By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The band winds up the rehearsal after a ferocious hour of grinding.Later on, rolling down the 134, Aixa is behind the wheel, illuminated by the intermittent strobe flashes of mercury-vapor light slashing through the shadows. She discusses Go Betty Go's future with sensible pragmatism. "We want to record more songs, and we've been approached by several indie labels who want to do a single or an EP, but whenever it comes down to signing anything, it always seems like there's some kind of catch. I mean, why should we? We can do the same thing ourselves, so there's no big hurry to do anything like that. The last few months have been a big push, and it's already getting better this year — we're pulling in 80 or 100 people on our Tuesdays at Mr. T's. Now we're even getting some paying gigs, and the clubs are starting, finally, to invite us back. But it's all because of love — we enjoy what we're doing."
Several weeks later, up on the third floor of the Hollywood Palace's crumbling backstage, the girls, set for an 8 p.m. opening slot on an Ozomatli show, are trying to play it cool. Aixa grabs her sticks, drops to a squat and beats furious paradiddles on the floor as Betty's sister Veronica applies makeup to Nicolette. Betty's down wrangling with the tech man — they showed up half an hour late and lost their chance for a sound check; when Betty returns, she doesn't seem quite thrilled about the situation. "Well, we set the levels, and I ran through a few things on the guitar, but . . ." The announcement fades into a fog of uncertainty and tension they're doing their best to ignore.
The 1,200-capacity Palace is a big change from the rundown confines of the band's home away from home, Mr. T's Bowl, and knowing there's a big fat line already stretching down Vine Street by 6:30 p.m. doesn't allay the band's misgivings. Betty is ashen-faced, doubled over and clutching at her stomach. "I'm always nervous before a show, even at T's," she says, gamely putting on a weak grin. "I even do this when I get in trouble at home . . ."
As Aixa pounds away at the faded dressing-room carpet, her mood contrasts strangely with Betty's, especially considering that these two are the group's primary writers. But opposites attract — Betty digs Missy Elliott and Eminem while Aixa gorges on underground indie bands, Clash and Ramones — and when the twain meet in Betty's garage, the results are explosive. It's all so unlikely: Nicolette, whose favorite vocalists are Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and James Brown, had never sung a note prior to the band's first rehearsal three years ago.
Yet on the Palace's broad stage they seem anything but intimidated; they play hard as hell, and Nicolette uses all that open space, presenting a mighty spectacle more than equal to the room. ("It was like never having been on a roller coaster," she says, "then going to Magic Mountain and riding them all at once.") The floor is packed all the way back to the bar, and the crowd looks stunned at the force these chicas conjure. ("I thought it was a sonic boom," one audience member tells another.) Aixa hits so punishingly that at one point she breaks a drumstick and, a true delinquent, launches it in a high-speed arc that looks as if it might touch down in the bartender's ice bin, if not straight through the roof and on into Hollywood orbit. That reckless, potentially injurious toss symbolizes Go Betty Go's sound and stance.
"We don't write songs that say, 'Please love me, I love you,'" Nicolette says after the show. "It's more like, 'I don't need your shit.' That's our attitude: We're not gonna kiss your ass, and if you fuck us over, then fuck you. If you don't like it, go away."
Go Betty Go play feral and correct punk rock with a carefully measured ratio of musical facility and spiritual essence: careless, restless, fearless. That equation fired rock & roll from the beginning and was applied in its most culturally animating form in the late '70s, when punk rock pushed the dwindling rock geyser with its blast of primitive chaotic charm. And here's Go Betty Go, already suffering inevitable comparisons to the Go-Go's and Bangles, trading in waters muddied more recently by the connect-the-dots likes of Courtney Love and Avril Lavigne.
"I respect anyone who's a musician, and they can do what they want," Aixa says, "but it sucks how it's always a package. It's all too phony. I mean, we do everything ourselves, and we're proud of that."
Let's face it, most Los Angeles bands stink, a point driven home at Mr. T's on a recent Tuesday by a turgid self-proclaimed "power trio" whose set highlight, after interminable, wordy slabs of low-rent "personal" rock, comes with an appalling Tears for Fears cover, bad enough to make one grateful for the anti-smoking codes requiring one to leave the premises in order to shorten this suddenly wretched life. But God love them, the trio are a perfect setup for Go Betty Go, who by comparison appear as beings from another planet, high rock priestesses so sharp at the game that everything seems to work in their favor; they never overplay, keeping the set short, and refusing to do any lame-ass covers.