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The Fabulous Miss Wendy

Fabulous Birthday at The Viper Room

October 5, 2012

by Jerry Jewett

PHOTOS: Raven Servellon

The opening act on Friday was The Fabulous Miss Wendy, firing up the stage at 8:00 PM with Lil' Kenny beside her for backing vocals, Christian Alexander on drums and Craig Goldberg on bass. Wendy works as a singer/songwriter/guitarist, playing her own tunes, which feature angst, fun, frustration, self-reflection and party-animal sensibility, in varying proportions.

Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt, Chryssie Hinds and Nancy Wilson are all accomplished guitarists who have made a name for themselves in pop music. Miss Wendy is somewhat less well known, but is storming the ramparts and overwhelming venues from The Whisky, the House of Blues, and the Viper Room in Hollywood, to the concert halls of the Midwest, where she has opened for Slash and his band, at Slash's behest.

Those of us who have followed her career remember her walking into a speakeasy bar on Magnolia in North Hollywood in 2007, introducing herself to the bartender and playing a free gig. She set up her gear on the pool table and sang a half dozen tunes to a marveling crowd of regulars, which included a German-speaking Nazi sympathizer (an older immigrant from Europe), several people claiming to be actors and some very motley charactersóCheers on an SSI budget. At the end of the set, she had made a new set of friends and sold a few CDs.

Friday, she ripped the lungs out of most attendees. Watching the audience gave nearly as much entertainment as watching her. (Several women of mature years and sound discretion were watching her with an interest which was not academic.)

Wendy has an impish sense of humor, a remarkable range of facial expressions to illustrate her lyrics and is completely at ease with her audience. Being strapped into a guitar, she cannot do any pole-dancing, but seductive gyrations and getting off the stage out into the audience kept her in the forefront of the minds of everyone watching.

Her guitar work reveals a mastery of the art of shredding. Like the blues showmen and holdover remnants of the minstrel road-show tradition, she can play her guitar behind her neck (as did Hendrix) or on top of her head (as does Matthew Bellamy). At one point, she grabbed a spare pair of drumsticks and facing Mr. Alexander, joined with him on percussion. Naturally, she can play while lying on her back and crab-walking on the stage extension into the crowd.

The Viper Room has a hit-or-miss thing with vocal mixing. I have seen gigs there where every word came through fine, and others where the voice was lost behind the instruments. Lil' Kenny said half the time he couldn't hear himself, and Wendy's lines were lost in the blur a few times, though listening to her CDs or music videos shows that girl can sing! The following act's vocals came through perfectly, showing it is a coin toss sometimes at The Viper Room.

About 8:40 or so, she ripped off her shirt. She has previously doffed her shirt in mid-performance, but disentangling from her guitar to do so. Having a shirt so flimsy it can be ripped of means the music really does not stop as she gets more comfortable. The shiny metallic swimsuit top she wears keeps her mammaries covered while confirming her femininity.

This was an inflection point where more of the older women in the place began to pay closer attention to her than any of the males did. Some of those ladies seemed to really like Wendy a lot. A pan-sexual erotic appeal and frenetic energy go a long way.

As her closing tune, she rendered a stirring crescendo version of Crazy Fucked-Up Bitch. She had a jar of pink sprinkles with her. She alternated using a drumstick as a pseudo-slide,and the sprinkles jar. Soon, the jar was open and everyone close got the chance to have a quasi-baptism in pink sprinkles. Finally, it all wound down.

She dashed out the door to cool off a moment on the sidewalk near where River Phoenix died so long ago, then re-entered the club in time for the birthday celebration. She blew out the candle and then in "bob for the apple style" lunged at the cake and bit out a piece of it. Everyone lined up like the receiving line for royalty as she dispensed and received triumphant hugs. Her young fan Raven noted that Wendy has really been paying her dues. Wendy's Apprentice period ended some time back, and she has had her Journeyman's card for a good while. She is on her way to Master status, with a good wind at her back. A year older and more Fabulous than ever!