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"We're kind of like a comic book come to life," says Mark D., drummer for Denver's Fox Force 5. "Seriously, our persona is a cross between a comic book and, like, a bad, circa 1973, One Day at a Time sitcom joined together as one."
The stage names favored by the Force are of a piece with this characterization: They include Kinky Tuscadero (aka former Shrinking Violets singer Heather Dalton), Cheri Balm (local visual artist turned guitarist Sherry A. Hera) and Jett Brassiere (onetime Claymores bassist Shay Moss). So, too, are their influences: The 5 cite the Charlie's Angels theme song, stock-car racing and Lawrence Welk.

As for the Force's mission, Tuscadero insists, "We came together to be a vigilante band to knock off all the heavy-metal hair bands." But "we're definitely anti-riot grrrls," she continues, noting that she and Balm settled on the act's current rhythm section after rejecting several man-hating Melissa Etheridge types who auditioned for the proj-ect. In an attempt at summation, Balm interjects, "We're fighting for hair peace"--and in the context of the loopy camaraderie she shares with her bandmates, this declaration makes perfect sense.

The quartet is deliberately sketchy about biographical details: Tuscadero, for example, claims to be a former poodle hairdresser from Hollywood, while Mark D., who recently pounded the skins for the defunct punk outfit Babihed, suggests repeatedly that he has spent more time in jail than on stage. Under duress, the players concede that the Force got its start approximately six months ago, after the Shrinking Violets performed at an exhibition of Balm/Hera's work. Soon thereafter, Tuscadero and Balm recruited Brassiere to flesh out their weekly jam sessions, eventually incorporating drummer D. when their original percussionist didn't work out.

At this point, both Balm and Tuscadero can be described as aspiring guitarists; neither will be mistaken for Eddie Van Halen anytime soon. But the combination of their untutored exuberance and the experience of Brassiere and D. actually clicks in a live setting. Brassiere emphasizes that the group's primary desire on stage is "to entertain ourselves." Elaborates D.: "I see so many lame bands where it's like nothing to watch. It's all audible, no visual." However, he goes on, "I think half of being in a band is performing. It shouldn't just be four people looking at the fretboards of their guitars or staring at the floor."

It's unlikely that the Force will be accused of committing this sin. Among the highlights of a recent Lion's Lair gig were a pair of bar-top slide-guitar solos during which Balm and Tuscadero employed a metallic vibrator (the band's honorary fifth member, "Chrome Chuck, the Superfuck") in a manner that the folks at Kitty's could never have envisioned. The campy "Sticky Page Girl"--the best of the handful of originals penned by the Force--draws from the same well; in it, Tuscadero satirizes the ambitions of a porn-star wannabe. Almost equally rousing is "Denver Debbie," which attacks the character of a supposedly fictional gal whose major fault seems to be a romantic interest in Tuscadero's boyfriend. "I think that the first level for females in music is to bitch about men," Tuscadero explains. But by contrast, she says, "we bitch about other women."

Thus far, the females who've seen the combo don't seem to mind. According to Brassiere, he initially expected the band's audience to be "a total dude-fest." But the group--which takes its name from a reference in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction--has been warmly received by listeners of both genders.

That doesn't mean that the members of Fox Force 5 are about to let success go to their pretty heads, however. The foursome hopes to complete a cassette EP and a video for January release, but beyond that, Tuscadero says, "we don't have any goals." A moment later, she amends this statement. "We wanted to be booed off the stage," she admits. "That was our original goal, and when that didn't happen, we were taken aback."

Balm adds, "We need to work harder."
The 2nd Annual Children's Hospital Benefit, with Fox Force 5, Crack Daddy, Vinyl Oyster and Psycho Holiday. 9:30 p.m. Saturday, December 16, Cricket on the Hill, 1209 E. 13th St., $4, 830-9020.

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John Jesitus