Have You Lost Weight?

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head at the Sunset Tavern, Jan. 3, 2007.

The only problem with a name like Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, says Sunset Tavern bartender Joe Howe, is that the band can't get too famous or they'll get sued. But if I were Natalie Portman, I'd be honored that four 18-year-olds from the Northwest were paying homage to the tiny slice of pop culture she carved for herself by taking the clippers to her locks in V for Vendetta. Hell, if I were Natalie Portman, I'd even endorse them by continuing to rock the Sinéad look every time I hit the red carpet.

For a supremely goofball band, the level of talent in NPSH is pretty astounding. Bounding onto the stage in all-white thrift-store finds (track jackets, denim jeans, sweatpants: in other words, clothing once worn without irony by the of-age audience), the band instantly won over the drinking crowd, especially with vocalist Luke Smith's herky-jerky robot dancing.

With not one but two lead singers handling falsetto duties (Smith and Shaun Libman) and two dueling synth players (David Price and Claire England), the band is like a cross between Beck's white-boy soul attempts, the electro-thrash party pop of Think About Life, and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone making wiener jokes and trying to sound like women.

The first time I saw NPSH was their debut performance at the grand opening of 826 Seattle over a year ago. Their sound was awfully raw, and vocalist Libman seemed pretty nervous, understandably. But he still managed to sing a song from his nutsacks' perspective to a roomful of parents and arm-folded hipsters.

The juvenile infatuation with adolescent tent-pitching is still very much apparent in NPSH, with lyrics such as "I'm not in love with you/I'm in love with what we do" and "I got a hard-on cuz I'm so young." But the overall musical maturity of NPSH is pretty large. England (who also proved to be a superstar music reviewer in an 826 Seattle workshop I co-taught with Joan Hiller) was in full pop-star mode. She flung her ponytail around and bounced about in her purple Flashdance leotard, and even handled vocal duties on "Sophisticated Side," easily the band's signature song. "Do you like my ponytail?" she shouted. "My sideways ponytail?" Libman has even cultivated some awesome between-song banter that would put any other frontman to shame. "Wow, this is really a nice place," he said to the audience. "The stage is real wood. And it's got some carpet on it." But his finest moment came halfway through the set. "Wow, you guys look great. Have you lost weight?"

bbarr@seattleweekly.com

Opening Act is a weekly look at a band you didn't go to see but saw anyway—because they played before the band you went to see (and were maybe even better).

 
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