Martha Hull could pass for Janis Ian in a pinch. She's short and slender, just the sort of singer you'd expect to whisper sweet nothings into the microphone all night long. Then Hull opens her mouth, and the image is suddenly and irrevocably shattered. She has a whale of a rock 'n' roll voice.
At the Psychedelly last night, Hull was occasionally stymied by New Wave songs which emphasized the bottom end of her contralto and little else. It wasn't until she lit into "Feelin' Right Tonight," and its eccentric rockabilly phrasing, that the extent of her vocal range became apparent. Backed by the Steady Jobs, she turned in as fine a version of that song and Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy" as you're likely to hear, and softened the effect nicely with Lulu's "To Sir With Love." When the songs suited her, Hull proved to be one of Washington's most colorful rock voices.
The Reactions opened with an animated set of R&B-laced rock. With a video camera trained on them, the band was particularly sharp recalling in their own kinetic fashion everyone from the Stones and Garland Jeffreys to Chuck Berry and the giants of the '50s New Orleans school. The highlights included the band's favorite, "Ramona," and the aptly titled "Reelin' and Rockin'." Both bands appear again tonight.