Pop-punk band with Glendale roots returns to the stage

When sisters Aixa and Nicolette Vilar attended Glendale High School circa 1999, they were just another pair of bored local teens who dreamed of achieving fame as rock stars. The result was their extraordinary all-Latina pop-punk band Go Betty Go, an outfit whose classic, stripped-down '77-style songs quickly established them as a popular force on the local rock circuit.

With Aixa on drums, Nicolette on the mic, the powerhouse guitar of Glendale's Betty Cisneros and bassist Michelle Rangel, Go Betty Go began a Wednesday night residency at a Highland Park rock club that regularly packed in a horde of faithful fans. It was just the beginning.

Within a few short years, Go Betty Go had built a national reputation, were the subject of extremely favorable articles in numerous newspapers and magazines, did television and radio spots, earned a prominent spot on coast-to-coast punk rock road show the Warped Tour, had placed a song on the soundtrack of a Fantastic Four video game and, in 2005, released “Nothing is More,” their second album. Those Go Betty Go gals were making it, big time, and just as it seemed the band's explosive success was going to take them to the very height of the business, Nicolette did the unthinkable, right in the middle of their second Warped Tour: She quit the band.

Fans were shocked. Who would walk away from that success, all that fame, easy money and excitement? “The lifestyle is really hard.” Nicolette said. “Living in a car, on the road, it's like being stuck in a box and getting shipped around the country. It's like being homeless, yet you have to look like you're not. And the relationships with the people in the band are intense, and if things start getting a little hairy, it's really hard to be in such close proximity to people who you're not too stoked about.

“In the moment it's really stressful, and I was really unhappy. I made the decision and I basically sat on it for a year — it was not impulsive move. But when we went out on that second Warped tour, I couldn't make it to the end of the tour, I tried, but it's too crazy. That's why it seemed so abrupt.”

Seven years later, and almost as abruptly, comes the equally stunning news that Nicolette and the band are reuniting for a rare show at CityWalk's Howl at the Moon on Wednesday. While Go Betty Go continued performing, with vocalist Emily Wynne White, the group has been on informal hiatus for two years.

“We never really broke up.” Aixa said. “I moved to Argentina for a while, Emily's been doing a solo thing, our bassist plays in Filter now, and Betty's working on little side projects. The booker at Howl at the Moon is a friend and he just put this together last minute, and it turned out Emily wasn't able to do it. So I asked my sister. I didn't want to put pressure on her and she said she wanted to do it, and she could handle it. So if anyone remembers us from seven years ago, then they can come see her, which is awesome.”

It's safe to assume that quite a few local music fans remember Go Betty Go, and this reunion should be pure pleasure. The band's creative, passionate, bilingual pop punk is loaded with appeal, and this reunion, in an odd way, gives them the chance to pick up where they left off.

“We're doing a couple of songs from the last record which we've never done live.” Aixa said. “There were several that we wrote in the studio, but as soon as we finished recording, we hit the road and never had a chance to even rehearse them for a show.”

“Who knows what will happen?” she continued. “I can't say for sure this is a one-time thing. The universe spins different ways. Maybe this'll just be the one show on this day or, who knows, on another day maybe a new GBG album will come out. It's totally spontaneous; it all came together at the last minute and we're just going with it. And we're definitely having fun with it.”

JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank.

Go Betty Go

Where: Howl at the Moon, CityWalk, 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., Universal City

When: Wednesday

Info: (818) 755-9970

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