SIXTEENHUNDRED: Hank, Cupcakes, and love in the air
Last Modified: April 05. 2013 4:26PM
By Kait Burrier (words) and Jason Riedmiller (photos)
The name Hank & Cupcakes is more likely to conjure up an image of some quirky children’s TV show than that of a sexy electric rock duo from Brooklyn via Tel Aviv. Equally unassuming is the intimate venue, The Rattler, Pittston’s recent addition to the NEPA nightlife scene, where Hank & Cupcakes have roused the crowd during multiple shows. On Thursday, instead of the standard Valentine fare and formalities, music lovers at The Rattler indulged in complimentary wine and homemade, hand-decorated cherry cordial cupcakes that matched the design on the Hank & Cupcakes kick drum.
Hank & Cupcakes are outgrowing their roles as Brooklyn’s resident party scene power couple – known for filling Williamsburg bars with beat-driven bedlam and body-painted patrons – and decided to kick off their 39-stop tour in Pittston, Pa. on Valentine’s Night. The real-life couple, who adopted the pet names of Charles “Hank” Bukowski and his lover Pamela “Cupcakes” Wood, brought a vibrant dynamic to the stage for The Rattler’s Heartbreak Ball.
Locals Betty Harlot Band, in glorious war paint, warmed up the crowd – including the headliners – and incited cheers and dancing. Betty Harlot commanded on vocals, guitar, and sweet nothings. Drummer James "Yam Yams" Yamrus steadied beats while Death Ray led guitar. Keyboardist Amanda Malia and bassist Peaches (no relation to the shock-pop starlet with the same name) shook their manes, and the latter sported his Valentine’s Day best – a black dress with pink accents. Cupcakes swayed with the crowd, arms linked, at the close of Betty Harlot’s set before taking the stage with Hank.
The pair opened with dance ballad “Fly” off their 2012 EP, “Ain’t No Love.” They played several songs from their forthcoming 11-track LP, “Naked,” recorded in Berlin’s famous Hansa Studios. Among the set was a tension-building rendition of “She’s Lost Control” that proved much livelier – and funkier – than the Joy Division original. The couple also played bass bouncing, shoulder shaking “Sweet Potion” off their EP.
In a genre dominated by post-production and intricate synth, the indie duo bring a dreamy vibe with the minimalist simplicity of Hank’s bass and pedals melding with Cupcake’s vox and drumming.
Singer Cupcakes cried, “We’re very happy to be at the Rattler!” She tore off her studded jean jacket to reveal a shredded top reading “CUPCAKES.” The spritely singer leapt atop her kick drum, mic in hand, and riled the crowd to dance as the duo brought carnal beats and heavy buzz to the Heartbreak Ball.
“I have a proposition,” cried Cupcakes. “How about: it’s just about loving!” She continued, sticks in hand, “I’m loving my drums right now! That’s my Valentine’s Day.” But she and her Valentine exchanged weighty glances onstage, building off each other’s energy with a will-they-or-won’t-they density. Eventually the crowd began to chant “Make out!” to the married couple until Cupcakes playfully chirped, “We were making out before the show! You just didn’t see it.”
The voltaic pair powered through a few more songs, including passionate anthem “Ain’t No Love.” The title track of their EP, which made the cut to the LP, rides a groovy bass line into space, turning corners into Cupcake’s exploding cymbals and snare. The pair announced that the Heartbreak Ball marked their first night of a two-month tour: “You guys are the first and the best.” Then the duo cheekily requested that nobody repeat that to the crowd if they come to the next night’s show in Philly.
With her gentle Israeli accent, Cupcakes cooed, “Ready, Hanky?” Hank tore into the bass, feet pumping the pedals, and soon Cupcakes was all arms and a voice twice as big as her thrashing frame. “Hit,” off the “Naked” LP, rang with punk rock spirit in its buzzing lyrics: “You tell me I don’t have a hit / but guess what, this is it!” The crowd erupted as Cupcakes wailed a pulsing staccato that’s sure to rattle around brains and bones ‘til next Valentine’s Day.
Surveying the venue, Cupcakes exclaimed, “This place is a diamond in the rough!” The dancing, romancing crowd cast shadows on the dimly lit, framed-rock-show-poster and mounted-beast-bust-lined walls of The Rattler. It was a perfect scene for a certain breed of romantics. For anyone who fell in love with Hank & Cupcakes at The Rattler, stay smitten – their tour will hit downtown Scranton’s own Bog in April.