There’s a new band in town called ROMA!, a band that consists of a man who sings and four girls who play. And by play I don’t just mean play instruments, although they do that too, sort of. They play with weapons, torturing the man who sings for the crowd’s amusement. Th eend result is a performance that is definitely more than one would expect from the average rock show.
A friend of mine purchased a ticket for me for the band’s second performance at Highline Ballroom on August 5th. He did so because he said that this band was right up my alley. It’s up my alley due to my very public (and out of character, perhaps) fascination with weapons. Lately, friends keep on finding events and items for me that relate to this fascination. The fact that I use a picture of myself grinning while holding a toy assault rifle for a magazine byline and for my Facebook profile picture probably explains this new phenomenon in my life. I did some research prior to the show, and after seeing photos of the band online, photos that showed offtheir fantastic style, I was instantly enticed.
For their second show ever, they received quite an impressive turnout. It was apparent that the crowd of at least 100 people who flowed in 15 minutes before the set and left immediately afterward were there solely for ROMA! Perhaps it’s due to clever marketing, or just due to the fact that this band has beautiful women in lingerie toting guns and knives.
I had the opportunity to hang out with the band backstage before their performance, and I soon understood why the image they have already created online was so captivating . ROMA! utilizes the talents of its creative friends to make them the best they can be. Their locks were being styled by hair artist Yuui Ku, their avant guard makeup by Nathalia Ramirez, and stylist Katherine Polk was adding finishing touches of large pearls and pins to the elaborate corsets and lingerie.
The four girls, Armada (Drums), Katana (Guitar), Balestra (Keys) and Beretta (Bass) invoked the style of an era that I couldn’t really pinpoint—a bit wild west, a bit cabaret, a little flapper. I guess that’s the point. The mastermind behind it all and singer Kenyon Phillips referenced the ambiguous style of David Lynch’s film Blue Velvet. “The thing I love about Blue Velvet is that you don’t know what time it takes place in,” and he wanted it to be the same for the look of ROMA!
Kenyon, who goes by the stage name Stiletto, wanted to create a performance that is as theatrical as it is musical, being influenced by cinema as much as by the music scene. “I wanted it to be a theatrical event, so people can go to a rock show and get something more, get a theater,” he told me as Nathalia was bringing out his eyes with excessive black makeup. And like any good show, he wants to keep evolving, keeping it fresh to peak the crowd’s interest. “I want people to have a reason to come back besides just the music. We should never get too comfortable.” He also plans on continuing to up the ante on the weapons front.
The weapons, of course, are definitely the icing on the kitschy cake here; the best part of going backstage was getting to play with them myself. Stiletto first gave me a glorious ring to admire, one whose lack of carats was made up for with a sharp blade. He then handed me a very large knife in addition to a trench knife (a knife that doubles as a brass knuckle.) As I was holding the two impressive knives, and trying desperately not to stab myself, he offered me the chance to hold the two twin silver Beretta pistols from the holsters of new addition to the band, “Picco.” I had to try even harder to not injure myself while looking for a place to set down the knives among all the water bottles, beer, and jewelry, so that that I could play with the guns.
As the band began to panic over the whereabouts of a bag that would be placed over Stiletto’s head for the opening of the performance, I returned to the dance floor to watch them in action. The crowd’s attention was definitely kept throughout their turbulent and fun show. In addition to the four foxy female musicians and the gun toting Picco, there is also “Bola, The Executioner,” whose sole purpose of being on stage is to torture singer Stiletto. Despite their dark demeanor and weaponry, they are also a band that is fun and has potential commercial appeal.
They will be performing at Norwood in Manhattan on August 24 and at Santos Party House September 30th,,also in Manhattan. At the end of August ROMA! will participate in a taping, doing an entire set for a show called Fearless Music to be aired on FOX.
Photos by Tsubasa Watanabe.
For more information, go to the group’s website: ROMA!