Hana Pestle can make finding a dead girl in a lake sound delightful. Her original songs — themed around dark, imaginative worlds where lake swimmers entangle their fingers in the hair of the deceased or guests at the “Red Death Ball” perish — are disturbing on paper, but enchanting in song.
Even Pestle’s renditions of others’ music, including Frou Frou’s “Let Go,” Radiohead’s “Creep” and ”Zombie” by the Cranberries, take on their own life, her vocal passion bringing conviction to each song.
During a sold-out performance at Billings Venture Theatre, Pestle expressed her gratitude for the hometown support. The quiet theater suited Pestle’s style: rich acoustic guitar and dramatic vocals honed in coffeehouses and on the road.
During the hour and a half performance, she played several songs from her upcoming album, including “Need,” which is in the running to be included on the soundtrack for the next “Twilight” movie. She also called her younger sister, Skyler, to the stage for a handful of duets.
The Billings singer and songwriter relocated to Los Angeles to launch her music career a few years ago and has created a national following by relentlessly touring the country.
Lately, Pestle has been booking concerts in support for her debut full-length album “This Way,” to be released Sept. 22 on producer Ben Moody’s label, FNR Records.
Pestle hits the road this fall with Moody’s new band, We Are the Fallen, and has also booked a series of concert dates at college campuses in the Midwest.
Hard rock or jam band?
Two drastically different national acts come through Billings on Wednesday: hard rock act Slipknot (a group of grown men who dress in garish garb onstage) and Great American Taxi (Vince Herman’s remains of Leftover Salmon).
Slipknot performs at the Rimrock Auto Area and Great American Taxi performs at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co.
Besides being Grammy winners, Slipknot, a nine-piece nu-metal group from Des Moines, Iowa, has gained recognition for gruesome costumes and horrific masks.
The band is celebrating 10 years since releasing their self-titled major label debut. Their live performance will be marked with music from the debut album up to the current “All Hope Is Gone,” the group’s fourth studio album released in 2008.
With each album release, the band’s image has evolved, including their outfits — often jumpsuits — and masks. However gimmicky the costumes seem, Slipknot maintains the garb is more than a publicity stunt, and the masks are considered by some of the band members as a visual representation of the music.
On the opposite spectrum, the progressive Colorado bluegrass/jam band Great American Taxi was formed in 2005 after Leftover Salmon disbanded. Herman and a group of jamming musicians released the band’s debut album in 2007 and are working on their sophomore release, “Reckless Habits.”
Known for their electric folk, alt-country, and bluegrass stylings, the band performs about 140 shows a year, appearing at many of the jam fests across the country, including 10,000 Lakes Festival, and at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
Most recently, Great American Taxi toured in fall 2008, opening for Railroad Earth, the dynamic grassroots folk band that coincidentally performed Wednesday at the Babcock Theater. Tim Carbone, Railroad Earth’s fiddle player, produced Taxi’s latest album and also added fiddle to a few tracks.
Tickets for Great American Taxi, costing $6, are available at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co., 2123 First Ave. N. A local jam-grass band, Anonymous String Association, opens the show.
The Slipknot show begins at 7 p.m. Anthrax and the Black Dahlia Murder open the concert. Tickets are $34.50 for reserved seats or $39.50 for general admission to the floor, available at the MetraPark box office, by phone at 256-2442 or online at www.JadePresents.com.