On July 3rd, several bands from the Southern California music community gathered for a benefit show to help Betty Cisneros, the lead guitarist and namesake of the Glendale band, Go Betty Go. Recently the band took to social media to announce that Cisneros was diagnosed with stage four cancer, landing a huge blow to the local community who had become fans and personal friends with the four ladies. Cisneros has been fighting the disease with the kind of tenacity and grit that she has become known for.
Fight Betty Fight was announced last month as a way to raise money for the mounting medical bills that Cisneros was facing, along with a GoFundMe that at last glance was at 96% of reaching its initial goal. The show, which was streamed online for fans that could not be there in attendance, was an afternoon full of incredible music, positive vibes, people who gathered for their love of Betty.
Go Betty Go got their start in the early 2000s with Cisneros, sisters Nicolette (lead vocals) and Aixa Vilar (drums), joined by Michelle Rangel on bass. After radio play via Rodney on the Roq and the now defunct Indie 103, the band has remained active and touring for the past two decades.
As advertised, the show opened with a special acoustic set from guitarist/co-lead singer Jennie Cotterill and bassist/co-lead singer Linh Le of Bad Cop/Bad Cop.
Cotterill was first to perform starting with an unreleased song I like to call, “What Can You Do?” It was written in the very early stages of COVID and discusses the uncertainty that a pandemic brings. Cotterill then played one of my favorite songs, an unreleased song entitled “Dead Letters” that I’ve seen her do solo before. She then left the stage momentarily as Le took over, playing a beautiful song dedicated to her father who passed away a few years ago.
She sings that no matter where he is, she hopes he’s proud of her. I can’t imagine he’d be anything less than. Le covered Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” before being joined by Cotterill. They closed their set with the Bad Cop songs “Pursuit of Liberty” and “Brain is for Lovers.”
Next up was the super energetic Johnny Madcap & the Distractions.
Cotterill ended her set by saying how much she loved this band and was excited to see them play; true to her word, she and Le were front row and it quickly became clear why. They put on a tremendously fun show that had the crowd dancing along from their first song, “10 Names.”
The band can best be described as rock and roll with hints of punk and new wave. Lead singer and guitarist Johnny Madcap definitely gives off an Elvis Costello-vibe with both his vocals and playing. Madcap gets to show off his fancy guitar playing on solos like the one in “American Weekend.” Madcap said the girls in Go Betty Go were very near and dear to his heart as he first met them while on tour with his previous pop punk band, and he was honored to be asked to play today. They played my two favorite songs back to back; “Here in My Hands” and “On the Radio.” The band dedicated their last song of the day to “all of the misunderstood troublemakers out there.” Madcap said their new mantra should be “Let’s make some ‘Bad Decisions.’”
The only band I had not seen live before was The Dollyrots. The band had been living Los Angeles for the past two decades before moving back to Florida a few years ago. They literally flew back just for this show, signifying how much the girls in Go Betty Go meant to them. Although the band’s lineup has changed throughout the years, the core of The Dollyrots has always been bassist/lead singer Kelly Ogden and husband/guitarist/backing vocalist Luis Cabezas.
They opened with “I Do,” followed by “My Best Friend’s Hot,” a song about the dilemma about being attracted to your best friend who does not reciprocate the same feelings. I love Ogden’s stage presence as she spent the entire time with a huge smile on her face, both while singing and speaking in between songs. Lyrics that often border on bratty and vocals that pair perfectly with Cabezas make for a very fun performance. They played “Jackie Chan,” a song about being cheated on, dumped, and getting your revenge via Kung Fu because they’re “gonna fight fight fight fight like Jackie Chan.” For their last song, “Because I’m Awesome,” Ogden and Cabezas had their young son River come out and join them on guitar, while daughter Daisy stood proudly beside him. Drummer Justin McGrath’s wife and young child were at the edge of the stage, making this a true family affair.
The headliners and guests of honor took the stage to the loudest ovation all day as Go Betty Go picked up their respective instruments. Playing in place of Betty on guitar was guitarist and lead singer of the Two Tens, and longtime friend of Go Betty Go, Adam Bones. The band opened with “Saturday,” featuring riffs and a guitar solo made iconic by Cisneros. It definitely felt a bit surreal watching someone else play these parts I’ve only ever seen Betty play, but I think she would be honored at how great Bones did filling in for her. He really did her justice and helped demonstrate and remind everyone why Cisneros has remained such an integral part of Go Betty Go over the last 20 years.
Aixa Vilar is one of my favorite punk drummers; I always find myself drawn to her performances when I see the band play live. Technically sound, a fast drummer without appearing too flashy, and providing the steady, tantalizing backbeat for the band. When the band played their hit “I’m From LA,” the song ended as it usually does with an impromptu drum solo from Vilar that blows the audience away every time they do it. At one point during the song “Son Mis Locuras,” I heard some terrific backing vocals but I saw Nicolette and Rangel were not near their microphones and I had no idea where the sound was coming from. It was only when I looked back and saw Aixa singing that I realized she provides a lot of the best backing vocals for Go Betty Go, whereas drummers too often do not even have a microphone or only provide minor backing vocals.
Lead singer Nicolette is a great front-woman. Usually bouncing and dancing onstage alternating between bubbly and fierce on songs like “The Pirate Song” and “Runaway.” She has a powerful voice that can be sugary and sweet before belting out vocals that border on angsty at times. Not only is Rangel’s playing impressive but she’s also one of the few lone punk bassists who uses finger picking and plucking, instead of a pick. In the song “Son Mis Locuras,” the bridge after each verse is a frenzied breakdown between Vilar on drums and Rangel on bass, exploding into a raucous chorus.
Nicolette actually left the band for a few years to pursue art school. During this time, the band recruited Emily Wynne-Hughes as lead vocalist. Wynne-Hughes joined the girls onstage and played “City Lights,” a song she co-wrote with Cisneros. She stayed onstage and performed a duet with Nicolette on “I’m From LA.”
The band announced that they had a special guest planned as Richie Ramone, one-time drummer for the Ramones took the stage. Assuming lead vocal duties, Richie led the band with the Ramones hits “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” as a mosh pit broke out in the crowd. Go Betty Go reminded everyone to continue donating and said they couldn’t wait until Betty was back playing with them again. They then closed their set, as they often do,” with “C’mon.”