Vixen Revs Up Versailles

On Sunday Sept. 4, the BMI Speedway  in Versailles welcomed ‘80’s glam rockers Faster Pussycat and Vixen along with VH1 Classic ‘That Metal Show’s Don Jamieson. It was a night of adult comedy and music reliving the sunset decadence of MTV’s heyday and celebrating two bands that came to prominence in the late ‘80s and were still live and touring in 2016. The legacy indeed, lives on.

Faster Pussycat and Vixen appeared in the Penelope Spheeris documentary Decline of Western Civilization part II: TheMetal Years in 1987.

Jamieson MC’d the evening with some opening R to X-rated comedy before ‘the cats’ and ladies came out. Jamieson co-hosted TMS from 2008-2015, has opened regularly for Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, written for Lisa Lampanelli and won an Emmy for HBO’s “Inside The NFL.”

He did jokes on Ohio, Eddie Trunk, bands that tour too long in various incarnations, drugs and more drugs. He discussed gay people in music, addressing the metal gods open status and rumored measurements of various stars. He did a Dream Theater joke not everyone got, talked about homeless people that used cars for multi-tasking and took a few good natured shots at F.P. vocalist Taime Downe’s on and off stage habits. One of the biggest reactions came with a vicious “hockey” joke on Courtney Love. He ended with a great, sincere Kiefer Sutherland story.

Sunset Strip darling’s Faster Pussycat started in ’87 signing with Elektra releasing their self-titled debut the same year, landing on the cover of Screamer Magazine’s first issue. They played tunes from the first two records and 2006’s The Power and the Glory Hole along with a few selective covers.

The crowd varied in age but knew both bands catalogue, reacting to all songs. BMI was stop 14 on The Dirty 30 Tour.

“Pussy is a Powerful Thing” blared over the speakers as the band came on stage. Making his entrance veteran vocalist Downe posed for the crowd cigarette in hand decked in leather, denim and bravado. “Don’t change that Song” started the evening. They took a trip back to the best Sunset “Cat House” in LA, then celebrated lifelong indulgence on “Slip of the Tongue.”

The guitar wrenched and called out The Power and the Glory Hole on “Number one with a Bullet.” Downe took a seat straddling the spotlighted cross-chair letting the “House of Pain” come out.  Carley Simon got a nod on “You’re so Vain.”

For all the Metal Years fans “Bathroom Wall” was a flashback to early L.A. decadence.

Downe took a breather while the band played the Supersuckers “Pretty Fucked Up.” They pulled out some SoCal love for Betty Blowtorch ending with “Shut Up and Fuck.”

 

In an era when women in rock music were seen more as decorative eye candy than serious musicians four women moved to L.A. to beat the odds showing that women could play and rock. A few years later the big hair and makeup was introduced to the MTV audience with “Edge of a Broken Heart,” and “Cryin” on ‘88’s self-titled debut. They followed it up with 1990’s Rev It Up.

Original, late guitarist Jan Kuehnemund formed Vixen in the early ‘70s. An early version of the band appeared in the ’85 comedy Hardbodies under a scripted name. During the glam era, when men looked more like women, than women did, they blazed a path through the makeup, hairspray and leather to be a band that’s remembered and still active, who made their mark in a male dominated genre and era. They opened for Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne and Bon Jovi starting out. After two successful records and tour cycles from ’88-‘91 they disbanded, reforming in ’97.

An ill-fated reunion came in 2001 postponing the classic lineups return until late 2013, after the loss of Kuehnemund to cancer. They toured in 2014 honoring her memory and there’s been talk of a new album in the works.

The ladies turned on the energy from start to finish, proving some bands just get better with age. Playing with arena spirit, they brought it, still looking and playing the part, performing tracks from the first two records and a few covers. The image of the ‘80s and ‘90s was gone but the crowd celebrated the band being there in 2016.

Jamieson asked if Ohio was ready for some heavy metal Vixen style.

The femme fatales appeared ready to “Rev it Up.”  The engine stayed hot for “How much Love.” The night was still young but the stage and venue was big enough and custom made to do a little “Cruisin’.” Having a “Bad Reputation” was par for the course for the rock scene back in the day.  Guitarist Gina Stile exuded manic energy playing and performing with spry near perpetual movement, sporting an infectious wide-eyed smile running the stage like it was still vintage Vixen.

Janet Gardner asked if the crowd was ready to do some singing, only one word was needed. If you didn’t know it, you’d figure it out. They opened a can of ‘80s power ballads with “Cryin’.” In 1988 they got the rock and roll started, “I want you to rock Me.”

They gave the crowd a sing along rock lyric test, passing with flying colors.  “Not a minute too Soon” was next. They sang about those, SoCal “Streets of Paradise” paved with gold, flyers and young dreams.

Gardner took a break giving bassist Share Pederson the mic to keep on “Rockin’ in the Free World.” They got solemn and serious for a moment dedicating “Love is a Killer” to fallen bandmate Kuennemund. Gardner said she’s with them, at every show.

They got back to the hellraisin’ and broke out the “Wrecking Ball” for some destructive wall banging fun. They asked if anyone wanted to hear some Metallica, so they cranked out some Van Halen “Ain’t Talkin’ about Love.”

The keyboards hit the beginning of the encore for the big video intro to the Headbangers Ball generation “Edge of a Broken Heart.”

 

Images by Mike Ritchie

 

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