Jemina Pearl | 02.08.10

After getting in her guitarist’s face she went behind his back and finished his Rolling Rock in one defiant pull.

 The Firebird, St. Louis

Getting to The Firebird itself was a small adventure, with a snow storm settling over St. Louis so gnarly that, if you were to believe local newscasters, one should put the dog to sleep and kick a chair out from under yourself. But to those 20 or so souls who braved what may have been the most obnoxious few inches of snow I’ve ever known, the night paid off in a way none of us would have ever imagined.

The spirit inside the venue was positive, even in the face of the fact that the roads would keep the night severely unattended. The word was that both Pearl and Flaming Death Trap were late, caught in the weather, and that hopefully one of them would show up soon. While bulletPOP did their sound check with hesitation, a collection of scruffy youths came in through the door, and from across the room one could confuse them for Flaming Death Trap were it not for the tiny young woman in thrift-store chic. Of course, Flaming Death Trap fell ill to the outside conditions. A two band night it will be.

It’s unfortunate that this narrative doesn’t really involve Bulletpop other than the fact that they were witnesses, just as myself or the venue staff, and counting out their friends brought attendance dangerously close to single digits. Their set was enjoyable and energetic and the band seemed extremely excited to be playing with Pear, be it because of her former band or the strength of her personality. As the band cleared the stage and dissolved back into the modest crowd, there was a good vibe going. I’ve attended a few nights like this at The Firebird; generally the evenings end up being very fun and intimate, and I assumed that this would be the same.

At first, there seemed to be some tensions within the band that was easy to attribute to not making load-in and other things related to the general situation, the sort of tension that one would expect to subside after a few songs. That may have happened if not for her guitarist, John Eatherly, breaking the high E string on his vintage Mustang and instead of replacing the string grabbing the backup guitar, which happened to be Pearl’s Hagstrom I, a Swedish-made electric from the 1960s. In the ensuring sneers and curses the gathered incident is that somehow the top of the high E tuning peg broke off in a drop, and fearing Pearl’s wrath, no one was eager to fess up as to who did it. Between songs she would lay back into her band about the guitar; the awkwardness became so thick that the sound guy came up just to see if he could help Eatherly, who was receiving most of the brow beating. After ’fessing that he dropped the guitar, whether of out truth or just trying to shut her up, Pear screamed in his face, making punk rock jazz hands. As the guitarist exchanged glances with the drummer, she went behind his back and finished his Rolling Rock in one defiant pull, as if it were the meanest thing she could do. I was starting to imagine that this is what it must’ve been like to have seen Hole at Mississippi Nights back in the mid-’90s, soon after the death of Kurt Cobain.

It’s unfortunate that in all of this the actual performance of the band happened to be great. Pearl sounds every bit as awesome live as she does on the record and, even out of tune, Eatherly has serious riffage and tone. The band did their best given the circumstances. She sang mostly through her hair, in a sort of a Cousin It impersonation. The few times she showed her face, well, you were afraid to make eye contact. At the end of the set she tried to get the band to play one more song, but they were already taking off their instruments and removing their ear plugs. She then stormed off the stage, giving a military salute from the brow, and slammed the green room door. “What a great band!” came a voice from the crowd and, indeed, the following applause belonged to those three young men. It’s hard to say where Jemina Pearl will go if this is the tone of her tour, but you know it’s bad when your handlers are afraid to talk to you and the nicest thing you can think is, “You can tell she’s the kind of girl who doesn’t wear corduroy.” | Bryan Sutter

Live photo by Bryan Sutter

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