Note: This article was linted on 14 July 2013. It originally ran 10 July 1998.
A couple of friends called up on June 1st because Sarah McLachlan was playing
Bryant Park that evening for free. We got there a little later than I expected,
so as we shuffled slowly through the crowd, McLachlan's first opening band started.
We couldn't see them; we didn't know their name (
Antigone Rising ); but we heard them quite well.
By the time McLachlan thanked them we had actually squeezed out a postage-stamp
sized patch of grass half a mile from the stage.
Within a week two thirds of us had copies of their debut CD,
She's Gone a Little Mad
and I began digging through the Internet to find out when they would
play again. I found them just two blocks away last night when they played at
The Bitter End on Bleecker Street.
An hour before the performance the line stretched dangerously close to
Terra Blues, so close that Terra Blues' bouncers threatened us with garden
hoses to get us to stop blocking their entrance. As it turned out, I
waited in line with a group of
rhythm guitarist Kristen Henderson's
friends, who during the performance sang along with the band and seemed to know
every song within the first three chords. They weren't the only ones. The house
seemed packed with the Antigone Rising Fan Club, and their enthusiasm infected everyone else.
The fans seemed perplexed by the group's setup at first. Only Henderson, her
sister (lead guitarist Cathy Henderson), and newly-recruited lead singer Agona
Hardison took the stage, leaving bass guitarist Teri Avella and singer Suzanne
Obolsky sipping beer back in the house. Kristen explained that because the stage set for
them at Lilith Fair
(they perform Thursday July 16th  at 3:30pm on
the Levi's Village Stage) is "a cinder
block" has no room for their drums or amps, they decided to go all-acoustic, and
I were the guinea pigs for the "new" sound.
That means we didn't hear Avella at all, and Obolsky stepped up only for
Kristen's "Bitter Song," just to remind everyone why she's vital to the group's
sound. Obolsky's voice blended perfectly with Kristen Henderson's, even if her
outfit did not. That's not a criticism, by the way; even Kristen made fun of her for
coming straight from her day job.
What about their music? Antigone Rising reminds us of Indigo Girls, but
more melodic, and less angry. They're probably sick of the comparison, but
their music owes a lot to Amy Ray and Emily Saliers: listen to the echoing
vocal lines and flowing parallel thirds on Cathy's "Lonely Tonight," for example.
It's refreshing when a local band masters concepts like three-part harmony
and 6/8 time and outstanding when
they bring it all together with perfectly-blended
voices and competent playing. They're not writing fugues, but few bands ever do,
and just as few ever master the more esoteric elements of harmony and voice-leading
that for now are just over Antigone Rising's horizons. But it's unfair to compare
Antigone Rising to an average garage band, because they're way
beyond being a garage band.
Just listen to Kristen's "Someone Said." Most weekend bands have trouble
counting to four, but here's a group with an alternating 5/4-6/8 groove that
fits the angst-filled lyrics perfectly. Kristen's writing has a slightly
different sound than her sister's, balancing it, giving the group the kind of
depth required to go all the way. She's the George of the group, if you will.
(Fortunately they don't have a Ringo: all of Antigone Rising have bona-fide talent.)
And listen to former lead singer Penelope Kokines and Cathy's "Turn to Me,"
which opens their CD. Great energy, great hook ("Have we been here far too long
now?/Don't you tell me that we're wrong/Turn around...turn to me"). I realize after
ten seconds that the group should get something more than a $7 cover at a local bar. They should get
something that starts with a C and rhymes with Contract.
Sure, they have some bits that don't quite work, but so did Sarah McLachlan on
her first album. They're not professionals, they
just love performing. The music will improve as the band keep playing together.
Bands either grow in complexity and musicality or they disappear, and Antigone
Rising seems positioned squarely in the first camp. It's easy to hear why
McLachlan tagged them for her June 1st performance, and why I
will eagerly wait for
Antigone Rising's next gig.
Photographs Copyright ©1998 Antigone
Rising. Used by permission.