Stylist finds creative and emotional outlet as lead singer for Mabel's Rage
Having a foxy lady front your band can be a bit of a blow to the ego. The three guys in Mabel's Rage know this all too well. But, they deal with it with a bit of self-deprecating humor. They joke that the band should be called Mabel and Chopped Liver. The guys chuckle about making T-shirts for the band's lead singer. Gina Satterfield's shirt would say "prime rib," the rest of the band's T-shirts would say "chopped liver." Satterfield, clad in skintight, cheetah-print pants and studded leather boots and sporting a sparkling nose stud and a handful of silver rings, exudes rock 'n' roll. Her voice can vary from the innocence of a young Dolly Parton to the raspy sexuality of Janis Joplin as she croons. Quite fitting, because those are two of the many artists the band covers. Bud Clarke, guitar player, knew Satterfield had something special the first time he heard her powerful voice more than 20 years ago. Satterfield was belting out along with a Pat Benatar record at her family's annual Christmas party in the mid-90s. "Holy smokes, that girl can sing," Clarke recalled thinking at the time.
For decades, the two remained friends, and Satterfield, stylist and owner of The Hairdressers Inc. on Sixth Avenue, cut his hair, but they never worked together musically. Satterfield didn't have time for a band. She was married to a UPS worker, raising two girls and working as a hairdresser. Then her husband, Joel, received a heartbreaking diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. After his death in 2006 at age 46, Satterfield needed an outlet for her grief. Her friends encouraged her to sing. "They felt it was something I needed to do," Satterfield said. As a sort of vocal therapy, she used her pipes to not only distract her from the hurt but also as an outlet to deal with her emotions. Over the next couple of years, Satterfield played with many different musicians. She became bored with focusing on cover songs and wanted to venture out into more original music.
In 2010, she found the right combination with Clarke, who had previously been in Roxslyde, a popular Helena-area band. Then they met Ben Homan, a drummer and full-time student at the University of Montana-Helena, at a gig. Homan was the perfect fit for their vision. Throw in bass player John Ross, who also played with Roxslyde, and they had a band. The foursome practices an average of once a week. "More so for the camaraderie, we just like the communion," Satterfield explained. "At this age, there's only so much time you have left. You should spend time with the people you love and we love being around each other," she added.
Satterfield, 47, credits her family, band, clientele and fans for getting her through the dark times. Her daughters, 12-year-old Jada and 8-year-old Izabela, are not only two of the band's biggest cheerleaders but also some of the harshest critics. "They're kind of our litmus test. They're pretty honest," she said. At times the girls will reverse the stereotypical roles and ask their mom to turn down the rock music. Although their tastes may clash at times, they do like some of the same bands, including Mabel's Rage. "It's great when your kids sing the words to the original stuff. That's when you know it's good," Satterfield said.
Satterfield also credits her lone employee at the salon as being one of her saviors. Sue Brooks not only does her hair but also is a great confidante. "She's the one who keeps Mabel stable," Satterfield explained. "She also keeps me looking good." Some of her clients ask Satterfield, "Are you going to give up hair to be Mabel forever?"
She does get called Mabel all the time. This begs the question, who is Mabel and why is she so angry? The band's name is a reference to a scene in the comic opera "Pirates of Penzance" in which Mabel, a tomboy pirate, is getting cinched up in a corset and is quite begrudged. "It just cracks me up," Satterfield said. During a conversation about the scene with a friend, Satterfield came up with Mabel's Rage and it stuck.
For the most part, Clarke writes the music and Satterfield the lyrics for their original songs. The band also plays an impressive throng of cover songs ranging from AC/DC to The White Stripes to Violent Femmes. "We work hard on dynamics," Satterfield said. Mabel's Rage is working on a CD that should be completed the beginning of April. The band's music also is available at www.reverbnation.com/mabelsrage.
The next big show is April 6 with outlaw country band The Dirty Shame at the Gateway Center. The concert, called the Helena Burger Bash and featuring a burger bar, will benefit the Coats for Kids program. Another exciting venture for the group is their part in a nationwide campaign for drunken driving awareness. This is especially close to Satterfield's heart because she lost one of her bass players, Karl Pentecost, and his wife, Charmon, when they were killed by a drunk driver in 2009. Satterfield still has a picture of the couple on her station at her salon. "It was really rough to see their family go through that," she said. That heartbreak makes the selection of the band's song "Mikey Says" for the Esente Music Group project much more meaningful. The jam will be used in an advertisement as well as appear on a CD sometime in the future.
"Life is short and we've learned that a lot," Satterfield said. "Enjoy your family and be good to each other because you never know what will happen."
Reporter Angela Brandt: 447-4078 or email@example.com
Mabel's Rage Turns Focus to Original Music
With an ever increasing focus on original music, the Helena rock group Mabel's Rage returns to the Electric City this weekend. Catch the band at The Do Bar on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m.
Mabel's Rage is led by Bud Clarke on guitar and vocals and lead vocalist Gina Satterfield. They're joined by John Ross on bass and backing vocals and Chris Brady on drums and backing vocals. Clarke says the diverse backgrounds of its members is a defining dimension of the band. Clarke is a native of Canada who moved to Helena in 1990. Born in Oregon and raised in Kentucky, Satterfield moved to Montana in 1981 to be closer to family. Brady grew up in San Diego. After traversing the U.S. in several touring musical groups, he landed in Montana in 2008. Raised in Huntington Beach, Calif., Ross is a former semi-pro surfer and a karate black belt holder. He relocated to Montana a decade ago.
Mabel's Rage performs a mix of cover and original material at most club dates. Cover artists range from Fleetwood Mac to AC/DC to The Gorillas to Janis Joplin to Jack White to Jefferson Airplane. Satterfield describes the band's original material as "American backward foothills rock with no apologies." "We're all over the place, especially the new stuff," she explains. "We like everything from hard rock to country to bluegrass to Cajun."
As the band ramps up its focus on original music, club audiences are responding favorably, Clarke said. "People are reacting to our original stuff at least, if not better, than our cover tunes," he says. "That's a very good sign." Lyrically, the band doesn't shy away from political commentary, sometimes taking shots at political correctness.
Sample Mabel's Rage original music at www.reverbnation.com/mabelsrage.
Pete Swanson is a local musician and freelance writer. Reach him at 406-727-0438.