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Bite Me: Storey's complex songcraft has made her a Moe's favorite.

The Storey So Far

Moe's Alley really likes Nina Storey. While even faves like Candye Kane and Tony Castro only get two nights in a row, Storey will be performing for three consecutive nights. So what's the big to-do about this cutie pie with the long red locks? Well, first of all, she can belt out soulful pop tunes with a blistering five-octave voice. Secondly, her conviction and verve onstage is believably authentic. Oh, and then there's that half naked press photo.

With its blatant biblical reference to Eve and her god-forsaken apple, the picture in question features Storey standing naked from the waist up with an apple in hand, slightly opened lips and a, er, meaningful gaze--she embodies the archetype of the not-quite-innocent seductress. It's a loaded shot, one that I think could use a bit of explanation from a woman who toured on the Lilith Fair. More than just another pretty Eve, the fiery-headed temptress explains that the picture is very meaningful, conveying themes of temptation and innocence from her latest eponymously titled album.

"It's a very weighted picture," says Storey. "There was intent when we took the photographs. That record was about a lot of different things; there are the stereotypical themes like temptation, and I could put those things out there, but it's for people to interpret in their own way. If you want to make a visual connection, cool. Then, if not, they're totally separate things."

Not fully satisfied by her explanation, I turn to the album itself. After all, the strength and cohesiveness of an artist's music and accompanying art has nothing to do with reporters and their meddlesome questions. I go to the source. I find extreme pop eclecticism. She goes from rockin' electric blues to whip-cracking, booty-slapping R&B, mixing it up with dramatic piano ballads and only a moment or two of faceless VH1 anony-pop a la Des'ree's "You Gotta Be." Storey's powerhouse vocal delivery never fails, juicing up her serrated lyrics with plenty of emotional grit. And then I start to find clues.

In her bumpin', gospel ode to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil," entitled "Be With You Tonight."

She's clearly grappling with loveless sex in an age of feminine independence. Like Robert Johnson before her, Storey's choice is grave. Bible beaters, help me out--is it too much of a stretch to assert that she's subverting the Eve-il Christian paradigm of marriage by declaring the choice for pleasure-based ex-sex her own?

It's when I listen to "Never Gonna Get It," though, that I figure it all out. It's like this: Nina Storey is on her way to join those megatalented divas like Alicia Keys and Tori Amos who just so happen to make some powerful, soulful music. And if they decide to be a bit moody, a bit controversial, or even a bit naked if they so chose, well isn't that how we like our divas? Noble, feisty and wearing whatever clothes (or lack thereof) they want.

Mountain Mirah

It was a strange and eventful evening at the 418 Project last Thursday night when indie-rock goddess Mirah came round, but isn't it always going to be a hoot when K is in town? OK, not necessarily, but this show was definitely up to snuff, delivering on so many weirdly unexpected levels. It started out with a mini-tragedy when I somehow missed the drum and keys duo Romantic Retard Nation. With a voice somewhere between Billie Holiday and Beth Orton, with a bit of a drunken, French-accented Popeye thrown in to keep it real, Ruby Valentine and Le Matt have a special, sexy dance party thing going on, and I may never forgive myself for having missed it live. But I did catch the end of Janet Pants' performance, wherein she danced around the room in spandex shorts and sang while a guitarist in the corner played along to prerecorded miscellany. Bizarre. Things took a swing for the slow and sweet when Olympia native Rebecca Pearcy came out with an acoustic guitar and a pretty-pretty Aimee Mannish voice, clear as a bell and totally unpretentious. She does a beautiful folkie, countrified turn with the irresistible indie-pop-rock chord progression immortalized by the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" and Weezer's "Say It Ain't So." The song is called "Messy" and is worth the price of the album alone. Liarbird kept the mellow vibe going, but with a lot more instruments and a lot more spirited gloom, finishing the set with a sing-along about burning down squats called "Burn Down Town." And then came the headliner herself, sporting bleached and bobby-pinned hair and real indie rock glasses, and her little voice was absolutely perfect as she eased through "Apples in the Trees," "Telephone Wires" and "Make It Hot." She also sang an impassioned excerpt from Brecht's Threepenny Opera and played a song from her collaborative, grassroots effort with Ginger Brooks Takahashi called Songs From the Black Mountain Project. Then, as Ms. Yom Tov Zeitlyn is wont to do, she rousted everyone off the floor, enlisting the audience to do a stomp-clap beat as she sang. And then came the finale/encore in which she orchestrated a sort of circular conga line around the room and had us humming a two-part backup harmony while she sang her ode to love in the afternoon, "Pollen." She ended the show galloping around the outside of the circle and whooping it up like a wild woman. Fun fun fun!

Baobob Lives!

The Orchestra Baobob show at the Rio last Tuesday was everything it was hyped up to be--long on the Afro-Cuban good vibes, and heavy on the Afro part, with crystal-clear guitar licks, Wolof griot vocal stylings and lyrics in Senegalese, French and who knows what else. The show was less of a linguistics exercise than it was an African dance party, with audience members lining the aisles with flailing arms and shaking hips. If there is a next time, all y'all who missed the show best not miss it again.

Mike Connor

Safety and Lou

I worry about Lou Reed. He's all old and crazy now, with only his equally "artistic" (read: crazy) lovebird Laurie Andersen around to provide a gauge of what's supposedly normal.

Wait, what am I saying? I mean, I love that Lou Reed is totally nuts. He's been that way for a long time, which has allowed him to make the best, worst and weirdest rock & roll of the last 30 years (hey, Metal Machine Music was all three!). And, somehow, he's managed to stay pretty out there, while other senior rockers like Mick Jagger have gone hopelessly bland and boring. Reed proved as much at his show last week at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, where among other oddities Reed offered up three completely baffling appearances by his tai-chi master and a blabbiness he has possibly not displayed on stage since the tour documented on his 1978 live album Take No Prisoners (which, in interviews at the time, he said he considered titling Lou Reed Talks and Talks). Lou seriously chatted it up during the opening "Sweet Jane," and showed classic NYC attitude all night while challenging noise ordinances, finding long-lost relatives in the audience and unleashing the best possible version of "Street Hassle" one could ever hope to hear. The rest of the set included everything from Songs for Drella's "Smalltown" to an amazing encore of the Velvet Underground's "Candy Says." And I gotta say, seeing him do his new, satisfyingly weird version of the "The Raven" in front of the winery's Gothic-castle backdrop (I mean, it is an actual castle) was pretty unbeatable.

Steve Palopoli

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From the July 2-9, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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