Amanda Shaw and her band The Cute Guys perform Saturday at San Jose Jazz's Summer Fest.
When Cajun rock up-and-comer Amanda Shaw belts out a punk cover—say, The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” or a gender-modified take on the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”—it’s not a novelty-type thing, like string-music versions of Metallica. Her versions, especially the Clash song, burn with the same power as the original, led by her constantly bobbing and weaving, fist-in-the-air delivery. She sings and fiddles with swagger and attitude. With authority.
Offstage, however, her personality is as far from that tough-girl stance as the bayou is from the South Bay. Shaw, who plays the Summer Fest in San Jose on Saturday, is all Southern charm, as bubbly and fun-loving as a newly minted 22-year-old (she celebrated her birthday last week) should be. This one just happens to have been playing violin since she was four and making records since she was 11. She’s beloved in her hometown of New Orleans, and two years ago Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared August 31 “Amanda Shaw Day.”
Underneath the sweetness and upstanding citizenry, though, there is definitely a punk spirit in Shaw. She admits her musical heroes are all strong and sometimes complicated women: Chrissie Hynde, Amy Winehouse, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Etta James and so on.
“I’m definitely all about the girl power,” she admits. “Even though I’m a fiddle player, I like to rock out.”
She laid this out early on in the song “I’m Not A Bubblegum Princess,” from the 2004 album of the same name. It signified a shift in her career, as she had just finished filming movies for the Disney Channel.
“It was junior high or the beginning of high school,” she says, “Early on, around that time, I had done the two Disney movies. It was fine, it was fun, but I didn’t like how some of the girls would come on and talk bad about New Orleans, even though they were filming the movie here. Or they’d come in and be like ‘look at my Chanel shoes,’ or my Gucci bag or whatever. For me, it’s not about being a product to sell.”