The other day, like every other prick, I was ejecting myself from the neighborhood and onto the highways to go to my so called job. I wasn’t paying attention too well, fidgeting with the stereo to put on some punk rock. My car windows are now doing that thing where they get all steamy and shit and the defroster doesn’t really kick on too quickly, so by the time I get up the street, I still can’t see shit. I almost killed this girl crossing the street to get to her bus stop. I’m not sure how old she was. I mean, when I was her age, I never took the bus to school from that neighborhood in either middle school or high school. But frankly, I am such an old fuck, I can’t tell how old anyone is. I just assume if they dress like me but are still skinny they are 17 so I don’t talk to them. Fat dudes with crappy beards are creepy looking, and I am not trying to be creepy. I’m just lazy and don’t really care what I look like. But seriously, I look like the kind of guy that does not need to be talking to kids in high school. So I don’t.
But anyway, I started to notice all the kids at the corner, waiting for the bus. They’re all Hot Topic’d out with studded belts, way too tight pants (it’s alarming) and hoodies with stupid shit on it that I can’t make out. They’re probably into My Chemical Romance (who I saw like a million years ago either in a basement or at the wilson center and didn’t like them then, and don’t care much for them now. nice dudes, glad they are awesome, but not my cup of tea) and watch THE Real OC or some shit like that. I don’t know. Clearly, I am out of touch with the youth of today. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not cool, I’m single, look like pervert and currently live at my parents house. I am the example of what not to do with your life. But, I did experience one thing very important, if only marginally and minorly and it shaped my life forever. And that is I saw Bikini Kill and Team Dresch. I was around for Riot Grrrl, and despite being a middle class, white, privileged (do I really need to say that here?) male from suburban America who never had to worry about, and therefor was never expected to pay attention to, anything, the Riot Grrrl movement had a very profound affect on my life.
So, I know my readership is made up mostly of my friends on Facebook (TM), a few people I’ve met along the way and the rando internet fucks who somehow have similar tastes in something enough so that they accidentally stumble across this blog. I have no sway over the public, no voice to reach the audience this rant is intended for, and as stated earlier, don’t approach young girls on the street to offer my tiny bit of wisdom. But you, dear sweet reader, maybe you have a niece, or a young cousin, or know someone that has like teenage children and perhaps you can spread my message that I have to share. This message if for girls aged 0-17, from me, a crusty white man. QUIT SCHOOL, START A BAND.
When I was in high school, me and all my stupid friends had a million bands, inspired no doubt by the unending line of boys that felt the privilege to pick up a guitar, buy a van and infect America (and sometimes even Europe) with their pent up aggression, testosterone and inherint, socialized sexism. Kurt Cobain grew up in a shitty town, poor as fuck and became one of the biggest artists ever. No one told him no. Because he was a dude. And he was one of the better one’s out there who did understand his privilege and the position that put him in. But most girls ages 0-17 do not have those kind of role models. As awesome as Riot Grrrl was and remains to be, the fuck all, punk rock, diy images personified into giant sized awesome are very few and far between for young ladies.
There is an entire country and world opened to you, to explore, meet, see and engage in. Bands totally offer that opportunity to anyone who decides they want to do that. If I have learned anything from years and years of basement shows it’s that even dudes with make up can become huge stars. You don’t have to be good, you just have to want to hang with your friends, meet new people, play music and that’s pretty much it.
So I know, dear reader, yr like, “dude, what can I share with these 0-17 year old girls to get them psyched for this awesome idea of yours?”. So, I am no expert in the plethora of lady rock but following is a list of bands, both historical and current that have awesome women in them. I have highlighted some of my favorites and made another list of great lady rockers who are still, so over looked. The Indie Movement as it is today seems to lack a lot of strong, independent women. It seems plauged with lots of boys again. But without further fanfare this is what I recomend:
Bikini Kill: Pretty much essential to any music collection, period. You can’t have a discussion about Riot Grrrl or Punk rock without including Bikini Kill.
Team Dresch: A great fucking rock band that had super personal/political message to crushingly awesome music. This is my foundation for queer politics/identity/discussion. Team Dresch means more to my life than pretty much any other band.
Sleater Kinney: They were born out of the Riot Grrl movement and outlived everyone and became such a ferocious juggernaut. Pearl Jam should have opened up for them. NO JOKE.
Spitboy/Los Crudos split 12″ on Ebuiltion (?). This is totally blistering punk rock. I have not come across any other Spitboy records, but it is some atonal, noisy thrash. Los Crudos was a bunch of latino dudes that sung in Spanish and also really expanded my ideas about music, punk and music history.
Bratmobile and Cold Cold Hearts: Allison Wolfe looks straight up like my mom did in highschool. She is one of the best performers I have ever seen. The music was totally unhinged, distored, screachy noise. Cold Cold Hearts opened up for Fugazi once (that I saw) and scared the hell out of me.
Hazel: Their entire discography. Jody played in Team Dresch as well as Hazel and while Hazel is not an all female band they are from that era and are absolutely essential. Also Jody is an amazing drummer.
The Norman Mayer Group: Total DC sludge Metal. This band is totally underrated and unheard.
Turboslut: Sadly broken up too early. Beck is now in The Gift and I think some of the other ladies started Hot Mess (don’t quote me on that). This band was one of the most intense, original, explosive, unruly bands I have ever seen. Anyone who doesn’t think this band was mighty and heavy refuses to listen to them with unbiased judgement.
See Also: Huggy Bear, The Butchies, The Delta 72, Tribe 8, Erase Errata, Slant 6, The Vegas Beat (if you can find it, oh so good) and of course my friends in des_ark and Trophy Wife are active and awesome and some of the most inspiring people I have ever had the pelasure of meeting.
Essential reads for young ladies that want to rock can be found in the following:
We Owe You Nothing has crucial interviews with Sleater Kinney, Kathleen Hanna and Jody Bleyle (from Team Dresch) culled from the Punk Planet archives. I wish they would do updated interviews with these ladies because they are mad important. But the knowledge they drop is critical.
Girls Guide to Taking Over the World: Writings From The Girl Zine Revolution This is by no means definitive of the writings that came out of Riot Grrrl, but it was released within sight of the Riot Grrrl movement and is less academic in presentation and has a more fresh perspective. A historical review might be awesome, but you can’t deny how badly the editors wanted to preserve this important aspect of Riot Grrrl culture.
I have recently ordered Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution which is supposed to be the first, truly definitive look at the Riot Grrrl Movement that also looks at stuff beyond just the bands and such. Riot Grrrl, much like hip hop gets remembered for the bands (usually just Bratmobile and Bikini Kill which, while they are awesome, is idiotic) and fails to mention the explosion of zines, gatherings, and self defense courses that also were a large part of that. Presumably, this book covers a lot of that. I can’t say for sure, but I’ve heard good things.
Rat Girl by Throwing Muses Kristin Hersh is also supposed to be really good and the cover has been staring me in the face for the last two days at my friend’s apartment in North Philadelphia.
History is a Weapon: The Riot Grrrl Manifesto is available, archived online here. It originally appeared in the zine Bikini Kill Zine #2
I have also not read The Girls Guide to Rocking by the insatiable Jessica Hopper yet, but from what I have been told, everything young ladies need to know is in this book. So you know, stop fucking up and pick it up for a kid this Christmas.
So, as stated, this is not necissarily my area of expertise and you know, this isn’t some awesome, acedemic, deep discussion. If there is something I missed, please add it in the comments section.