The Boston Phoenix Glitter Bomber By: Jonathan Donaldson August 29, 2012
Following the directions to this special private set by Gene Dante and the Future Starlets was a lot like following a scavenger hunt. First, meet at Jacque's Caberet (the Boston drag club) at 9 pm on Friday, August 17. Then, tell them you're there to see Gene.
"Sorry," said the blond doorman with a Russian accent. "Downstairs is completely to capacity." That might have been a sad reality for others, but luckily not if you were on the secret special press list, which I was. Score one for the square guys. The small downstairs scene at Jacque's was suitably glittery, dark, and grungy as the long-time rockers took to the cramped stage, while their own "Showtime" — a track from their forthcoming release (details TBA) — played over the speakers.
The Starlets would promptly go on to mix five more new tracks into their 15-song set, all sung with campy aplomb by Boston's favorite glam dynamo, Gene Dante. Dante, for those who haven't seen him before, sang his ass off in his predictable fashion in flashy chest-rhinestones and silver hair-paint. Dante had very little room to prowl, but watching him suggestively gesturing and comically leering at his nonplussed bandmates made for more than enough extra entertainment.
Set highlights among the new tracks included the Rocky Horror–esque "Pigs in the Powder Room" (which actually reminded me a little bit more of the Electric Mayhem than anything else). Also "We Are All Whores," which made for a great sing-along by finishing the couplet with "Behind Closed Doors." Leave it to Dante to make the best new rhymes.
The Noise By: Rick Dumont March 22, 2011
A passionate and driven artist and showman, Gene Dante continues to lead the Future Starlets to new and exciting heights. Within a year and a half of the current band’s formation in 2008, they secured second place in the WBCN Rumble. That grabbed the attention of a longtime producer and with the buzz ever increasing about their live performances, these cats quickly became the cream rising to the top of the scene in town.
Leading man Dante is a performer. But more than simply being the amazingly gifted singer for an “adult” variation of a glam cabaret punk rock style band, Dante is also a musician and the primary songwriter. He has no problem picking up a guitar and plucking along with the rest of his mates, believing strongly that lead singers should also be able to play. But it’s Dante’s in-your-face persona on stage that commands attention. From the moment he steps on a stage, Dante reaches into your soul and holds it passionately in his pocket while he and the Starlets gently ram a full set of music down your throat—and you gladly accept it.
So what is it that originally fueled the fire of this musician, lead singer, writer, actor, showman? His affinity for superheroes of course.
“Rockstars are like superheroes,” the self-effacing Dante said, “Everyone always pays attention to them.” Dante grew up appreciating superheroes—both the fictional kind and his original rock idols, KISS and Queen, who really captured his attention. “Like superheroes, rock stars help people,” Dante said. Their music and shows provide a catharsis for the audience and like his idols of yore, Dante and the Starlets deliver that with their anthemic songs like “A Madness to His Method.”
“A lot of people have taken that song as their mantra—which is wonderful,” Dante said. With lyrics that appear to espouse an empowerment like, “I am gorgeous/ I am finally free/ there is nothing in this brave new world wrong with me,” it’s easy to see why. But Dante says the song came from a completely different frame of mind, like with many of his writings.
“That is the beauty of the creative expression,” Dante said. Artists from any field can create or capture something that means one thing to them, but often times the listener picks up a different vibe.
In the case of “Madness,” which opens the album The Romantic Lead, audiences “flipped it and it became positive,” Dante said. And that is okay with him.
“Every writer writes what they know,” Dante said. And this character knows how to not only write, but to entertain in that certain way that would make his glam forerunners most proud.
But it’s not just glam or grand theatrical rock that makes Dante’s fires burn. A local band that made a huge mark on the world stage has been given a couple of nods in his lyrics. Dante borrowed Aerosmith’s “Rats in the Cellar” and “Toys in the Attic” to add depth and meaning to the musical sagas.
Dante picked up a guitar when he was 15. He never took a lesson. “It was a vehicle to create songs,” Dante said. And he had written dozens of songs. “They were bad,” Dante said, “but I wrote all the time.” Over the years he has honed his ability to paint pictures and strike emotional reactions with the word or turn of a phrase. He also has learned how to own the stage from the moment he takes it.
The first incarnation of the band formed in 2006, but members soon grew in different directions. Two years later Dante and his original drummer, Tamora Gooding, began a reconstruction and they reeled in bassist Jim Collins. They rehearsed as a three-piece. Then one night while out having a drink with friend and fellow musician Ad Frank, a master lyricist of Boston’s music scene, suggested Dante try to coax former Mistle Thrush guitarist Scott Patalano out of retirement.
“A bell went off in my head,” Dante said. “I burned Scott a CD of my demo, built up some courage, went to his store and flat out asked him to give a listen.”
GENE DANTE & THE FUTURE STARLETS “The Romantic Lead” (Omnirox Entertainment)
(4 stars) — After a couple spins of “The Romantic Lead,” it’s easy to believe that frontman Gene Dante has an extensive background in musical theater. He’s toured with “The Rocky Horror Show,” staged and starred in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and portrayed the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast.” Dante and the Future Starlets have managed to incorporate those dramatic skills into an energetic, fun record.
Embracing the glam-rock sound of David Bowie and T. Rex, Dante and his mates rock their way through an enjoyable 11-track collection of tunes that drip with emotion and theatrical overtones — almost as if each track was written for an as-yet unproduced rock opera. Among the highlights here are opener “A Madness to His Method,” “The Starlet Hits the Wall,” “OK Sunshine,” “This Is the Closing” and the sprawling set closer “To a God Unknown.”
- Jeffrey Sisk (In Tune Magazine/The Daily News)
Boston Herald Kerry Purcell June 27, 2008
The band: Gene Dante (voice, guitar), Jim Collins (bass), Scott Patalano (guitar), Tamora Gooding (drums, percussion)
The sound: A tribute to David Bowie
"I grew up on big rock like Motley Crue and Queen," Dante said. "When I started listening to Bowie at the end of high school, the lyrics were a lot more interesting than anything else I heard. And the diversity of music - it's like there was a ballad and it would morph into a show tune or something a little more jazzy."
The name: Dante says the Future Starlets' name embodies three things he feels passionate about: optimism, Hollywood and science fiction.
The history: The first version of Gene Dante and the Future Starlets came together in 2006, but the current lineup joined forces last year after Dante realized he wanted to share his original music instead of playing in a Brian Eno tribute band.
"I was always writing songs and I wanted to make my own music," Dante said. "I was friendly with everybody before we joined the band. We all get along. No catfights or wrestling."
The songwriting: "I'm constantly writing," Dante said. "If you want to be a great baseball player, you go out and you practice. If you want to be an architect, you go to school and take geometry and science classes. You have to write a lot if you want to be good. You write a lot of (expletive) and keep writing and writing and writing until a good one comes along."
The album: Gene Dante and the Future Starlets finished recording their sophomore album earlier this week, but do not have a release date yet. But Dante is psyched to have the enthusiastic support of a label, Omnirox, for the first time.
"This is a great, professional deal on a bigger scale than I've ever worked before," he said. "It's a new, interesting time. Exciting and scary at the same time - like your first time bungee jumping or hang gliding.
The attitude: "I'm not really a scenester," Dante said. "I'm a little more reclusive. What I don't want to do is be the hippest kid in town. That means nothing to me. I don't want to be the king of Boston. I have zero interest in that. And to pre-empt any retorts, I don't want to be queen of Boston, either. I just want to make music and hope the audience finds it and they like it."
The Boston Globe Jonathan Perry, Globe Correspondent May 12, 2006 Page: D18 Section: Arts
There is a big difference, Gene Dante says, between rockers who can act and actors who think they can rock.
"Rockers who act? Bowie. Actors who rock? Hasselhoff that's the difference," says Dante, a reflexive cringe creeping into his voice over the phone from Puerto Rico when other dubious actor-turned-rocker efforts are mentioned: Bruce Willis. Don Johnson. Leonard Nimoy. Dante, a musician and actor who grew up around Boston, left for New York, and recently moved back, is perhaps best known around these parts for his title role in the Boston production of the rock musical, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," in which he channeled an East German glam-rock star struggling with the aftermath of a botched sex-change operation.
But Dante identifies himself as a musician first a rocker who can act who previously fronted the under ground Boston pop outfit Bound.4.Venus. He's just issued an EP, "Gene Dante and the Future Starlets," which makes the convincing case that his androgynous off-Broadway alter ego indeed left her mascara'd mark on the singer-songwriter.
"Hedwig is very Bowie and Lou Reed-inspired, and just hearing the music, I knew I wanted to be in that show, and I wanted to play that part," recalls Dante, who drew raves for his performances. "It was the type of music I wanted to write and sing. Just as Bowie, Reed, Bryan Ferry, and even Queen and Kiss had left their stamp on me when I was a very young boy, I knew Hedwig would leave her stamp on me, too."
Over the course of eight tracks, covering nearly 30 minutes, Dante distills his lifelong crush on glam's eyeliner-rimmed epoch into an astoundingly accurate appropriation of the "Ziggy Stardust" era. Tracks such as "The Crack in Your Glass Slipper," "A Method to His Madness," and most obviously, "Spaceager," gleam with glitter-encrusted splendor. Meanwhile, Dante's stage-trained croon carries the DNA of Bowie and Mott the Hoople's Ian Hunter.
Dante and the Future Starlets which include guitarist Eddie Nowik and upright bassist "Dark" Mark White (both from the Boston avant-weirdo octet the Bentmen) and drummer "Cutty" (from Reverend Bob and the Darkness) celebrate the EP's release tonight at the Middle East Upstairs with guests the Glass Set, the Sterns, and Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women.
"As a kid, I found it much easier to identify with and be fascinated by rockers than actors, because with a rocker I merely need the music and maybe a picture to lock in," says Dante, whose close relationship with guitars and makeup dates back to his grade-school days, when his aunt bought him his first LPs, Kiss' "Alive II" and Queen's "News of the World." "As a writer in a rock band, you certainly have much more of a personal connection with the material because it's yours."
In theater, where an actor's job is to convincingly interpret someone's else's vision, "you have to contrive that [personal connection]," he says.
After his success as Hedwig, and well-received performances as Riff Raff in a European tour of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," the title role of the Beast in a stage production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," and work with the Boston Rock Opera, Dante moved to New York. Although the goal was to further his acting career, he wound up taking more bartending shifts than acting classes. All along he kept writing pop songs and later realized he could write them just as easily here.
"I had acting friends who would wear [business] billboards on their back, and I realized quickly I didn't want that," Dante says. "I don't believe in doing the Andrew Lloyd Webber medley on the Pacific Princess cruise line just because I'm an actor who can sing and dance. I believe in reading a script and asking whether I believe in it whether or not it's going to get me seen. When it was evident that acting wasn't working out, I moved back no worries, no regrets, and no what-ifs."
Faces On Film / Fancey / Gene Dante and the Future Starlets / The Sterns / Taxpayer Bill's Bar Boston, MA September 29, 2006
This review appeared in the December 2006 issue of Northeast Performer Magazine. Reviewed by Miriam Lamey.
Gene Dante and the Future Starlets continued the showcase and played an utterly amazing set. A few opening sound problems were completely forgotten as the band exploded into their first piece. Their outstanding stage presence was due to the band's exciting, theatrical performance, to which the audience warmed. Singer Gene Dante acted the true rock star, wholly dedicated to his top-quality singing and guitar playing. This glam-rock band, sounding reminiscent of Placebo and David Bowie, presented impressive passion and energy.