Girlz power comes to town

Special to The Times

At the summer punk-o-rama known as the Warped Tour, the Girlz Garage tent (formerly known as the Ladies Lounge) has been one of the most popular attractions, a place where female bands and their fans converged among loud tunes, makeup samples and pink decor. But however well-intentioned, over the years it's begun to feel more like a segregation of women than a celebration.

Now that the concept has been turned into a full-blown, autonomous tour, the question is, can Girlz Garage help even the score between male and female musicians, or will it only widen the gap? Thanks to some dynamic performances, Wednesday's tour stop at the Key Club suggested that it's definitely leaning toward the former. In fact, it was genre, not gender, that ended up creating the biggest disparity.

Sultry songstress Lennon started things with a dark, stripped-down acoustic set that showed off her powerful voice, though her backing music was too sparse to be affecting.

It was like night and day when Lillix followed, popping out perky tunes about boys, toys and teenage life. While the Canadian female band's hit single "Tomorrow" (from the MTV reality show "Rich Girls") soared, they weren't quite able to pull off the rest of their material. The group brought to mind an edgier Dixie Chicks, with forceful harmonies and plump guitars, but their voices never really meshed.

Ultimately, San Francisco's Brassy and L.A.'s the Start left the biggest impressions, in different ways. With a scratch DJ/drummer and a singer-rapper whose quirky style recalled the artsy aura of Peaches, Brassy was a rhythmic treat, while the Start rocked hard with ferocious riffs and distinctive vocals. Both bands featured men and women, though the strong females up front obviously called the shots.

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