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This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the June 16, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Sister Power Rocks Antigone

The five women in Antigone Rising are making waves beyond their New Jersey and New York home base. That’s because their music, mostly originals — but the occasional classic cover like Paul Simon’s “Cecelia” — is infectious, energetic, and inspiring. Three of the women — sisters Kristin, and Cathy Henderson, and Cassidy, who doesn’t reveal her last name — share harmonies, and they accompany themselves on drums, bass and guitars. Antigone Rising has caught the ear of independent rock music fanatics. Favorites on the campus and club scene since 1999, the group recently signed with Lava records.

After years of hard work, the band is drawing ever-growing crowds to bigger clubs and expanding its fan base to other parts of the U.S. So far this summer, Antigone Rising is scheduled to appear in Cleveland, Providence, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. New Jerseyfans can hear the band at Maxwells in Hoboken on Saturday, June 26.

“The band got started in Manhattan, that’s where we all first met after college,” explains lead singer Cassidy over a cup of coffee on Nassau Street, near the Triumph Brewery, in an interview that occurred well before the band signed with Lava. Cassidy says she likes the one name stage name on stage and off. When they’re not on the road, Cassidy shares her Morristown apartment with Kristin Henderson, rhythm guitarist for Antigone Rising.

“I sort of left town and went to California and did some other things for a while. Then we reconvened in 1999 in Manhattan. That’s where it all started,” she says. The band mates still live in or near the city.

The band had its genesis with sisters Kristin and Cathy Henderson, who started the band as an acoustic group when they were in college at Bucknell University. Asked about their college years, Kristin Henderson says she studied psychology and education and her sister Cathy majored in English and theater. was“We turned it into a rock band when we got a bass player and drummer in 1999,” says Cassidy. “That’s also when we got a van and started touring, when the group became a full time thing.”

“After we all moved to New York City and realized we wanted to go full time with it, the band split up and we reformed with people who were willing to do it full time,” Kristin explains.

“Our entire image is different and our songwriting is different, thanks to Cassidy,” Kristin adds, smiling at her band mate across the table. “Cassidy was an inspiration for the rest of us in the band because that’s how she making her living — doing it, singing, full time,” Kristin points out, “and we said, ‘That’s impossible,’ and she said, ‘It’s not impossible, I’m doing it.’”

Antigone Rising’s first big break, Cassidy and Kristin say, was probably the chance to play on the Lilith Fair, the all-woman rock revue that made tours several summers ago. The band played on an ancillary stage, not the main stage, but they had the chance to join the “big names,” Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, and others at the end of the night on the main stage.

“Even though Lilith Fair was a great opportunity, nothing really came from playing it, but people were more likely to take us seriously when they heard we played it,” Cassidy says. Another break was the chance to open for Joan Jett in Albany at a 20,000-seat arena, as well as the airplay they’re getting in that city on several FM rock stations.

Antigone Rising first started to get a foothold in clubs beyond New York City after it released an EP, “New & Used,” produced by Tony Visconti, in 1999. Visconti’s credits include albums by David Bowie and the Moody Blues. The band followed it up with “Rock Album” in 2000, and “Say It! An-Tig-uh-nee, Live In New York City,” in 2002, and Traveling Circus in 2004.

“For a lot of artists and bands, there is one highlight or break where they turned a corner. For just as many other bands it’s impossible to pinpoint that big break,” Kristin explains. “But for us it might have been when Ken Gorka walked into the Rock ’n’ Roll Cafe, on Bleecker Street and said, ‘You girls need to be playing the Bitter End.’ That for us was a big break.” That led to a residency of sorts at the club. Now when the band plays the Bitter End they must play two shows to accommodate fans.

Aside from Cassidy as lead vocalist and energetic front woman and Kristin Henderson on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Antigone Rising also includes Cathy Henderson on lead guitar, Anne-Marie Stehn on bass guitar and Dena Tauriello on drums. In concert the band mates exude an energy that carries the audience. Among the few classic covers the band interprets are Simon’s “Cecelia” with three-part harmonies and Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls.” Their originals, including “Run For Your Life” and “Storybook Romance,” and “Cupid” are even more compelling.

Asked about her earliest inklings of wanting to become a vocalist, Cassidy, who has done lots of jingle and commercial singing work in England and California, says she’d always wanted to be in her own rock ’n’ roll band.

When she finally abandoned her career as a freelance jingle and commercial singer, “I took a big cut in pay and went from making sometimes a thousand dollars a day to sometimes making just ten dollars a day” Cassidy says. Since the Henderson sisters both had day jobs at ad agencies that morphed into freelance contracting work, their respective schedules became a lot more flexible and able to accommodate the demands of touring.

Unfortunately, says Kristin, “female music seems to be clumped into a genre of its own. Whereas one would think that our band makes more sense on a bill with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, because we’re women, it makes more sense for us to be on a bill with Joan Jett. Even though we don’t feel that way and Robert Randolph certainly doesn’t feel that way.”

Cathy Henderson, the band’s lead guitarist, says that the name “Antigone Rising” had its genesis in Greenwich Village at an apartment she shared with sister Kristin and others. “Antigone represents a very strong, rebellious female in Greek mythology who essentially stood up against authority. The rising part kind of connotes positivity and standing up for what you believe in, regardless of the reactions of others.” The band, she adds, is about empowerment. “Not just for women, but for men as well. Everybody is creative and everybody has a right to express themselves.”

Making the leap of faith to give up the security of their day jobs for the ups and downs of playing in a band, Cathy says, was easy for her. “I never wanted to say I wished I had tried that, or I wished I did that,” she says. “All I ever wanted to do was something musical. We had the band as a hobby right after college and we would work our tails off after work on band business. It was scary at first, because trust me, if it’s going to work, you have to put your all into it.

“If you believe in it, if you believe in anything, it will work, but you have to believe in it,” she says. For ever-growing numbers of Antigone Rising fans, it’s clear they believe in it as much as the members themselves do.

Antigone Rising Saturday, June 26, at 10 p.m., at Maxwells, at 1039 Washington Street, Hoboken. Ticket price: $10.

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