Fans of Cameron Crowe’s Oscar-winning Almost Famous were left with quite a few questions about the real people that inspired the film’s fictional characters. But none left admirers of the movie more curious than super-groupie Pennie Lane (played by Kate Hudson, who received an Academy Award nomination). Yes, there is a real Pennie Lane, and, yes, she is back.
And after a quarter of a century away from music, the real Pennie Lane (not her true surname, but the one she is choosing to use for her music business venture, as well as to protect her privacy) has returned to her first love in another behind-the-scenes capacity. Lane, who became a successful marketing consultant in the business world after retiring from the groupie scene at the age of twenty-one, is putting her marketing expertise to use with Seattle-based magazine Rockrgrl and a San Francisco band by the name of Storm, Inc.
“I decided to begin working in the music industry because of them,” Lane says of Storm, Inc. In particular, she was drawn in by the group’s enigmatic frontwoman, Storm (formerly of local faves Flower SF and Storm and Her Dirty Mouth). “Storm absolutely has what it takes to succeed,” Lane says. “She is not only a singer and songwriter, she is an entertainer.”
Lane, who is primarily handling the publicity for the band, knows that her name is going to attract the curious. But she also knows that will only get the group so far. “I hope that my involvement can give them a chance to be seen and heard by the right decision makers and then the masses,” she says. “Then, it is the band’s responsibility to reach their full potential and ride the wave.”
Storm, an unpredictable, outspoken, six-foot beauty who shines brightest when on stage, thinks that she and her band (which includes ex-members of 4 Non Blondes and Bay Area staples the Broun Fellinis) have delivered the goods with their independent CD The Calm Years. “I think the record is really good and the songs are really good,” Storm says. “It’s not the best thing I’ll ever do in my life, but it is the best thing I’ve done to this point.”
One thing that Storm does not lack for is self-confidence. While she does admit to the same doubts any artist feels, she says, “I want people to like the record, obviously. I want people to love the band, and I want people to love me. Everybody wants to be loved.” However, she refuses to grovel for said love, from fans or major labels. “I’m more of a velvet rope kind of deal. I’m not going to be the one waiting outside the club hoping to get picked to go in,” she says. “If I’m not invited, I’m not going to go. What fun is that? To go see if you’re pretty enough or cool enough to get asked to join the party – I am cool enough and I am tough enough, pretty enough or whatever to do whatever the fuck I want. But I’m not going to try and sell that.”
Following the rule of human nature that states that those who do not want you, you want, Storm has already had interest from several labels. And as she puts it, “I’m not stupid. If someone makes us the right offer I’ll listen.”
No one will accuse Storm, who grew up on the East Coast attending the finest prep schools, where her father was a teacher, of being stupid. Particularly after they hear the articulate, candid lyrics that characterize The Calm Years. Asked to describe her main theme, Storm responds, “It’s definitely the underdog. I write about the people who usually get dissed, who people think won’t go anywhere, but in my songs they burn bright and not only burn bright they do it with grace and without being bitter.”
A case in point is the song “Beautiful.” “It’s about this woman who gets mistreated because she’s different, weird and she doesn’t fit in, so everyone’s like, ‘What a freak, what an asshole.’ And all she ever says is, ‘Ain’t life beautiful.’ Then she goes on, leaves school and she’s all-of-a-sudden brilliant, doing really well and everybody says, ‘Oh, I always knew she was going to be great.’ ‘I used to fuck her.’ ‘She was my best friend.'”
Storm also takes on the Bay Area music scene and the well-publicized lack of room there for rock music at this point. In “Dying Town,” she sings, “The freaks got chased away.” In person, she is more venomous and humorous when discussing the city. “There are still some rock bands that can pack it out,” she says. “But the majority of the people will pack the coke-snorting, E-dropping, stupid, vacant, vapid, easy-sex, blow-job, hand-job, pocket-job, high-paying-job clubs that play the ‘doot-doot,’ ‘I was made to love you’ shit.”
With honesty and humor like that, it’s not surprising that Storm already counts among her admirers Nikki Sixx and Everclear’s Art Alexakis, in addition to Pennie Lane. So if Ms. Lane had to pinpoint it, what was it that really made her want to return to music after all this time just to work with this unsigned band out of San Francisco? “The live show. I saw them and I was just blown away. Storm is not only pushing the envelope to the extreme, she is licking it.”