Raging Geisha's frontwoman, Erica Sommer, is all about manipulating contrasts. There's the inherent contradiction of her band's name. There's the music, which incorporates equal parts crunching guitar rock and Timbaland-style beats and samples. Then there's her persona: sweet but fiery, sometimes rightfully PO'ed. See, Sommer is a black woman in rock and roll, a person who defies the stereotypes with which major-label execs can easily deal. Try to name one such woman to break through the mainstream in the past 20 years (so forget that easy Tina Turner answer). Maybe Neneh Cherry, in the Eighties and Nineties? More recently, whatever happened to, say, Kina or Fefe Dobson?
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The phrase "too bad" would be a criminal understatement. But until the music industry catches up with a society in which gender, race, and artistic genre boundaries are increasingly becoming irrelevant, the enlightened among us can enjoy Raging Geisha on intimate turf. Onstage Sommer is gorgeous and commanding. The group produces pop-oriented bangers that could easily straddle formats on modern radio. Saturday's performance likely will be the group's last for the summer, says Sommer. The band will be shooting a music video, playing shows in Philly and New York, and heading back to the lab to record some more tracks. — Arielle Castillo