Cello-rock trio revisits history, the Springs

click to enlarge Rasputina find themselves on the rock n roll warpath.
  • Rasputina find themselves on the rock n roll warpath.

Melora Creager is chock-full of interesting tidbits.

As frontwoman for the cello-rock band Rasputina, she imparts wisdom about any number of topics, from the mentally ill ("The Mayor," "Howard Hughes") to century-old tragedies ("My Little Shirtwaist Fire") to oddities like uterine plugs and cyborgs.

The trio -- which features just two corset-wearing cellists (Creager and Zo Keating), a drummer (Jonathon TeBeest) and a mildly obsessive fixation on all things late 19th-century -- has been making music for 10 years, and has five full-length albums to show for it.

Rasputina's latest release, A Radical Recital, is a snippet from one of their live shows: raging rock, adoring fans, electrified strings, and Creager alternating between howling and cooing to great effect. Best of all are her asides between songs, commenting directly or indirectly on the material, the world at large, or nothing related to the music. Recital begins with Creager greeting a Pittsburgh audience:

"We have come here expressly to scare the bejesus out of you by showing our hoodoo, displaying our juju, and tragically and embarrassingly, exposing our supreme mojo." She then rips into the opening chords of "Saline the Salt Lake Queen."

The quips, Creager says, speaking from her home in Brooklyn, were borne from nervous talk.

"They started out years and years ago as me nervously filling space between songs. When you're up there onstage, it seems like forever," she says. "It's pretty free-form, off-the-cuff, from being nervous or responding to the audience."

Rasputina tours regularly and adds to a rabid fan base wherever they go -- quite an achievement for a band that was pelted with bottles and insults by an audience while touring with Marilyn Manson in their early days.

To see the trio perform is an entirely different rock experience. Creager, who played with various traditional rock bands for years (including Nirvana), says the difference is in the instrument: "Cello is a really powerful instrument, and it appeals to people emotionally.

"I was frustrated as a cellist playing in conventional guitar bands. You can never hear [the cello], but people responded to it. So I thought, 'If only you had only cellos, you'd get a good reaction.'"

Today's indie scene has witnessed a surge of strings, mainly cellos and violins. Creager would like Rasputina to take some credit for inspiring that, but frankly admits that strings are hip with or without her.

"It's the sound, and it's cool-looking to see somebody play [cello]. Like, 'Ah! I need this in my band!'" she says.

Creager says the trio hasn't announced the release of a new album quite yet, but that upcoming themes are "climate change, Mary Todd Lincoln and robotic warfare."

An overheated robotic Mrs. Lincoln is all well and good, but what on Earth is a uterine plug?

"I saw an illustration, an advertisement for it in a book about the Old West. It's a sick device," she says. "It's from excessive corset-wearing. Your uterus slips out, so you need to plug it up."

Despite being a dedicated corset-wearer herself, Creager's not too concerned.

"I don't wear it that much!" she says, with a laugh. "I tried to go to the movies once in a corset. It's pointless and it's painful."

-- Kara Luger


Rasputina with Dame Darcy and AbraCaStabYa

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Saturday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10, all ages; call 800/965-4827 or visit ticketweb.com for more.


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