July 17, 2008

The Lascivious Biddies Are Having Lots of Fun, and so Are Their Fans

By Ed Bumgardner, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 17--Since forming in 2000, The Lascivious Biddies, an all-female quartet from New York, has been steadfastly touring, recording and otherwise tirelessly promoting the band's highly entertaining mix of jazz, pop and cabaret, cut through and through with smart humor.

The group has released a concert DVD, Live In New York City; three albums or EPs -- Biddy-Luxe!, Get Lucky and Love You Mean It -- and is working on a holiday CD for release this Christmas. As good as the group is on disc -- and it's very, very good -- it is the Biddies' live concerts -- more shows, in the theatrical sense, than conventional concerts -- where the group's music really comes alive.

It's an experience to be relished with eyes and ears open wide.

"There's a lot to take in," said Lee Ann Westover, the group's singer and sensory provocateur. "There are the songs, the humor, the musicianship -- we can really play and sing, even if I do say so myself, and I do," she said, laughing. "The object is for the people who come to see us to have as good a time as we are having, and we are having a good time. That's the reason we have been doing this for so long."

But things are changing for the Biddies: Westover; pianist Deidre Rodman Struck; bassist Saskia Lane (who also tours with singer-songwriter Dan Zanes and is recording with Ziggy Marley) and new guitarist Ila Canter, who replaced founding guitarist Amanda Monaco last year.

Monaco, a skilled jazz musician, had grown tired of life as a Biddy, and her lack of enthusiasm was beginning to spread into a general malaise for the band. Monaco, who has multiple sclerosis, eventually decided to pursue her own music, a decision, that while sad for everybody, proved beneficial for all parties.

"Amanda's illness really had nothing to do with her leaving, outside of the fact that she knew that she could wake up one day and all of a sudden by unable to play," Westover said. "So it's hard to blame a musician for wanting to follow her heart before it's too late.

"The parting was amicable, but it was like losing a limb. We had been sisters a long time. Initially, we didn't know what to do. So we took a minute to think who we are and where we want to go."

Westover, Struck and Lane all decided that they had spent too much time, and had too much fun, not to continue. A search for a new guitarist began, and went on, and on, and on.

"We finally found Ila (Canter) at the last second," Westover said. "It has proved to be a great fit, and has helped us grow. It has helped heighten our expectations and it has deepened our songwriting. It has gotten a little more personal.... The humor remains intact -- that is part of being a Biddy -- but it may have a gotten a little more dark and snarky and world-wise."

Westover laughed. "Not that we still don't love the life we have. It's great. It's just that we've realized that there can be a dark cloud that can temporarily shade the brightest sun."

For the first time, the Biddies are being represented by a major booking agency. The group is now flying to concerts to shows all across the country, and instead of playing tiny clubs -- the band played Speakeasy Jazz in Winston-Salem several times -- the Biddies are finding a new home playing larger theatres and amphitheatres.

"I miss playing Winston-Salem, and I hope we get booked back there again," Westover said. "At the same time, it is amazing to be able to do what we do all over the country. It's so civilized. " She laughed. "Now we have health insurance, and we can pay our bills.

"Well, some of our bills, anyway."


Want to go?

The Lascivious Biddies will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday the Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock. Tickets are $20, $26. Visit www.brcac.org or call 828-295-9627.


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