Some people still think that rock and roll is a boysâ€™ game. Women have always made rock music, but theyâ€™re often stereotyped, trivialized, or badly marketed while theyâ€™re doing their best work, and quickly forgotten when they leave the public eye. There are a few moments that stand out in this history, however, moments when women have created songs or performances so transcendently rock that they canâ€™t be forgotten. My personal list includes Joan Jett singing â€œYou Donâ€™t Own Me,â€ Patti Smith singing â€œGloria,â€ Tori Amos grinding on her piano bench while snapping, â€œSo you can make me cum, it doesnâ€™t make you Jesus,â€ and Kathleen Hanna working the stage topless, with â€œslutâ€ scrawled across her chest. Last Thursday, I saw Von Iva at Cake Shop. They made the list.
Von Ivaâ€™s music is like the beautiful love child of Le Tigre and PJ Harvey: vintage synth noises and raw, soulful vocals wrapped around a fierce punk rock rhythm section. â€œSorry, we left our penises at home, with the guitars,â€ crooned lead singer Jillian Iva, just before throwing herself into a song so ferocious and hot that it proved both tools irrelevant to their sound. Bassist Elizabeth Davis (of Tribe 8) and drummer Kelly von Guthler carry most of the weight, instrumentally, and they do it well: I defy you to stand still at a Von Iva show. They work like a force of nature, and you have to move with them. Bex Kupersmith provides shimmering disco synth chords and analog riffs, which keep the sound rough and fun. The bare, stripped-down approach leaves room for Ivaâ€™s searing voice.
Iva was the center of the show. She took to the stage in femme-pop uniform (a glittery silver dress and fierce heels), launched herself into the music hard, and did not stop moving until the show was over. Her performance style was seductive, muscular, theatrical, and challenging, reminiscent of the demonic Joan Crawford act that PJ Harvey put on for â€œTo Bring You My Love,â€ or the self-possessed sexiness of Tina Turner. She climbed the amplifiers, walked into the audience, tossed her microphone stand, and jumped onto the kick drum to dance. The Cake Shop crowd was a little cold, fashionable and reserved, and she got into our faces, taunting and provoking us until we started to move. However, with Von Iva giving such an intense performance, it was hard to choose between dancing and staring at the spectacle.
Going to a Von Iva show is like hanging out with your tough girl friend from junior high â€“ the girl who could teach you about French-kissing, give you your first cigarette, or beat the crap out of you, depending on her mood. See them live, as often as you can. This is the kind of music that lives in performance, in crowded basements and sweat â€“ the kind of music that ought to be experienced at close range. Dance, if you know whatâ€™s good for you. - Sady O.
For more information about Von Iva, including show dates, visit voniva.com.
Ms. Sady O. is a poet, essayist, and cultural critic. She also writes the Brain Porn Culture Blog.