For Gloria Petrovich, Tara DuMont, Shirlee Lapland, and Heather Humphly this was the first of hundreds of times the band would experience the Quaish prayer of hope, salted by the lilt of trepidation, peppered with exultant risk taking in chanted dance. Patty Whitefish and Katy Lakeleaf slowly skipped about the girls’ restroom, singing, blessing what was about to happen.
Today Maven and the Night Ravens are known around the country as the best girl band ever. They tour to sold-out venues, they garner Grammy nominations, they write songs that are complex both musically and literarily. Much has been written about these six young women from Warhaven over the years. Now with wealth and fame their music careers shift to hiatus as each prepares to attend college, something to which they agreed in consensus, to place on the backburner for one single year after their high school graduations. Now that year is about up. Despite their edgy, goth public personas, they remain Warhaven’s favorite daughters. Before they leave us for their university studies, let’s travel back six years to their start, their very first public performance.
They walk in single file from the girls’ restroom to the bandstand in the cafeteria of Warhaven High School. They have dressed identically: ponytails, black eye liner, black turtlenecks, black yoga pants, and black-laced black Converse Allstars, the white rubber of the shoes having been magic-markered black. As middle schoolers, they walk on tiptoes in this hallowed ground of aspiration. Shirlee carries her Conn tenor sax, readying her reed. Katy continues the prayer, a whisper which Patty picks up. The others begin to hum the melody which rises and falls as a mountain range.
Gloria Petrovich had been gifted with a Harmony Red Rocket II hollow body guitar. This model H54 sports two DeArmond pickups which wail through her Vox AC30 amp. They mic’ed an upright Baldwin studio piano from the band room for Tara. Heather carries her red Gibson Les Paul Junior and Patty her sunburst Harmony H22 bass. Katy carries her drumsticks to her kit, made up of a Slingerland blue sparkle bass drum, one Gretsch red-lacquered floor tom-tom, two Ludwig white pearl smaller toms, a Rogers chromium snare, and for the hi-hat, crash, and ride, Zildjian cymbals. Gloria had begged from the theater teacher a pair of podium lights with blue color gels, so they were staged and set in an ethereal hue in the darkened, cavernous cafeteria.
Maven and the Night Ravens open with Joe Turner’s “Boogie Woogie Country Girl,” and from the get-go, they have the crowd dancing, the girls a chorus of on-beat and syncopated hand claps. Patty and Katy are so moved they cry. Tara have tears in her eyes as Gloria sings, clapping, gyrating, rousing the dancers to fever-pitch.
“On Saturday nights she comes to town.
she plays the jukebox, lets her hair hang down,
our boogie woogie, boogie woogie country girl.”
Following Tara’s rolling, percussive 12 bar piano solo Shirlee comes in with a raucous 32-bar sax solo, Gloria now matching Katy’s bullet-fast flourish of triplets with her searing staccato finger work.
Each song they perform, all covers, are well received, few dancers sitting anything out.
They discover Tara can howl, somewhere in the brilliant range between Little Richard and Paul McCartney, and the audience eats it up! This on “Lucille,” which ends the set in a wild rave up of bending string guitar work by Gloria and mimicked by Heather an octave higher. They end the song, and stand there stunned, each soaked in perspiration, audience adulation rising over them a little like fog.
At this first break, the athletic director, Coach Howard, approaches them. He knows what he has experienced. “Girls, why don’t you come down to the locker room, so you can have some privacy, and maybe towel off?” It was clear to anyone who listened or observed. Something special had just occurred; these girls had a bright, expanding orbit ahead of them.
They begin their second set with a slow, rolling rendition of Wilbert Harrison’s “Kansas City.” The next number, they ratchet up, performing a pair of Springsteen songs, “Glory Days” and “Bobby Jean.” When the applause dies down something happens, something spontaneous, something from the visceral gut that makes live rock so unpredictably moving. Intended as an introduction to Ma Rainey’s “See See Rider,” Katy begins to drum, a steady, pounding Quaish pow-wow beat; Patty picks up with the bassline, simple quarter notes in the low register. After several bars Shirley comes in on the sax in a haunting minor-keyed solo, plaintive, heartfelt. As the solo plays out, diminishing, Gloria, Heather, and Tara trade off arpeggios. The beat goes on and the Quaish kids in the cafeteria start a circle dance, soon joined by everyone else, including the adults in the room. Gloria begins singing and all dance on.
Gloria wails the closing verse,
“Oh, See See Rider,
goin away, baby, won’t be back till fall.
If I find me a good man, I won’t be back at all.
Oh, See See Rider, see what you done done.”
The dancers sense, each in his or her peculiar way, what they are experiencing, another Warhaven miracle of commonweal realized.