Antigone Rising: Let The Music Do The Talking

The South by Southwest Music and Media Conference – music’s version of the Sundance Film Festival – has naturally become the fitting event to be both heard and discovered. It was only more fitting that Antigone Rising experienced their coming out party at this year’s event. Following their gutsy performances, Antigone Rising was proclaimed in a Rolling Stone spread by renowned critic David Fricke: “Signed to Lava Records, these five women turned in the killer Big Rock show of the festival, with Lynyrd Skynyrd-army guitars, the country-gospel harmonies of a biker Dixie Chicks and a Janis Joplin-esque vocal dynamo named Cassidy.”

Obviously an impressive showing, but Cassidy herself reflects on her band’s time spent in front of industry big wigs a bit more humbly. “It’s not more special because David Fricke is in the audience,” she notes. “The biggest thing that we do when we see that David Fricke is in the audience is that we say, ‘God, let the sound be good, let the crowd get it and I just hope that there is no feedback and that the power doesn’t go out.’ And I think because of [Thursday’s] Lava showcase that enough people saw it and were talking about it, that our Friday night showcase was so packed. It ended up being shocking, we couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘alright girls, now its time to show them our stuff.’” This “stuff” happens to be Antigone Rising’s sucker punch brand of rock, that is quickly bringing the group to the forefront, including a recent opening gig for Aerosmith.

Featuring Cassidy on lead vocals, guitarist sisters Cathy & Kristen Henderson, Dena Tauirello (drums) and Jen Zielenbach (bass guitar), Anitgone Rising has been on the road since 1999, hitting the highways in their van, aptly titled Vanna White, and gaining the momentum needed to sign with Lava Records. Now with their self-released live EP, Traveling Circus released, a major label behind them and the chatter growing louder, the girls have been able to focus on larger markets and bigger audiences. “Well, we have noticed a shift that has been really exciting,” Cassidy admits. “We have been touring for awhile and for a very long time we were underestimated. Let’s be honest, we just were. People didn’t expect very much from us. We were never the buzz band. People were shocked when we got our record deal.”

You could say that Antigone Rising is carrying on the tradition of the Runaways, one of rock’s first female outfits to combine garage rock and glam. But T&A; aside, that’s as absurd as saying The Backstreet Boys are carrying on the tradition of fellow boy band, The Beatles. With Cassidy’s blues-drenched wails and charismatic flair accompanied with Henderson’s long-haired acrobatic leads, the band is closer to carrying on the tradition of Aerosmith and the Black Crowes. However, it’s hard to escape the gender examination anytime these hard rocking “chicks” hit the stage. Leave it to the confident Cassidy to proclaim that, “the girls are amazing musicians and I would put them up against any guy, in any band, any day of the week.” You ready for the challenge Joe Perry?

In the 1990’s, and the birth of “alternative nation,” female rock bands suddenly noticeable and became known for rocking as hard as their more common male counterparts. L7, Veruca Salt, Luscious Jackson, Hole, The Breeders and 4 Non Blondes received generous radio play alongside the likes of such archetypal 90’s bands; Tool, Live, Smashing Pumpkins, Bush and Pearl Jam. “There were some really cool girl bands for awhile. Maybe we’ll open the door up again” Cassidy says with honest hope, and a touch of industry realism. “It’s still considered a novelty thing and a radio station will only play a certain amount of female artists in the rotation. We’re not in the same playing field, we’re not considered equals. Its probably [fair] to say management or record labels will only sign a certain amount of women a year or radio stations will only play a certain amount of women a year, so there is a very, very tiny window for us girls to get in there.”

With the recent popularity of Britain’s retro-glam rockers The Darkness, shades of classic rock are once again back in the spotlight. Antigone Rising blossoms in that over-the-top atmosphere, adhering more to arena rock excitement than the head down, keep playing philosophy of many of Antigone’s contemporaries. It’s these more grandiose elements of classic rock – The AC/DC’s, Queens, the Led Zeppelins, that the five-piece grew up admiring as Cassidy explains. “We want to relate to the audience. We want to put on a show. We want people to have a good time when they are there.”

Still, classics are only a part of the band’s inspiration. They also take cues from fellow upstate rockers, moe., a band more identified with their musical interplay and risk-taking, than onstage showmanship. “moe. was a big deal because their fans are so loyal. We felt if we can win over a few of their fans, we’d have fans for life and would help spread the word, ” Cassidy continues, “moe. fans like real music and they aren’t posers. If you’re pleasing those fans, you’re doing something right.”

It was after opening a series of gigs for the jam rockers, that the band learned more precisely how to play together as a unit, listening to one another and playing off each others personalities. They also learned the significance of making each performance unique, stretching out musically and the respond/react model – most notable in the epic song “Buying Bridges,” which features a blistering guitar jam that no grizzly male rocker could ignore. But most importantly, moe. showed Antigone Rising the important lesson of “serving” their fans, and building a two-way relationship between the stage and crowd, that they have more than adopted for themselves. Conversations between the band and audience have become an essential ingredient in the Antigone Rising art form, with Cassidy generously playing the role of host and ambassador with shades of a rock n’ roll rebel.

In the end, it seems Joe Perry was up to the Antigone Rise challenge after all. After Steven Tyler listened to Traveling Circus and openers Cheap Trick couldn’t make a rescheduled show on June 30th at the PNC Arts Center, the iconic rocker gave Antigone Rising the nod. If this big-time dream gig wasn’t enough of a highlight for Cassidy, she later joined the Boston bad boys on stage for a version of “Walk This Way.” And she thought South by Southwest and Bonnaroo were this year’s highlights…just stick around.

Related Content

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide