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HotChaCha, Proof that Rock ‘n Roll Ain’t Dead

Posted by Lindsay Carolla on 06/21 at 12:47 PM

HotChaCha played at Howler’s Coyote Cafe in Pittsburgh on June 10th.  They arrived to the venue in a van that sometimes doubles as a hotel room and shook the sand out of their hair, which was left over from the previous show in New Jersey. They definitely presented themselves as the classic band enjoying draft beer on stage while pouring heart and soul into each strum of the guitar. Unfortunately, the venue wasn’t packed to capacity, but that had no effect on the band’s showmanship.

After a short and informal greeting to the audience, HotChaCha rang organized chaos through the dark cafe. The only male member, Greg Gebhard, strummed the bass with precision, Roseanna Safos gave the drums hell, and Mandy Aramouni switched between supporting vocals, keyboard, and lead guitar. Though each member is talented in his or her own right, the star of the show was the lead singer, Jovana Batkovic. She danced with onlookers in the crowd, she writhed on the stage floor often trying to trip up other band members, she spit, and altogether made the $5 cover worth it. She even climbed on a table and injured her finger on a fan while raising her hand up towards the roof for emphasis.

The set began with “Suicide Missions” and also featured “Aorist,” “Bukarest,” “All Babes are Wolves,” and “German Soldier” and ended with “Pleasure Cruise.” The setting at Howler’s was laid back, in contrast to their usual high energy shows that sometimes ignite a mosh pit (as Jovana told me after the show). Each song seems like instinct to the band members. It was interesting to watch how Mandy shifted from keyboard to guitar without hesitation or prompting. It’s proof that practice makes perfect. The show was tight while being relaxed because of the obvious confidence the band exudes. It’s easy to tell that the band’s songwriting focuses heavily on sound more than lyrical meaning. However, with a closer listen, the lyrics can be poignant perhaps over tragic heartbreak like in the case of the man who hung himself in “Bukarest.”

You could tell that the audience wasn’t exactly prepared for the unique performance they received. However, as the show progressed, the crowd got into it. Not a person left the room except to come back with a fresh drink. You can’t help but be charmed with HotChaCha’s showcase.

After the concert, I was able to sit down with Jovana and try to discover what prompts her spectacular stage moves. I learned that she is European and moved to the U.S. when she was only 17. She was a refugee, escaped war, and can speak perfect German. She’s also educated with a master’s degree in sociology. Fame was never her primary goal (though she deserves it); she plays because she enjoys it, which I’m sure is the secret behind her talent. In fact, HotChaCha itself came to fruition by accident and coincidence. Jovana admitted that she and a former member were just experimenting with some sounds and vocals, and eventually the band was born. Thank you for that… or should I say danke?

But HotChaCha’s performances are only the icing on the cake that is their music. Jovana said she was pleased that I compared her beforehand to Stevie Nicks’s definitive voice. Jovana has always been a fan of Fleetwood Mac and is influenced by other classic rock bands such as Iggy Pop and The Stooges (which would explain the wild live performances), and you can also definitely hear Arcade Fire in the mix. I wondered how it is that HotChaCha has such elements of old school rock in spirit and voice, but keeps an indie vibe as well. According to Jovana, Mandy—the lead guitarist—is hip to today’s alternative. Jovana surmises that her vintage style mixed with Mandy’s affinity towards recent music is what creates HotChaCha’s aesthetic.

Before the show, I previewed some of HotChaCha’s music, but I could not have anticipated their behavior live. I went for their music, but I stayed because of their performance. All in all, I left satisfied with seeing a band that is the whole package.

If you missed HotChaCha at Howler’s in Pittsburgh, don’t fret. They start a midwest/east coast tour in Cleveland, Ohio on June 21st and will be playing on June 24th at BITCHFEST 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. All upcoming tour dates can be found on the “shows” portion of their website.

Here is a teaser until you’re able to make a show. This was the last song of the set—“Pleasure Cruise” off of the Fantastic Static EP, which can be purchased at each show.

{name} Author: Lindsay Carolla
Bio: Lindsay Carolla is a senior studying English, and Italian language and literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She is an on-air personality for the Lion 90.7fm on the Jam 91 Show. She finds pleasure in traveling, attending concerts, and literary symbolism. Lindsay has an eclectic taste in music which ranges from her favorite rap artist, Notorious B.I.G., to her favorite indie darling, Modest Mouse. But what she enjoys most is when two unlikely musical genres successfully combine to create a new aesthetic, such as can be found in the band Brokencyde.

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