The saviors of rock? Plush ladies rock harder than most
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ
It started slowly, as the opening band’s intro music played to a quiet audience at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City.
Plush ripped through their opener, “Athena,” hammering out power chords and sending vocals soaring through the rafters. Just before the guitar solo, it all came to a halt when vocalist and rhythm guitarist Moriah Formica played a dramatic chord, and the first whoops emanated from the crowd.
The crowd roared in appreciation for their cover of Heart’s “Barracuda,” on which Formica eerily channels Ann Wilson (something few singers on this planet can do), and cheered even louder at its completion.
Each successive song received more applause until the end of their 30-minute set which left much of the crowd on their feet, giving a standing ovation to a band few had heard of when bought tickets to see the headliner, Slash.
It’s been that way for months now for Plush, the all-female, shockingly young metal quartet from upstate New York who breathe new life into hard rock and put an end, once and for all, to the notion misguided and misogynistic that girls can’t rock as hard as guys.
Anyone who has ever heard Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Blondie’s Deborah Harry, Pat Benatar, Janis Joplin, Starship’s Grace Slick, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Melissa Etheridge or Tina Turner knows how important this point of view is ridiculous. East. And yet it persists in some quarters.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is seen as a kind of harsh, aggressive, straight-faced rawness,” Formica said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people think women aren’t aggressive. There are women who rock – and rock hard – but it’s always like, ‘She’s a girl, that’s laughable.’ That’s a big reason women haven’t necessarily been as recognized as men in rock because they’re not “tough enough” which is so wrong. Women can be damn vicious!”
Plush is simultaneously vicious, melodic, sensitive and pompous. Their self-titled debut album last October was adored by critics, and they’ve toured virtually non-stop with Halestorm and Evanescence – female-led bands who are idols for all four members of Plush – as well as gigs with Daughtry, Sevendust, Mammoth WVH and more recently Slash.
Their influences also include female rock icons, but these young women cut their musical teeth in bands like Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, Alice In Chains and Skid Row.
They have clearly done their homework on what came before them. Lead guitarist Bella Perron (a Maine native and Plush’s only non-New Yorker) grew up thinking that Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley “was simply the coolest human being on the planet.” When asked about the best guitar riff in history, she immediately came up with Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” His favorite solo is Randy Rhoads’ mind-blowing shred in Ozzy Osbourne’s “Over The Mountain”.
Bassist Ashley Suppa’s favorite bass line is the melodic and dynamic foundation of Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs,” and there’s no cooler drum intro for Brooke Colucci than “When the Levee Breaks.” of Zep.
They’ve also mastered the smallest details, from Perron’s finger riff during the second verse of “Barracuda” to her high kick to punctuate a particular power chord – things Heart’s Nancy Wilson has been doing for decades.
And rock star poses and hairstyles seem to come naturally to them, to the point that it looks like they’ve been doing it for 30 years. (Formica is 21 and the other three are only 19.)
“A year ago I was in high school,” Colucci said. “I had no idea what it was like to be out on the road, putting on music. It’s a lot of work. But it’s fun work.
“It’s just a really exciting time for rock,” Perron said. “I got into Halestorm when I was 12, and Nita Strauss had just joined Alice Cooper. They’re my first female guitarists to look up to. It’s really important to support women in rock, to stick together and to inspire young people to pursue their dreams, no matter if there is something against them.
“It’s amazing to see this rig become more feminine,” added Suppa, the rising bassist who seems to be on a mission to single-handedly bring back the bell bottoms. “It’s mostly a male-dominated thing. It was really nice to be part of this brotherhood with the women we met.
Their music deals with the dark side of relationships, but almost every song ends with the protagonist realizing she’s in a no-win situation, cutting her losses and moving on.
“It’s easy for people to say, ‘Oh, I’m heartbroken, it’s the end of the world,'” Formica, who wrote the group’s debut single, “Hate,” about a failed relationship. “And it is, for a second. But things must continue. Pick yourself up and keep going, because if you don’t, no one else will. I’m talking about really dark stuff, but in the end it’s about overcoming.
And even though three-quarters of the group aren’t yet old enough to drink legally, they’re already thinking about their heritage, especially when it comes to the next generation of young girls who are considering picking up guitars or drumsticks.
“The idea of being that inspiration to another young woman is just amazing,” Formica said. “We get (direct messages) from people like, ‘My granddaughter loves you guys and wanted to play guitar but she didn’t think it was something she could do until she saw you.'”
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