Agent Ribbons

Last Tuesday (4/08/08) at The Hemlock proved a night of 1930s flare as Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen, Uni and her Ukulele and Agent Ribbons put on a show worth going out on a Tuesday for. This “neo-retro” line-up combined the most entertaining aspects of the pin-up-girl – WW2 era – and somehow turned it into something modern and hip. Each band’s style made you feel like you were living in a different time, like you were Deborah Kerr or Montgomery Clift in “From Here to Eternity.” All three bands brought something a little different to the stage and made for a perfect bill.

Tippy Canoe and The Paddlemen are an Oakland five-piece signed to Late Bloomers Records. Michele Kappel, an expert ukulele player with a rich, classic voice, fronts the band. Accompanying her are The Paddlemen, Rick Quisol, Mikie Lee Prasad, Chris “T.G.” Green, and Sanda Mellow, each in vintage décor. The band’s sound is very wholesome, using terms such as “Nutter Butter” and “Sugar Baby” and somehow pulling it off. Their songs are optimistic and chipper even when singing about a broken heart or being far away. With the addition of the ukulele and a tin can microphone (aka a tin can attached to strings that creates a Woody Guthrie tone) Tippy Canoe’s sound came together into a nice little package with a cute string bow.

Up next came Uni and her Ukulele, celebrating the release of her new EP As Gold. This San Francisco ukulele wonder was accompanied by The Ding! String Trio, a group comprised of a violinist, a cellist and a harp player. Because of these mellow instruments, the audience was able to hear Uni’s every lyric. Her words were heart-breaking in a way that made you want to pay attention, to tune in to her personal subject manner and to see what pretty melody she would string together next. Uni showed a lot of command in her songwriting style, delivering each phrase perfectly with her sweet voice. Her pink flapper dress and witty banter with the audience made her set even more enjoyable. The group heads off for a full European tour later this month.

Last but not least came Sacramento’s star act, Agent Ribbons. Of all the bands, these ladies were the most rock and roll of the night, although still with a retro vibe. Composed of just two members, Natalie Gordon (guitar, vocals) and Lauren Hess (drums), the Ribbons’ LP On Time Travel and Romance has been creating a buzz since its release last year. The Ribbons just finished recording two new songs on Seven Inch Project and have been touring around the U.S. for the past three months solid. Their live act is known for being highly entertaining as Natalie bursts out her haunting vocals and shakes her hips all around. These ladies’ songs are larger than life, with a changing cast of characters, fairy tale references and narrators, sometimes singing from the view of a girl in the after-life, a person in the circus or a lonely heart in modern day. Their innovative sound is leaking out more and more – don’t be surprised if you hear much much more of Agent Ribbons.