Walter Tunis: The Binders are of the women, by the women

New cover band takes its repertoire from great female rockers past and present

Contributing Music WriterDecember 27, 2012 

The Binders are Emily Hagihara, left, Alicia Cox, Echo Wilcox, Izzi Krombholz, Alex Lary, Robbie Morgan and Meghan Hodges.

COURTESY OF THE BINDERS

Fifth on the Floor, The Binders, Rebel Riot Revue

10 p.m. Dec. 31 at Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave. $15. (859) 309-9499. Cosmic-charlies.com.

Here it is, some 2½ months after the second presidential debate, and Mitt Romney's viral remark about "binders full of women" is making its way into Lexington nightlife. Credit that to the New Year's Eve debut of a new all- female rock ensemble called, you guessed it, The Binders.

The group brings together a few familiar names, including multi- instrumentalist and longtime local music mainstay Emily Hagihara, who will be on drums, as well as vocalists Alicia Cox, an actress recently featured in SummerFest's production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, and Robbie Morgan from the recently completed Kentucky Conservatory Theatre production of Spring Awakening. Keyboardist Meghan Hodges, guitarists Echo Wilcox and Alex Lary, and Cincinnati bassist Izzi Krombholz complete the lineup.

"Robbie had noticed all these cool tribute projects going on in Lexington for bands like Hall and Oates, T. Rex and Led Zeppelin," Cox said. "So she thought, 'Let's get together and do a great rock cover show.' She had talked to Emily a few years ago about doing a Sleater-Kinney tribute band. Then this idea came about to do a band that covered the songs of various female artists.

"So it was a matter of getting a bunch of really great female rocker musicians together to cover some great female rocker bands."

Some of the artists whose songs figure into The Binders' repertoire are staples in any rock pantheon: The Pretenders, Heart and Joan Jett. Others, including Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt and Pat Benatar, represent more specific generational appeal. There were also modernists like Metric and Le Tigre that were new even to some Binders members.

And what of the name? What prompted a team of seven established female artists to adopt a political term gone viral as their band moniker?

"Meghan's brother actually suggested the name," Cox said. "Then she presented it to us. We all thought, hands down, that was it. No questions. It really works with who we are."

7th annual Tribute to 'The Last Waltz'

9 p.m. Dec. 29 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $10. (859) 368-8871. Bustersbb.com.

It wasn't a case of the annual Lexington performance tribute to The Last Waltz throwing in the towel. But after six years, a few of the key participants were wondering whether a breather after 2011 might be in order.

"We had decided that we were going to let it rest for a year and kind of renew ourselves," said Ray Smith, principal organizer of The Last Waltz. "But then, Clark (Case, owner/manager of Buster's) kept texting me about it. Finally, on Thanksgiving Day, he sent me a screen shot with some messages off Facebook from people saying, 'This is a holiday tradition. When is it going to happen?' That day I texted everybody and said, 'Let's do it.' And everybody was in."

For the uninitiated, The Last Waltz was the final concert by the original version of The Band. Staged on Thanksgiving night 1976 and filmed for posterity by Martin Scorsese, The Band invited several high-profile guests to participate in the performance, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell and Eric Clapton.

Smith and his band Tula never set out to re-create the performances of the original Last Waltz. Their goal was to interpret the songs — whether they were by The Band or the guest artists — played during the 1976 concert, regardless of whether they made the final cut in Scorsese's film.

"The question everybody always asks is, 'Who's going to be Van Morrison?' or 'Who's going to be Bob Dylan?' We've never approached it that way," Smith said. "We don't assign roles. We just try to find good matches, good people that can embody the songs."

The year's Last Waltz features several Lexington regulars — Coralee, Robby Cosenza, Matt Duncan, Otto Helmuth, Willie Eames, Mike Tevis, Fred Sexton and others — as well as a few prime first-timers, including singer Erin Reynolds of Oh My Me and Nashville's Kenny Vaughan and Sam Lewis, who have become semi-regulars through several bookings at Willie's Locally Known.

Also new at this year's Last Waltz will be an opening set by local roots music faves The Swells devoted to the solo career recordings of Band drummer Levon Helm, who died earlier this year.

"They had already been working on a bunch of Levon songs," Smith said. "So this wasn't a scripted thing at all. It was just one of those really cool things."

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