When rock stars and models get together, it’s usually the models who make the rock stars look good. Last night, at Voltage: Fashion Amplified, it didn’t quite work out that way. Voltage is an annual showcase of the best up-and-coming TC design scene (Abby Van Ness has the fashion lowdown on StyleParlor) accompanied by the music of up-and-coming TC bands. The models—and the clothes—are supposed to take center stage, and the six live bands are essentially arm candy, there to make the girls look better and add a little oomph to the show. Together, good music and good fashion should have made for a hot night. But as many of the girls and fashions fell flat, the bands were left to pick up the slack—and not everyone was up to the task.
Zibra Zibra was, but even they fought to keep the energy level up. Outfitted in spandex superhero suits, purple crotchless cowboy chaps (which made me uncomfortable, even with tights underneath), and a zebra-striped onesie courtesy of a featured designer (all the bands were outfitted by designers), the clothes more than matched the band’s frenetic vibe. While the boys in the band were thrashing around onstage and having a ball, the inexperienced models, donning hippie-ish fashions from Standard Issue and Pomije, seemed lost and uncomfortable on the runway. The crowd wasn’t into it, either, mostly because First Ave. had packed the hall so tightly that moving—much less dancing—was out of the question. By the time Zibra Zibra left the stage, so much energy had drained out of the room that the show’s voltage meter was barely twitching.
And it stayed that way through the next two bands. The Haves Have It, led by two chicks with electric guitars (full disclosure: I’ve never liked chicks with electric guitars), failed to connect with the crowd. The music seemed to fit seamlessly with the Belle and Calpurnia Peaches fashions—loud and disjointed—but it wasn’t exactly an aesthetically pleasing match. Then, with the crowd already in a mild coma, it came time for the
show’s “breather,” wherein pretty, romantic fashions by Max Lohrbach and George Moskal met with the band Bella Kosha. Unfortunately, the band sounds just like its name: pretty kosher. No risks, just two girls (vocals, violin) in snooze-inducing black dresses supported by three guys (guitar, percussion) in snooze-inducing tuxedos pants playing a somnambulant set marred by technical problems.
By that time people were yawning and I was reduced to begging for more crotchless chaps. What I got instead was local rock-scene staples White Light Riot, but that was enough. Dressed up like Panic At the Disco (long, colorful velvet coats, waistcoats, top hats, etc.), White Light came to the stage with all the gusto of a band that dreams of playing Madison Square Garden. Their energy seemed to inspire the girls onstage, many now feeling comfortable on their third trip down the runway. Some even had a spring in their step while modeling Amanda Christine and local Project Runway alum Katherine Gerdes. And, since the crowd had been cut by a third after the two previous sleepers, there were even—gasp!—hints of movement throughout the thinned crowd.
Then, as if the show’s producers could sense they had revived a dying crowd, they sent hip-hop hybrid MC/VL to add the final shot of adrenaline. Tall, skinny, curly-haired Viscious Lee in white jeans, white wind jacket, and short, mustachioed Mighty Clyde in a red version of the same, the boys looked like they’d stepped out of a Def Jam look-book circa 1985, and had a sound to match: Beastie Boys and Run-DMC-inspired jams that sampled everyone from AC/DC to Aretha.
With the freedom of two mikes and no clunky guitars, MC and VL took command of the runway before the models came out, strutting, rapping, and using every inch of available space to whip the crowd up. By the time the girls started down the runway, donning Swank Dollar and Red Shoe’s eighties-inspired outfits, the ladies were strutting as well, energized—and occasional harassed by—the emcees, who seemed to be living out a model-filled rap video fantasy. The crowd went wild—at least as wild as they were going to get—dancing, waving and, for the first time all night, actually smiling.
The show should have ended there. It was 11 p.m., and three hours of fashion-rock fusion felt like more than enough. So, as the last band of the night, The Birthday Suits, took the stage, most of the crowd, including my ride, decided to dip out early. From what I hear, I didn’t miss much, and the buzz on Seventh Street was all about the two white-boy emcees who saved the show.
Maybe next year Voltage should stick to the hip-hop scene. Move over rockers, the emcees are coming to steal your girls.