Otep Show Review
Otep show review April 23, 2008 At Masquerade
By Barbara Fara
Otep Shamaya: vocals (2000-)
“Evil" J. McGuire: bass/backing Vocals (2000-)
Aaron Nordstrom: guitars (2007-)
Brian "Haggis" Wolff: drums (2006-)
Prior to the night of April 23, 08 – I had contacted KOCH Records to cover Otep Shamaya at the Masquerade. At the showcase was Anew Revolution and a local band called InGrain. As usual, the club was hot, sticky and smelly because of some sound ordinance that Shirley Franklin had passed due to sound pollution so they could not turn on their fans. I am not going to lie about this – I did miss the opening band Ingrain, but we did catch ANR, and then comes on this short little blond. Here is the funny part before I even do this review; Otep was walking around in the crowds and my business partner thought she was me more than once. This is scary but I take it as a compliment - so this girl can mesh into a crowd and no one notices. The one thing I love about Otep is this, she may be a female, she may be a lesbian, but she has one big set of balls as a singer. I had kids asking me to take photos of their Otep tattoos on their bodies. Otep considers her fans to be her family and they adore the ground she walks on. Otep has had in the past some serious issues with her former label, but in KOCH she found a home. They give her the freedom of speech that she deserves.
Back to the smelly and hot Masquerade; Evil Jay comes out with his bass, then Aaron on guitar and then Brian on drums and everyone starts jamming…everyone is waiting for Otep to appear on stage. They played a long musical intro that got everyone pumped. Don’t get me wrong, ANR was a great opener for her, any other band and she wouldn’t have needed an opener at all. What got me was – when everyone was prepping for her to come out; out comes this little red wash basin, turned upside down with every sticker you can imagine from “I heart vaginas” and so forth. I wondered what this was for. Meanwhile my new second gun was afraid to get in the pit it was so crazy. All I know was the crowd started chanting her name over and over and out comes this little blond, my height maybe shorter, and she uses that red can to stand on because she was so tiny. It lets the world know she is a lesbian. She came out wearing jeans, a vest; she was dressed like a normal person. She was just herself. When the crowd saw her they lost their mind. She started with Warhead, Confrontation, I Hate My Life, Eet The children and then she did the opening song from her new album. The one thing that got me was that after she did Ghostflowers, she brought up the late Kurt Cobain and said that we needed his voice back. Out of every band, male or female that have done covers of Nirvana songs, this girl, Otep, pulled off Breed with a fury. She did it really beautifullly and did not turn out a brassy copy as many other artists have done trying to cover Nirvana. She kept the score and lyrics as they should be and you could feel the ghost of Cobain watching down and giving his approval.
Most death growlers out there are men, and I did not expect this out of Otep; she has a set of pipes that would crack a set of Waterford crystal. The show lasted about an hour and a half. She went through costume changes – a white mesh bag over her face, then her little blue hat and sunglasses and if you looked very carefully, they were taped over the eyepieces but so that she could look out. If I would have told you the rest of the masks she wore, it would not make you want to see her.
All the years I have shot the Masq, I have never seen a woman vocalist pull in a crowd the size that she pulled in; it was like going to a KMFDM show. I had boys asking me if she was available, I explained her preference but they don’t care, they just love her. They think that she is god’s gift and she is: she is groundbreaking. She has the energy of Chris Barnes on vocals, the body energy of Brent Smith from Shinedown and of course, and her own personal energy. What people don’t understand is this: most fans of hers are kids that are hurting – emotionally and physically. She understands what they go through. When I interviewed Otep, and you must, must check out the interview – I did ask her one question. On her Myspace, does she answer her own emails? She tries to get back to all her fans when she has a chance. Don’t think she is abandoning you, when she has the time; she does check them herself and will answer them.
Back to the show - she got up there and pulled off what I only thought a male could do, and that is the power in the way she sings. Her voice is tremendous. Every one of her songs is written from the heart and soul, she gets a little help from the band, but basically she is the main lyricist. By the time she got off it was nearly midnight, and I am not complaining, but at this point in her career, she should be the headliner and the headliner only – I am not saying this as a woman, but a journalist. As she left the stage, Joey from ANR was doing his meet and greet, Ingrain was in the audience chatting with fans, but the minute she gets offstage, the crowd begins chanting again. Her crowd pleasing encore was “I Hate My Life.” There was no body surfing or moshing – well, a couple of bodies – but no ruckus – these kids were listening to her and what she had to say.
Here is a secret – there is a place on Myspace that says “Demand It” - type in your zip and demand that she returns to Atlanta. She is not Arch Enemy with Angela Gasgow, and she is not Straight Line Stitch with Alexis Brown – she is herself. She does not compare herself with anybody. She is Otep. When I interviewed her she refused one question – when her birthday is. I did not mind. When you read the interview it is very in depth and intelligent. She works with the RAINN project and gives a sex advice column in Interlude Magazine that should be starting this month or next. Otep, we would like you to do a column for Musicincider, but we can’t pay you.
If you are a parent and your kids bring home Otep’s cd; even if they are not in an abusive household in any way, remember there are kids that are in school that are being picked on constantly, and this artist may be the one to help this kid get through the emotional pain they are going through. That is the one thing that bothers me about parents; their kid tells them something is happening at school and parents are too busy to listen. If you have an ipod, download this album and you will understand where this kid is coming from. Feel the pain and the anguish that your kid is going through and sit down and talk to them. My saying is this: if you had a bad day, don’t bitch at me, tell me what happened and we will find an answer. For her fans, her music is the answer to their problems and that night as she performed – that tiny little blond answered every kid’s question musically. Her brassiness, her creativity… there was not holding her back – she talked to her fans and asked how everyone was. She actually cares about her fans. Join her street team. Now, here is the big bitch. And this upsets me: at one point in the beginning of her career, she appeared on Ozzfest in the second stage. This band should have been on the Warped tour, Project Rev, Mayhem and they should be here for the Atlantis Music Conference, where you go to the show and go to every club in ATL. Me, I plant my ass at one place, the Masq. She should also be a guest speakers at a seminar like “What does it take for a woman to make it in the music biz.” It would be great for her.
Not forgetting about the show, which we will go back to, was that when I took her photos, being the psychic that I am, her photos as you see on the site looks like smoke machine – there was no smoke machine. This energy was emanating from her soul and you can see the spirits coming from her. In one photo there is a woman looking down from her head. There is something interesting in each shot of her. All the other band members had nothing even remotely similar outside of maybe Alice Cooper; she does not simply sing but puts on a full showcase. At one point the band members came out with the mask from V for Vendetta. Her mike stand is covered with doll heads – her music was being released in a movie for her soundtrack. It was done perfectly. The lighting was great the sound was great and the crowd respected her. She could have gone on for another two hours; she has that kind of energy. When I first heard her sing Confrontation, I thought, she can go from being a normal vocalist to a growler and I almost shit. I have never seen another woman do that and she rocked the house. I hope to God that when she does come back, not knocking the Masq, but I think it’s time that she plays the Roxy or Tabernacle. When you are a band, you always start at the Masq. It is like what CBGB’S was to NY. But there is some point in a band’s career that a band graduates from the Masq and moves on to the Tabernacle or Roxy. I would love to see that. And yes, Otep, you can bring your little stand as Shinedown did the same thing. I am short myself and can see why they need their little cans. That prop makes you pay more attention to the singer. If you have the chance this time around on her tour, I know she is covering the west coast, but do not be a fool: if you want to see a good show, go see Otep Shamaya on tour. I give her credit; she keeps her private life personal and does live blogging for her fans on Myspace. She is not just suing her fans to make a buck; she truly cares and does not forget about them. If you don’t want her to be forgotten, go see her and catch her if you can. Buy the CD, enjoy the CD, and realize that no matter what that question is in your head, you will find the answer through her music. This would be my first female performer I covered this year. Don’t get me wrong, Lucia from KMFDM and Alexis from Straight Line Stitch care about their fans and their product. So drop her an email, even if you have to put Personal in the subject line. Tell her how great her music and shows are. This person, she is the female Dr. Feelgood -not drug wise - but emotionally wise. Dr. Otep there to help you lift your problems so don’t miss the chance to see her.
To the parents of my minions, may I ask you one question: when you see Aerosmith, do you see your kids going home and taking your music telling you not to listen? No, so don’t do the same to them. When you crazy kids are having a great time at your shows, your kids might cringe but they don’t tell you what to listen to. So let them listen to their music so they can open their minds and express themselves. Also to the parents of my minions, if you are so concerned, when she does come nearby – go to the show and see for yourself. Don’t let your kids see you (the horror), but see what all the rage is all about - Otep Shamaya - then you will see why your kids love her so much just as you loved your music.
Back to the show, during the encore as I was leaving, you could still hear her performing outside the Masq. This has nothing to do with vocal range that you could hear her half a block away. Everything was fantastic. But mostly what got me was her bringing up Kurt before Breed, I heard somebody say something about Kurt. She did it with style, she did not make his music look like a piece of shit and did Francis Bean a favor by doing it with class which is what he was known. Bring back the father of grunge back from the dead and that will stick with me forever. If you had the time, read the cd review, interview and buy that cd. And same to you parents, buy the cd.
My darlings, catch her show and join her Myspace and check out her main page. KOCH showed her they are not in it for the money but for the musician. They actually listen to the music and treat them with respect and understanding. Now we know that Otep is the first female woman growler to make the high times musically for all women and this is one thing you cannot forget. So please, go see the show and enjoy it. Parents, if you take their Otep cd away from them and destroy it, I give my minions permission to take your parents bands on vinyl (HINT: the big, black round things called 33, smaller ones are 45’s ) and cds and destroy their favorite band sine they took yours away. Support the woman as a musician, as an activist for gay rights and women’s rights and respect her for this. Get to know her before you knock her. She is a talent. Otep brings out the fury and death growls. I have not seen this before so take the time and listen. Parents, once you hear this album, ask your child, what do you like about it, what turns you on about it, get on their wavelength and tell them you are there to help them and that they are someone you can trust.