Friday, January 29, 2010

Even punk girls get the blues.

Last summer, the lovely and talented Hana Malia, with whom I am proud to have volunteered, turned me on to the idea of being prepared for emotional hardships and crises. She explained to me the simple and effective practice of having a box filled with phone numbers of loved ones, photos from happy times, mix cds of comforting music -- in short, a box full of things you know will elevate your mood.

A former Girl Scout to the core, this idea of being prepared for such a crises, just as you would prepare for for a natural disaster, makes total sense to me.

This makes less sense to me: last night, after a very trying week of school-related miseries, interpersonal breakdowns, bleak weather, and thinking about Haiti, Howard Zinn, and J.D. Salinger, I found myself huddled in a shaking mass on my bed. And I found out the hard way that the mix cds in my proverbial box o'coping methods are of angry, aggressive, politically-oriented music. When I am hurt or upset, my instinct is to listen to my favorite local bands and the ladies who inspire me the most -- bands like The Shondes, Cheeky, The Two Funerals, Scantron, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Zombie Dogs, Sleater-Kinney, among others.

It seems counterintuitive even to me to use rock and punk for such a purpose. Rock music has traditionally been made and performed with the intent of confronting, informing, and provoking, right? I know that my friends who listen to and play punk and hardcore do so because they want to challenge and be challenged.

I think partly because of my punk feminist beliefs, I tend to feel embarrassed when I'm upset by something. I know 'rationally' that feelings like sadness, loneliness, and despondence are perfectly normal, and that feelings aren't ever wrong, because they're subjective. But I can't get over this feeling that I'm being weak, and I wonder if my colleagues, and the girls in my circle of friends and acquaintances ever feel this type of shame.

I want to say this for both myself and for other girls who are struggling to balance being an emotional, functional human being with being a strong person: even the strongest, fiercest, most confident ladypunks get upset. The toughest, most anti-cheesy sentimentality, most hardcore diy of us female musicians, music writers, photographers, videographers, organizers, and promoters have days where we feel inadequate. We have days where we just feel bad, whether it's because of challenges at work, at home, with friends, or wherever. Even though the world is always demanding that all women, of all backgrounds, are required to constantly be perfectly happy and able to give of our time and energy.

And because we all have these negative and hard-to-manage feelings, I advocate a) having these feelings and learning to not feel bad about them and b) Hana's box. I have to admit that I haven't made an actual box, but I do have a sort of mental box, or mental list of things that I know will make me feel better. Here are some of the ones at the very top:

1. Will, Grace and Rachel Maddow. I know, I know: television doesn't seem like it has much to offer these days. But the fabulous genderqueerness and neurotically selfish antics on Will and Grace both make me laugh and remind me of home. On the other side of it, Rachel Maddow helps to keep me informed, and her reporting on big issues helps me to keep perspective. Also, how classy and clever is she? Watching her graceful takedowns of conservative pundits never fails to revive my faith in humanity.

2. The Girls Are and feministmusicgeek. Yes, I've already talked up feministmusicgeek, but I feel the need to do so again. Author Alyx Vesey never seems to have quite the same take on any given issue as I do, but she seems to care about a lot of the same issues around women and their access to music and performance as me. Her blog always makes me feel less alone. At the same time The Girls Are makes me feel less alone by supplying info and interviews with more and new underground girl and girl-oriented bands than I ever dreamed I could find all in one place. Their choices are impeccable, their writing is funny and sharp, and the blog is, in general, quite inspiring.

3. More Corin. My love of Corin Tucker is well documented in various places within this blog. The truth of it is that Corin is my most cherished feminist artist hero. So when I'm feeling sapped of my energy and drive, I read and watch interviews with her, and I remind myself of what I'm working for.

4. More talking. There's a lot to be said for being self-sufficient, and it's important to be able to take care of your emotions, yes. But that doesn't mean you always have to do everything alone -- a lesson my friends and I seem to keep learning, in new and different ways. I know that I personally find it hard to depend on others, but it's important to trust your friends and family to be supportive, and to tell them when something is bothering you. It's important to our individual well-being to be able to share our feelings, and it's important for our relationships.

And I'd even argue that it's important for our 'scenes': if you can't trust those closest to you, and build those relationships, how can you expect to trust your fellow musicians and colleagues, and to help build communities?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hump Day Treat, New Semester Edition

The end of January means returning yet again to books, papers, exams, teachers, and the stress that they bring. I myself never, ever look forward to the end of January.

But it seems that this year the end of January also brings us "Repulsion", the new single from Portland trio Quasi! Released just yesterday, and available for download FREE at Kill Rock Stars, the song will be first track on the band's upcoming album, American Gong, which comes out on February 23. In celebration, witness the trio's signature fuzzed out guitars, Beach Boys-esque chorusing vocals, and inimitably majestic Janet Weiss-provided percussion on this hump day.

BONUS JONAS: Kill Rock Stars has a sweet deal going, they'll be sending dvds of Quasi's New Years' Eve show out with all pre-orders of American Gong. The best part? The New Year's Eve show was ALL covers of The Who! (Janet playing Keith Moon? Yes please.) It has to be seen to be believed, so check it:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice 2010: Trust (Punk Feminist?) Women.

For Today, January 22, 2010, Rock and the Single Girl is (sort of) taking a break from its regularly scheduled programming to participate in the fifth annual Blog for Choice! This year's theme is Trust Women. For more information, go here.

On the night of October 18, 2008, I was feeling anxious. I was at the Stolen Sleeves Collective, waiting to see Carnal Knowledge's final performance, and I was feeling awkward at this place that I'd never been to, in a room full of people I didn't know very well. It was a cozy, inviting loft space, but still, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the entire experience.

The crowd was pleasingly diverse, as was the line-up of opening bands. But for all the punk girl power associated with Carnal Knowledge and its peers, I was feeling intimidated by the major dude presence at the show. I figured that Carnal Knowledge's male fan and friend base would be respectful and conscientious of the women in the audience. But I was still nervous.

Because I, like many women, have learned to fear first and ask questions later. I've been taught that men cannot be held responsible for their bodies, for the space they occupy, and the boundaries they might breach. I've learned that as a woman, a non-man, I have to be doubly responsible, that I have to maintain constant vigilance of my surroundings.

As Carnal Knowledge was starting its first song of that evening, I was doing just that: I was standing somewhere in the middle of the audience, arms crossed over my chest like armor, struggling to watch and listen to everything going on while not touching anyone around me, especially the very tall young men flanking me on both sides.

The band roared to life, a cacophony of crushing distorted guitars, ballistic drumming and ferocious feminist voices screaming about exactly what I was worried about at that moment -- my right to comfort and space unfettered by male control of influence.

A lot of enthusiastic dancing was starting to happening around me, but it wasn't violent or intrusive. I no longer felt suspicious of anyone in the audience with me; something about the music had temporarily equalized all of us and suspended some of our differences. Captivated by Carnal Knowledge's performance, and also by the heartfelt enthusiasm of the crowd, I thought to myself: Nothing is going to happen to me. And if something does, it won't be ignored or tolerated. I'm safe here.

Much of the credit goes to the bands that performed that evening; most of the people at the show that night were there to support them, and to pay their final respects to Carnal Knowledge, a tough quintet of unabashed hardcore punk fan feminists. These girls are seriously some of the nicest kids I've ever met -- and they're also exactly who I'd want on my side if I were to ever get jumped. In other words, their strength, and their ability to project their fearlessness from onstage, is a large part of what made me feel safe.

That night, I looked around, at the very same people that I'd worried earlier about not really knowing, and thought that I trusted them. I especially trusted the young women there.

Trust women: I know that Dr. Tiller's button wasn't talking about mosh pits or diy shows in Brooklyn lofts...but it sort of could have been. That night, and at every show I've been to since, I have trusted the women around me, with my life. If I can trust them to take a communal, supportive type of responsibility for me and the other people around us, I most certainly trust them with their own lives. Without question, I trust them to make the reproductive choices that are right for themselves, whatever the choice might be. I trust women's choices.

I realize that the girls I'm talking about, the women at these shows, are not like all women. Not all women are feminist punk artists, whose ideas are so like my own. But if I could learn to trust a roomful of women -- and even men -- whom I barely knew, during a single punk show, trusting women in general doesn't seem like that much of a stretch.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Reader Feedback Edition

A few weeks ago Maggie of Rocker Repro commented on a post here and mentioned The Third Sex. Anyone else have fond memories of them? I never owned any of their records, but their songs showed up repeatedly on the mixtapes I got from one of my friends from high school, and I meant to order their 7" with "Feed Me" on it, but I kind of just never got around to it. I'm going to try and make up for it by posting what might be the only video of them available on youtube.

Described by Kill Rock Stars as "3 radical new wave dykes from Portland, Oregon", The Third Sex wrote messy, crashy, quick songs about girls, or that's how all their songs that I ended up hearing sounded. From what I can gather they liked to wear odd costumes, hence their lead singer's dead football player costume in the video. It doesn't make sense, and there isn't much information available about the band to go on, so just watch the video and enjoy the mystery on this hump day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Get Excited, 2010: Get Involved

It seems like every time I open my browser, there are yet more girl-oriented and feminist bands, blogs, websites, events, and even archival donations (you go, K. Ha!) to examine and celebrate. I'm unashamed to proclaim that I am perpetually in the same state Tom Hanks is in right before the last game of the World Series in A League of Their Own. ("....we're gonna win...we're gonna WIN!")

Last week I wrote about my gut feeling that something is happening with girls and punk, and I'm grateful to have this feeling validated by the recently linked Soul Ponies blog. Soul Ponies says that people across the internets are feeling a 'Riot Grrrl revival', and blogger Stacy isn't afraid to tell us exactly what we need to do to revive it: we need to get proactive, get involved, and make it happen. Go read it for yourself if you haven't already. Stacy makes a number of valid points about Riot Grrrl and what it means, and lists a number of excellent ways to contribute to any scene or movement (in case Riot Grrrl isn't your thing).

Every 'how' needs a 'why'; allow me to provide it. Why find a way to get directly involved with music in 2010? Well, at the risk of sounding like a religious fundamentalist doomsday pundit, decent music doesn't have a chance of survival if we don't get active. Music has become something that most people passively consume. I think that a lot of us have forgotten that in effect, we control the industry, and that we choose what we hear.

Getting involved -- whether you start a band or set up shows, or simply adjust your record-shopping habits to benefit smaller companies -- reminds us that we have the power in this situation. And putting the energy into making, producing, distributing, or even just listening to local, independent music gives us a voice. It affords us a measure of representation in art itself.

With power comes responsibility. To be blunt, getting involved with local artists and music isn't something you do for the money. You do it because you have something to offer, and you want to help out. In my experience, you do get compensated by sort of non-tradiational means; local music is dependent on our goodwill, and our willingness to barter skills and resources creatively. Supporting local music can test the limits of our generosity. But that creative bartering is what transforms scenes into communities, and it provides us with the opportunity to model such good behavior for those around us. When we make our local scenes and communities, we have the chance to make the world the kind of place we want it to be.

And at the same time, there's the whole thing of how going to shows, making friends with bands, making your own music, and other related activities is fun. (Remember fun?) Music is a powerful means of communication, yes, but it's meant to be entertainment, too, and it's meant to make you feel good. So get out there, get involved, and spread the positivity and empowerment in 2010!

ps It's really better if you've seen the whole movie...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hump Day Treat, First Hump Day of the New Year Edition

Okay, so technically it's the second Wednesday of the new year. But as it's the first Wednesday post of the calendar year, it feels like a video to celebrate and ring in 2010 is in order.

I have high hopes for this year, and my unshakeable feeling of assurance that this will be a good year for girls in punk, hardcore, and other less accessible genres, and so the only youtube video of my go-to fierce, feminist fight song seems called for. So get your fist in the air, raise your voice, and enjoy Sleater-Kinney's criminally underknown "Male Model" on this hump day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Get Excited: The New Year in Blogs

Have you ever lost something -- your keys, your phone, the remote, etc -- driven yourself crazy looking for it, and then found it as soon as you stopped looking? This apparently applies to blogs, too: awhile back I posted about the lack of feminist and lady music bloggers, and all but begged my comrades to come forth from the shadows. Sadly, few did so, and I felt resigned to my feeling of loneliness. And then shortly thereafter, I started to find exactly the sort of blogs I'd been hoping for -- how crazy is that!? Here are some of my favorites, so far:

Star Beat Music tracks, hypes and reviews quite possibly every single band that comes through New Jersey and New York City, and never ceases to amaze me with how quickly, accurately, and exhaustively it reports area music news. Run by Star, who is probably the hardest working blogger in showbusiness, I depend on this site for show info, and I maintain that every town and city should have a blog like this one.

Where Star Beat fulfills my news needs, Suck My Left One and Soul Ponies provide me with much needed regular doses of Riot Grrrl and queer history. At Suck My Left One you'll find videos, images, lyrics, songs, and links, all related to prominent Riot Grrrl bands, as well as other woman-powered rock of the period.

In contrast to these little daily relics from Riot Grrrl history, the nascent Soul Ponies has no fear of the long, reflective essay, and supplies smart, sassy commentary and context for every video and mp3 it posts. The blog also features book and show reviews, relevant tour and music news, and a much needed critical and aggressive approach to the documentation and sharing of our ladypunk history.

Etta Strange, though technically on hiatus during the construction of a new website, has a long and rich archive for new readers to dig into for now. I've been coming to this site to read about music, genres, websites, and record labels I've never even heard of. Self-described as having 'eclectic' tastes, the author/self-professed obsessive audiophile posts songs, videos, photos, playlists, and concise, smart observations and opinions about everyone from Charlotte Gainsbourg, to Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, to Uganda's Death Row Choir.

Finally, Feminist Music Geek is probably dearest of all these to my heart (much as I hate to pick a single favorite). The name "Feminist Music Geek" alone accurately describes what I am, as well as author Alyx Vesey. Vesey turns her laser sharp gaze on everything from album covers to movie posters, and writes fearlessly about women and gender in all musical aspects of pop culture. Her work uses theory but remains accessible, gets critical without getting nasty, and always manages to both validate my feelings about an issue and make me think about things differently. Vesey's take on Patti Smith is a good example.

I am in love with how these blogs inform me, entertain me, and introduce me to new ideas and artists. I'm heartened to see these bloggers documenting their changing tastes and thoughts on music and popular culture, all while they collect and preserve information and make it accessible to other readers and bloggers. Whether they know it or not, these bloggers carve out an important space within which dialogues can happen, and within which we can all actively consider and engage with music, media, and culture. These blogs allow us to become part of the cultural process, and that's more than just exciting. It's downright inspiring.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Get Excited, 2010! The New Year in Music

By this point -- a mere two-ish weeks into the new year -- I usually find that the novelty of said new year has worn off. The excitement gives way to how overwhelming the opportunity of a new year can be, for me, anyways. I also tend to get discouraged by cold weather and the encroaching spring term.

But this year is different. Maybe it's because I've managed, between this forum and my schoolwork, to effectively make studying music my job, but I can't seem to stop being excited for what will happen this year in music. Though I've been trolling magazines and music websites for their picks for 'the most anticipated albums of 2010', and though I've been disappointed and entirely unsurprised to find few women on these lists, there is good news. New albums from Quasi, M.I.A., and the Shondes and then there's the new record from Christina Aguilera, which will allegedly feature songs produced by Le Tigre and Ladytron.

What really makes the lack of "mainstream" attention to female musicians tolerable though is everything that seems to be developing locally. Concrete information like tour dates and record release dates are scant but still, so much seems to be happening. Things seem quiet, but I have this feeling that the local bands whose work I attempt to chronicle here are regrouping and planning. You can just tell that new music, tour dates, and new projects are being set up. That friends are talking with other friends about new bands, art projects, and other types of collaborations. That stuff is coming.

For those of you who want names: my faves Zombie Dogs mentioned last year that they're working on a 7". Little Lungs has a 7" coming out for real on Salinas Records next month, and they're scheduled to tour through March. Their friends, (who are technically not local, but whatever) P.S. Eliot, have a 7" coming out too, and have some tour dates posted, and are in talks with my faves from way back, The Two Funerals. A joint PS/TTF tour, as well as a split release, might well be in the near future. In the meantime, TTF is working on a new release for The Cottage Records.

It's strange. it doesn't sound like much, but the handful of conjecture, speculation, and pseudo-gossip is more engrossing and uplifting than all the magazine and website lists of new releases put together. Or maybe it's not strange at all: crossing days off of your calendar as you get closer to a confirmed release or show date is great. But talking with your friends and bands about what they're up to, even when they're not entirely sure, supplies you with a kind of hopeful, blissful feeling that anything is possible, where a calendar really can't.