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Pondering The Meaning of "Noise in the Basement"


Ruthe Charles | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam

We've been to

, the weekly showcase at Fletcher's presented by 98 Rock's local music program of the same name, a

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before. But it wasn't until this past Monday, as we walked up the stairs to the club, that we realized that the name doesn't quite work. Shouldn't it be "Noise in the Attic"? Think about it.

The first band onstage this week was

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, a decent little guitar rock quartet that had some promising originals but sacrificed some of our goodwill by covering the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" Don't get us wrong, covers are fun and all, but when a young band is trying to make an impression, playing a familiar old tune written by an established act only occupies the space in our brain where we might otherwise have remembered one of your originals.

The next band, the hip-hop act

, was noteworthy partly because it's pretty unusual to see a group of MCs and DJs at Noise in the Basement, and partly because the main rapper, the guy who calls himself Johnny 3 Legs, is frigging huge, at least 6-foot-9 and built like a brick shithouse. And while we raised an eyebrow at the Virginia native's "I AM BALTIMORE HIP HOP" T-shirt, we don't dare question his right to wear it. Mr. 3 Legs, who was backed by a hypeman, a DJ, and a conga player whose drums were only really audible when the DJ wasn't playing a beat, delivered a pretty entertaining set. But we're still not sure how to feel about his ode to the female backside, which featured one of the most imaginatively disgusting choruses we've ever heard: "Let me feed that thing before it eats your shorts."

Our real reason for stopping by Noise in the Basement this week was an act called Ruthe Charles, a five-piece band fronted by a young lady of the same name, that we'd been asked to come check out via some mutual friends. That kind of invitation, for a music critic, is always a social minefield; yeah, every band wants press, but they should be careful what they ask for, unless they're comfortable with the chances of a bad review. And we probably would've politely made some excuses and flaked out on the show if we hadn't gone to the

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and been immediately knocked out by "This Time Whatever," a hook-filled sugar rush of punky girl rock as instantly memorable and radio-ready as any Paramore hit.

With a goofy, amiable stage presence--and a tight band that didn't take much musical advantage of its three-guitar lineup, other than a thicker, fuller sound than one or two guitars would've afforded them--Ruthe Charles exuded the genuine enthusiasm of a little kid playing at being a rock star. Like Chazter, she also committed the sin of playing covers, opening and closing her set with Lit's "My Own Worst Enemy" and Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle," respectively. But at the very least, she left her stamp on the songs by virtue of the novelty of hearing a female voice sing them for the first time. And since we already knew one of her songs pretty well, it was "This Time Whatever," not the covers, that we left the place humming. And though the other originals didn't quite pack the punch of that one choice cut, songs such as "Confidence" and "Let It Go" showed potential to worm their ways into our heads as soon as there's a recording available to listen to over and over.

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