Psst, here's the juicy dish on this randy trio returning to the Triangle from the great Northwest: Originally from the tiny town of Searcy, Ark., they moved to Olympia, Wash., and started playing together. They were each around 20. The DIY attitude has been active in the town outside Seattle since before the days of Nirvana, fostering important independent labels like K Records and Kill Rock Stars. Fast forward a few years and a few less flannel shirts, and The Gossip have made waves of their own with a stripped-down punk-blues--slashing guitar chords, a primitive backbeat and a soulful, charismatic singer who gyrates to the sexy music.
The female-led group's tricked-out rhythm section is Kathy Mendonca bashing at her drums, and guitarist Nathan Howdeshell, ripping through meaty, blues-tinged riffs. The unhinged singer Beth Ditto is a real performer, covering every inch of the stage, using songs as outright come-ons. Oh, and those pipes! It's as if Detroit underground geniuses The Gories made good with a beautiful bawdy soul singer. In "And You Know," from their debut That's Not What I Heard, she proclaims, "Ain't nothin' like a Southern Girl" in a great reinterpretation of old gender mythology. The group has an equal alignment with both '60s garage punk (borrowing licks from The Sonics, for instance) and modern rock like Sleater Kinney (who took The Gossip on tour with them). In their most recent batch of tunes, an EP appropriately titled Arkansas Heat, the trio sharpens their political edge on tracks like the stretched-out "(Take Back) The Revolution."
In this all too rare marriage of dance-ability and vocal activism, The Gossip scratch up social topics important to them: queer issues, feminism and body politics. In an article she wrote for Jane magazine last year, Ditto tore into the music business and its limiting concept of women in rock: "The fact is that the industry would rather see a starved woman wearing an ugly outfit ... than see someone like me--a real woman, at 220 pounds and 5 feet 2 inches tall--sing her guts out and shake her ass the way rock and roll was intended." Amen.
For those who missed their raucous show in Carrboro last year, step up. Know that you will move. Gossip about The Gossip? Well, they almost broke up a few months ago, but they've thankfully thought wiser. Oh, and when once asked her Top Ten "make-out" wish list, Ms. Ditto's reply was simply: "Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott, and that's it." The Gossip appear with Seattle dance-punks The Chromatics and moody women rockers Dame Fate (from D.C.) this Friday, June 7 at Go! Room 4 in Carrboro. --Chris Toenes