Baby Bushka Has A Lot Of Strength Left
A canceled tour and stunted album release can’t keep the ‘Kate Bush experience’ from sharing their work and passion
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Credit: Erica Joan
You have to see it live. It's something that everyone who talks about Baby Bushka says, but it's also something we really can't say these days. And with a West Coast and UK tour in their plans this month and next to support a brand new album, Baby Bushka and their fans are reevaluating how to share the magic.
"I can't describe it without using the word magic," said Natasha Kozaily, who founded the band several years ago after repeatedly hearing comparisons to Kate Bush about her own musical styles. Kozaily, who owns the Kalabash School of Music and Arts in Bird Rock, set her sights on a one-off project to round up her talented friends and have a Kate Bush dance party at the Casbah in December 2017.
After that performance, though, the musicians couldn't get enough, and neither could San Diego. The band quickly realized that they'd be more than a dance party, and in 2018, Baby Bushka raised funds to tour the UK — Kate Bush territory — and they just released their first album.
Baby Bushka's take on Bush's music is more choral than cover band (a term, along with "tribute," that the group doesn't like to use). The crisp and textured four-to-six-part harmonies, a full rock band and mesmerizing choreography more than live up to the group's tagline: "The Kate Bush experience of your dreams." I mean, did I even know to dream of such a thing before?
"Are we a band or a musical theater show? It's hard to describe us because it is so different," Kozaily said. "You go to the Casbah and you don't expect to see something like Baby Bushka, but I also don't think we fit in the theater where people are sitting down formally. It's this punk element — it lives in this world that you can't really put in a box, and I think Kate Bush is like that too."
Bush's sharp-edged femininity and dramatic sincerity elevated the British singer to cult-like status from her 1978 release of "Wuthering Heights" well into the '90s. "You can make fun of Kate Bush really easily. She's so out there, you can do a whole schtick," Kozaily said. "You're kind of walking a nice fine line between sincere and humor and drama."
A supergroup of sorts, Baby Bushka boasts some of San Diego's greats — Lexi Pulido, Nancy Elizabeth Ross and Kozaily are the lead vocalists and main, satin-pantsuited dancers, and bassist Dani Bell, guitarist Shelbi Bennett, keyboardist Nina Leilani Deering, drummer Leah Bowden and violinist Batya MacAdam-Somer round out the group. Many of them hop in on backing vocals or take the lead on some songs.
Take Deering's jaw-dropping rendition of "This Woman's Work," the album's first single, for example. The track's decades-old refrain feels eerily timed for Baby Bushka's interrupted moment right now "I know you've got a little life in you yet, I know you've got a lot of strength left."
Baby Bushka exudes a sort of sisterhood. Their performances tell stories that build on Bush's lyrics — already richly narrative — and the cohesion and energy on stage is as unmistakable as the band's chemistry. The music is true enough to Kate Bush's original material, but seen through this lens of eight women who are bonded over the stories the songs tell — with each other and with their rapt audiences.
The self-titled album is a study in Bush's career. The crowd-pleaser "Running Up That Hill" kicks things off, followed by "Suspended in Gaffa," a theatrical waltz-like delight. Moving through decades of Bush's music, it does have a strong anchor in her '80s work, a mix of hits (like "Cloudbusting") and B-sides (like the album's closing track, the mystical, chant-like "Under the Ivy," which was the B-side on the 1985 "Running up that Hill" single). The absence of "Hounds of Love" stings a little, but in its place are some beautiful and less-expected tracks like "Something Like a Song" (an early demo) and "Song of Solomon."
They called off their west coast tour dates in the early days of coronavirus, when event cancellations were speculations rather than the crushing blow that would soon befall the music performance world. Eventually, Baby Bushka also had to postpone their European tour and a much-anticipated two-night stint at the Casbah.
"We're all super gutted. It's so sad that we can't play right now," Kozaily said.
But, their optimism and anticipation for the future propels them to not just regroup but to be relieved that they made an album while they still could be together, and that they recorded it in analog, the format that best captures the magic (there's that word again) of their performance experience. They're glad to have a way of still sharing music with their fans. They'll also make a video for "Sat in Your Lap" as soon as they can be in the same room again, and then they will replan their tour.
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