Rockin' Back to L.A.
When Noelani Rodriguez, better known as Lonnie plays her bass guitar. She seems the consummate ham some one not likely to be interested in much beyond a dynamic performance Playing funky and often eccentric countermelodies, she mugs with band members and bounces around the stage with a maniacal energy out of proportion to her diminutive height.
But Rodriguez is more than a rock and roll hot dog. She has for two years promoted a wide variety of campus concerts without the assistance of House committees. Using a "pseudonym," the Performing Arts Committee. She has arranged performances simply by signing on two or three bands, getting permission to play somewhere on campus and plastering the Square with posters. While Rodriguez booked other bands more often than her own, she says matter-of-faculty that she enjoyed "not having to run into other people that were organizers." This year she played with a group called The Girl Next Door: last year's outfit was Hand to Mouth.
Rodriguez began learning guitar at the age of seven from her father, who was also learning the instrument at the time. Each day he taught his daughter the chords he had learned. "He'd say 'This is a B, this is an A--isn't this great?'" Rodriguez recalls with a smile. The family moved to Southern California, but Rodriguez played only as a hobby, never performing in public.
At Harvard, she met Martha Hackett '83, lead vocalist for The Girl Next Door, and together they began working on rock acts. Hackett, a powerful and popular singer, already had a guitar player and was looking for a bassist, so Rodriguez promptly switched instruments.
Rodriguez says she has enjoyed the opportunity to experiment in a college band. Although her bands have often catered to student audiences' desire for standard new wave pop. She proudly points to experimental efforts one of which this year succeeded in emptying a crowd of 300 people into 10. She humbly says. You can compensate for being amateur by having a good time.
Rodriguez has recently begun incorporating funk as an influence in her music and plans to use future compositions as a means of conveying social messages. Even as a college musician, she says, you realize that there are "a lot of experiences out there that are outside of school a lot of poverty and a lot of dead end careers. "She is particularly concerned with improving face relations and advancing the cause of feminism Sexism. Rodriguez says, can distort even an artist's public image "It Prince's going to sing about all of these sex topics, people think he's being risque and that's cute," she says. But it Wendy O. Williams, lead singer for the Plasmatics, flaunts her sexuality on stage. Rodriguez says, she is seen as one of many "dumb broads fronting a band," She adds. "As women, 'we have to watch out that we're taken seriously."
After returning to Los Angeles, Rodriguez-plans to start a band with her 17-year-old brother and attend the Guitar Institute in Hollywood. She avoids questions about whether the siblings plan to release a record saying that a band needs to establish a local audience first by playing live.
"There's no one generic success story," she says. "I figure I can be very poor, and I can just start a business I could live on nothing just a little instant soup," she adds.
Her new band, a trio, will combine rock with rhythm & blues in a style she at first calls "synthopop" and then amends to "something that's more savage and tribal." She plans to use the same kind of dance roots as, say. David Bowie did on his most recent album. Let's Dance, but "bring them down to a very raw kind of pub sound. Fifty people beating on drums--that's what they did in the first place."