelous performance, but it wasn’t over yet. A veteran of a thousand performances, Kim McAuliffe dispensed with leaving for the encore and simply said, “You know, we are going to play a few more.” And that is what they did, concluding the night by bringing Crucified Barbara up on stage with them. The Swedish ladies were humbled and happy to share the stage, as two generations of Heavy Metal bands went arm in arm for “Take It All Away” and “Tonight.” And that is what it was about: taking away the preconceived notions of age, sex, and whatever else people get hung up on these days.


The night ended in applause and hugs among the band members, as this was the final night of the Guilty As Sin tour and a time for many warm goodbyes. The bands did a lot of that on stage together, and in this small venue deep in the warrens of Brooklyn, fans bore witness to pioneering women who paved the way for bands like Crucified Barbara, who work hard and pay their dues, the way Girlschool has for so long. Both bands were amazing, and if there is anyone left out there who doubts that the fairer sex should probably be called the fiercer sex, well their opinion is a dying, fading thing. And as the venue slowly emptied, fans knew they had seen something special.

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