[Betty Blowtorch original lineup (L-R) Blaire N. Bitch, Judy Molish, Bianca Butthole, Sharon Needles
If you were a rocker in L.A. in the late ’90s, the Pretty Ugly Club was the place to be. As I was arriving fashionably late, hobbling up the pavement in my too high heels, an assault of noise echoed into the street. Violent guitars and banshee wails filled the night time air… and it was good. I had to know who was emitting such dulcet tones. I went as fast as my platforms could carry me and as I stumbled into the club, and what I saw did not disappoint.
Judy Molish held down a thunderous, no-nonsense beat, Blaire N. Bitchâ€™s guitar blistered through, Sharon Needles held down the fort with steady rhythms and signature backing vocals, and snarling over the whole beautiful mess was charismatic rock goddess Bianca Butthole. In the coming years, I would have the pleasure of seeing Betty Blowtorch perform a number of times before it all came to a screeching halt. On December 15, 2001, Bianca was killed in an automobile accident leaving fans, friends, and family devastated.
One person who had a particularly hard time dealing with Biancaâ€™s death was fan and close friend, Mia X. Mia dealt with her grief by reaching out to Betty Blowtorch guitarist Blaire, who was also having a difficult time processing Biancaâ€™s death. The two bonded through music. Mia consoled herself by starting to learn the guitar with Blaire as a mentor. Eventually, Mia started a band called the UVâ€™s with Blaire as the lead guitarist.
Years passed and before they knew it, it was the 10-year anniversary of Biancaâ€™s death. The girls decided to do a memorial concert in 2012. They played the Blowtorch songs with different guest vocalists, including Tamie Down of Faster Pussycat and Newlydead fame. But nobody sang more songs than Mia.
The memorial renewed interest in the band and the girls were asked to play some one-off gigs up and down the west coast. Mia was an obvious choice for vocal duties and when they offered her the job, she readily agreed. â€œMiaâ€™s vocals are different but they fit,â€ said rhythm guitarist Sharon Needles. She went on to compare the change to that of Bon Scott to Brian Johnson in AC/DC.
[Betty Blowtorch New Lineup (L-R) Blaire N. Bitch, Mia X., Sharon Needles (drummer Judy Molish not pictured)]
After taking another couple of years off, the girls played at Needlesâ€™ birthday party in June of 2016. Blaire describes that gig as â€œmore of a resurgence, a feel good thing.” The girls had so much fun they decided to book more gigs. They will be playing the Rockinâ€™ The Wharf event in Long Beach on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at 10PM and are looking at some L.A. dates later in the year. (Click here for more information on the Rockinâ€™ The Wharf event).
When asked if they were going to write new material or had any definite plans for the future, beyond the next few gigs, the girls said they wanted to take an organic approach. â€œWeâ€™re not force feeding it. It just happens because itâ€™s supposed to happen,â€ said Blaire.
As for Mia, well, admittedly, this lady has some big shoes to fill. But when I asked her how she felt about living up to Biancaâ€™s reputation, she didnâ€™t flinch. â€œWe wear the same size shoes!â€ said Mia laughing. She went on to say â€œIâ€™m a rock nâ€™ roller and I always sing loud.â€ Itâ€™s clear she is in her element and confident she can do justice to Biancaâ€™s spirit. But then she became serious and confided, â€œBut Iâ€™m freaking out because Iâ€™m doing it and Bianca canâ€™t. Weâ€™re moving forward but weâ€™re doing it to remember someone.â€ And I donâ€™t think there was a dry eye in the house. RIP Bianca. You will not be forgotten.
[Betty Blowtorch New Lineup (L-R) Blaire N. Bitch, Mia X., Sharon Needles with author Marissa Bergen (center). Drummer Judy Molish not pictured.]
Betty Blowtorch Original Lineup “Hell On Wheels”
Betty Blowtorch New Lineup “Sucker”
Marissa Bergen is a Los Angeles-based musician and writer. “Spotlight On Local” focuses on independent underground artists in the hard rock, heavy metal, and punk genres.