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24 Jan 2014

The Blues Turned Up: The Five Women of Jane Lee Hooker Come to California for Some Western Exposure

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Jane Lee Hooker. Jane Lee Hooker.

Jane Lee Hooker is not your average blues band.

The New York-based, all-women band features members of Nashville Pussy, Helldorado and Futurex—and they’re bringing their music to Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Feb. 1.

The members of Jane Lee Hooker are Tracy Almazan, aka High Top Tracy (formerly of Nashville Pussy and Helldorado); Tina Gorin, aka T-Bone (formerly of Helldorado and Bad Wizard); Melissa Houston, aka Cool Whip (sister of semi-local musician JP Houston); Hail Mary, aka Mary Zadroga (formerly of Wives and Futurex); and Dana Danger, aka Dana Athens.

During a recent phone interview, both Almazan and Gorin said it seemed inevitable that they would share the same stage again.

“Tracy and I were in Helldorado together in the late ’90s,” said Gorin. “We both played guitar in the five-piece band that was very heavy and guitar-driven. We bonded way back then, and we’re great friends, too. We knew one day that we’d find ourselves back to playing together.”

Added Almazan: “This is the first time I’m in a band where everybody is really on the top of their game on their instruments. I get to play with people who are really at the highest level of playing. That’s so much fun, and I’ve never really had that before.”

The band has not put out an album and has gigged mostly around New York City, meaning many music-lovers have not yet been exposed to Jane Lee Hooker. The band’s sound offers a harder-edged version of the blues and Southern rock for which both Helldorado and Nashville Pussy have been known. The sound is aggressive—and not traditional by any means.

“I’ve always loved the blues and all kinds of other music that weren’t necessarily blazingly loud and harder,” said Gorin. “The bands that we were in were extremely loud rock bands. When you go through all that, and years of tours with that kind of attitude, even when you go back to playing the blues … we have it in our blood to turn it up very loud.”

Added Almazan: “I think that Tina and I have a great love of guitars and blues music. We decided to just play blues tunes together. When you put all these people in the same room who have all these different influences, this is what came out. It’s been really great. It’s got the blues-guitar playing I love, and the aggression that I love from hardcore and punk music. It’s kind of everything I like rolled into one band.”

Gorin shared a story about a conference gig the band played in Austin, Texas.

“Somebody from Texas at the conference in Austin said to us after we finished playing, ‘You guys are so New York!’ I was so surprised and said, ‘That’s how we sound? New York?’ I guess it’s the attack, or there’s the anger or aggression that you see in New York. I didn’t realize we were that heavy.”

When many people think of women in rock who play on the aggressive side, it’s the “Riot Grrrl” scene of the early to late ’90s that comes to mind, led Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill, and the band Hole.

Gorin and Almazan were not fans.

“I loathed and hated it. I was never more lost than in that time, and I still don’t like that stuff,” Gorin said. “It was like I was expected to be so happy for them and be like, ‘Yeah, you’re waving the flag for me!’ No, I don’t like that kind of music.”

Almazan was in a band called Wives during Riot Grrrl’s popularity.

“We were really lucky we were never really grouped in with any of them, because we played so well,” Almazan said. “Instead of opening up for Riot Grrrl kind of bands, we were opening for 7 Seconds and more established male punk bands who showed us an enormous amount of respect because of our playing.”

Jane Lee Hooker should see its fan base grow as the band gets exposed to new potential fans; the band is playing three California dates with The Bluebonnets.

When I told them about the rural Pioneertown location and atmosphere of Pappy and Harriet’s, Gorin and Almazan both expressed excitement.

“I can’t wait!” said Gorin. “That’s how I picture us being really happy—onstage in a club like that. We’re from Manhattan, which is distractions everywhere, and I just want to play in a honky-tonk.”

Added Almazan, with a laugh: “We may not come back to New York. We might just stay there.”

Jane Lee Hooker plays with The Bluebonnets at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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