Verna Beware, Killola, and Kristeen Young

At Muddy Waters Cafe, Thursday, May 21

When you think of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s hard not to think of old timers like Mick and Axl - and we can’t blame you, those guys are legends. But what ever happened to classic rock? Where’s our next Pete Townshend? It’s heartbreaking to admit, but rock ‘n’ roll has disappeared from mainstream radio, replaced by pop punksters and rapping rockers. And the stuff that made ‘60s tunes tick has become the main influence on today’s underground culture. Still, those in the know seem to be spawning a bit of a revival movement; a return to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll that’s fueled by sex, drugs, and women.

On Thursday night, the movement was in full force when St. Louis singer Kristeen Young and drummer “Baby” Jef White opened up for Killola and Verna Beware at Muddy Waters Cafe. The two-piece band redefined the piano’s place as a backup instrument. And thanks to her mind-blowing, shrill voice, Young transformed her classy accompanist into a dominatrix-like caricature. We saw it best with their performance of “Stop Thinking,” which played out like a battle between Young’s belting voice and her piano’s fury. One setback was Muddy’s tight acoustics, which distorted the drumming noticeably. No doubt, if the venue’s acoustics had been more accommodating, the performance would have been beyond impressive. Next, we got a taste of Killola, a No Doubt-inspired four-piece band starring rocker chick Lisa Rieffel. Rieffel’s delightfully coarse (yet decidedly pop-friendly) voice partners perfectly with the band’s classic backbeat, making Killola perfect music to head-bang to. The highlight of the night: “All My Idols Are Dead.”

Closing out the night was Santa Barbara band Verna Beware. Though they’re young in age, these guys proved themselves to be a fine example of the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Combining the vocals of lead singer Kyran Million and the band’s creative twist on the classic rock genre, audience members were treated to gems like the sure-to-be-a-hit “Then Came the Fever.” Verna Beware can keep a clear melody while still showcasing a wild rock edge, and it’s easy to tell how hard they work to keep that balance steady. The band also works to keep its instrumentation from overwhelming its sound, in turn reassuring me that rock ‘n’ roll might be more than just sex, drugs, and lady lovin’ - talent and hard work are still key players. In any case, the rock was alive and well on Thursday night, and will likely be sticking around for a while - especially if Verna Beware has anything to say about it.

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