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Tongue and groove with Juliette & the Licks.

Lick It Up

Get ready for a sweaty workout as film star-turned-rock siren Juliette Lewis' band heats up the Vans Warped Tour

By Sarah Quelland

'PUT IT IN my hand and tell me how much pressure it takes to get you off," Juliette Lewis commands in a voice that makes her Natural Born Killers character, Mallory Knox, sound like a real angel. As an actress, Lewis is capable of kicking serious ass one minute and demonstrating an awkward, childlike vulnerability the next. She possesses a wild, carnal, almost feral charm and surrenders herself so completely to her roles that she actually broke actor Tom Sizemore's nose filming a prison scene for Natural Born Killers. Lewis doesn't pull back on her punches, and her lack of inhibition suits her latest role as the vampish siren fronting her own rock band, Juliette & the Licks.

After sweating all over Hollywood clubs like the Viper Room, Juliette & the Licks (which features former Hole drummer Patty Schemel, guitarist Todd Morse and bassist Paul Ill) jumped on the West Coast leg of the Vans Warped Tour, which slams into Pier 30/32 in San Francisco this Saturday (July 3), armed with songs from its eight-song debut, Like a Bolt of Lightning, due out in September on Fiddler Records.

The album plays like Iggy Pop meets the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Cars meets Pat Benatar, Frank Zappa meets Guns n' Roses, Bow Wow Wow meets Janis Joplin. Granted, Lewis' status as a film star creates instant buzz for the project, but she holds her own with vocals that range from raw and throaty to hot and breathy. She's inspired by entertainers like David Lee Roth; live, she favors brightly colored cat suits. She's said to get as lost in her music performances as she does in her acting roles, and she's not afraid to be ugly.

"Sold it all for the high life, now you're stuck / Selling skin, fake tits, mutilation / Dick-sucking lips, porno infiltration," she rails on "Shelter Your Needs." She cries out against a "mad, mad world" and cautions "You gotta believe, to shelter your needs / It's not about living large when you're down on your knees." The driving "Got Love to Kill" skitters and veers through '80s rock territory, while "Hey You Hey Man" rocks like a restless '80s-era Sunset Strip howler as Lewis swears, "Call me dirty or call me clean, it makes no difference to me."

Lewis has a voice and she uses it. Spontaneous and urgent, there's a bit of wickedness to her lyrics. "You gotta warm me up before you rub me raw," she instructs on "20-Year-Old Lover," a fantasy about a young barista. Meanwhile, "American Boy" spits white hot venom at frat boys, military toys, debutantes and corporate muscle. As a vocalist, Lewis is at her most striking channeling Janis Joplin on "Get Your Tongue Wet," a lit fuse that urges, "Find your own way."

Lewis dropped out of high school to pursue her acting career and became emancipated from her parents at 14. Now 31, she seems to have reached some peace with the past. On "I Am My Father's Daughter," she asks "When is it the right time to never do what you're told?" and "Why is it looking back I found my way home?"

The soon-to-be-ex-wife of professional skateboarder Steve Berra is giving her band a run on the Warped Tour. She also collaborated with Liam Howlett on tracks for the upcoming record from the Prodigy, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, which is due out in August. On Saturday, Juliette & the Licks share the Volcom Stage with Guttermouth, Go Betty Go, Letter Kills, the God Awfuls, Potluck, Die Hunns, the Fuck Ups and Autopilot Off. More than 60 bands are spread across the Warped Tour's many stages including regional bands the Matches, Plans for Revenge and Unjust. Visit www.warpedtour.com for the full schedule and check out www.julietteandthelicks.com for updates.

PLAN AHEAD: Heavy Heavy Low Low, Thought Riot and Takaru, June 30 at the Gaslighter Theater in Campbell; My Former Self, Varsity Heroes and the Other Left, July 1 at the Gaslighter Theater; Hayride to Hell, July 2 at the Blank Club; bates, July 2 at Johnny V's; Plans for Revenge, the Cliftons, the Vex, the Texas Thieves and Pull the Trigger, July 2 at the Gaslighter Theater; Buckethead's Giant Robot, July 3 at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz; Nuralisis, My Monster and Stickshift Riot, July 5 at Waves Smokehouse.

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From the June 30-July 6, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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