Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hump Day Treat, "Haaave you met my friend Amy?" edition

So I was trying to think really seriously about this blog reaching its two year mark, where this blog is at, and what I've learned here in the past 365 days. But then my friend and fellow rock camp volunteer Amy, who plays in Titus Andronicus posted a kick ass and unfortunately short video of her band doing an awesome cover:

Titus Andronicus -- "Rebel Girl" (Bikini Kill) from mehan jayasuriya on Vimeo.

via Amy's fantastic blog

Readers might remember Titus Andronicus from my post on Red Hook High's Men Can Stop Rape benefit concert.. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to listen, here's a music video featuring the lovely Amy. Don't be fooled by the beards and touches of plaid or the 'critical' acclaim from places like Pitchfork on this sunny hump day. Just enjoy the great songwriting, wonderful energy, and a band that knows how to use their love of the E Street Band for good, and not evil.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Last week's show this evening edition

Though I admittedly did a lot of crying last week on my birthday, I ended up having a really good time at a fantastic show that night. Completely by coincidence friend and fellow volunteer Angie was playing that night with one of her bands, Little Lungs, and so I ended up seeing and hanging out with a lot of other volunteers, friends, and hometown diy heroines. Still feeling grateful for the entire experience on this damp hump day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Never say never, "Everyone listen to my mixtape!" edition.

Here's a fun fact about me: in the past few years, I've gotten in the habit of making a birthday mixtape for myself. They're the only mixes I ever make, mostly because making a mixtape (or mix cd, or ipod playlist for the youngins) is an art, and one that I'm not very good at. Taking other peoples' songs from their original context and using them to tell a different story has always made me feel sort of weird, and also, it's hard. Creating a narrative, with songs from all different places and genres, is really challenging.

It's especially challenging when you're crying too hard to see your computer screen. Last Friday, instead of feeling excited that it was my birthday, I was stuck to my couch and feeling overwhelmed by grief. I wanted to be in a good, festive mood, but I couldn't. I was just too sad.

I did stop crying, eventually. Not because I felt better, not because I'd solved any of my problems, not because I'd figured out how to bring any loved ones back from the dead, but because, well, I had to stop at some point. And when I did, I was somehow able to make The Perfect Mix. It's just the right length, tells the story of my tragic summer without being morbid, and somehow represents my taste, from the obnoxiously obscure to the just plain obnoxious, in a mere 13 tracks. I'm so proud of it that I'm sharing it with all of you, which I never thought I would do on this blog. So, enjoy!

Track list:

1. Little Lungs -- "Dreary"

2. Taking Back Sunday -- "Bonus Mosh Pt. II"

3. Say Anything -- "This is Fucking Ecstasy"

4. The Shondes -- "Let's Go"

5. The Gossip --"Confess"

6. Sleater-Kinney -- "My Stuff"

7. Paramore -- "Feeling Sorry"

8. Margaret Thrasher -- "The Next Best Thing"

9. Refused -- "Refused Party Program"

10. Hideaways -- "Armageddon in Retrospect"

11. Cheeky -- "Get Outta Here"

12. Passive Aggressor" -- Ouroboros"

13. Scantron -- "tappy"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Yesterday's Theme This Evening Edition

Thinking and writing about the importance of communication has made me really think about how difficult communication, of any nature, can be. Saying how you feel in a public, hostile space like a show can be scary. But sometimes trying to have a meaningful dialogue with a person you know is even scarier and more difficult than talking to a stranger who's twice your size and drunk.

Sometimes the words 'dialogue' and 'communication' are used interchangeably, but they aren't the same. Dialogue is a type of communication, but communication isn't necessarily dialogue, because dialogue implies a certain reciprocal respect, a certain bilateralism.

To put it another way: a screaming fight with someone isn't dialogue, though it might enable both participants to communicate how they feel. Dialogue, or at least amongst the womens' studies set, is about talking with someone and having both speakers get something out of it. It's supposed to be productive.

Today's video of part of a recent live set by Trophy wife opens with a song about this very topic. Enjoy, and maybe reflect on your communication skills, on this hump...night. I know that's what I'll be doing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You wanna take it, but you can't have it, revisited: DIY Shows and Safety

I spent this entire weekend thinking about the question I posed to you all last Friday. That is, how do we make ourselves feel safe enough within our communities to speak honestly about show violence? So I tried to figure out what makes me feel safe at a show. I've already written here about the first time I really felt okay at a local show; it's something I'll never forget, and so I went back to that memory.

I felt safe there because there were girls on stage, playing hard, fast, loud hardcore punk songs about being tired of feeling powerless and oppressed as women. I felt safe because I knew one of the vocalists from rock camp, and I knew that she was a cool kid and a dedicated feminist activist. I felt safe because there were lots of other volunteers in the other bands that played that night, and in the audience as well.

I didn't really think that anything dramatic would happen to me at the show, but I did feel like even if something unfortunate did happen, it would not go unnoticed. I trusted that those girls I'd volunteered with were not the types who would look the other way while anyone was getting hurt.

Those girls. Those girls who were already speaking up and demanding to be heard. Who were getting up on stage or dancing and pogoing in the crowd no matter how vulnerable it made them. Who were volunteering at rock camp and other places and encouraging other girls to do the same.

Those girls, and their bravery -- their willingness to speak up, to support those bands, hell, to just be feminist punks in a world that hates both -- was what made me feel safe. It was their willingness to act, to resist, to exist, and to do so vocally.

To say, "How we can make spaces feel safe enough so we can say when we don't feel safe?" doesn't make any sense, I get that now, after intense consideration of the issue. I get that it doesn't work that way. I get that you can't sit around waiting to feel safe, because that will never happen, or sit around trying to come up with what will make you feel that way, being silent until you figure it out. Because your silence won't protect you.

"Your silence will not protect you" is one of my favorite quotes from feminist literature of all time, and one that I say to myself frequently. I've been thinking about it a lot lately because Trophy wife sings those very words in their song "Sister Outsider", which I've been listening to on repeat for the past few weeks. Over the weekend, I managed to find the source of that quote, Audre Lorde's "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action", which is from her collection of essays called Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. I read it, and I found an even better, though less pithy quote:

"We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us."

If we want to feel safer, and if we want our friends, male and female, to feel safer at shows, and within the community at large, this is the work that we need to do. We need to learn to speak not when we are unafraid, but when we are afraid. We need to learn to speak in spite of fear, instead of waiting until whatever threat we perceive has passed.

And to whom should we speak, in spite of this fear? Most of the time, this blog is about asking questions that don't have any clear answers. But I try to provide solutions when I can, so here are some suggestions:

1. Tell all your friends. Talk to the people who care about you if you don't feel good at a show, or after a show, or about shows in general. If you have friends you hang out with at shows, tell them how you feel, and ask them if they ever feel that way. It might make you less alone, and you might come up with some strategies for dealing with show violence.

2. Get confrontational. If you're at a show and someone is doing something that bothers or scares you, just say so. If someone is blocking your view, bumping into you, or doing something else that gets in your personal space, say "Excuse me". If they start doing something that puts you and the other people in the crowd at risk -- moshing violently, crowd surfing, etc -- try to tell that person that's just not cool or right to risk injuring other people. This can be really scary, trust me, I know it is. But it's necessary.

Now when THAT fails: take some suggestions inspired by the Beastie Boys (the good stuff is at 1:20) :


3. Figure out who's running the show, literally... and talk to them about it. DIY spaces might be DIY, but they're still set up and run by someone, and that someone should be concerned with safety (if for no other reason than their own personal liability). If you don't feel safe at a show, ask the people who run the space to do something about it. If those people seem unmoved or unconcerned, don't go back to that space, and tell the people you know to avoid going to or booking shows in those spaces.

4. Reach out to the bands. I will admit that I regret not confronting the band that was onstage when my arm got bashed into last Thursday night. I saw them, talking and laughing it up together after their set, while those two redheaded girls who also got hurt sat outside, both shaking slightly. I wish I'd said, "Hey dudes, thanks for saying something when those kids started to get violent. Oh wait -- you didn't say anything. Nevermind."

...okay, so you don't have to be snarky or anything, but asking bands to speak on their audience's behalf is a good way to remind them that they do have the power and opportunity to talk about violence while onstage. Some bands will really think about it; I imagine others will dismiss your concerns or shirk their responsibility. If that happens, again, tell your friends and withdraw your support.

None of this is necessarily easy. I don't think it's easy for anyone, and I also know that some of us are introverts, and that a lot of us don't like or feel good at confrontation and public-type speaking. But this isn't about personality traits: this is about all of us learning to verbalize our needs and protect ourselves, regardless of our preferences. It's something we all need to work on, both for ourselves and our own safety, and for that of our communities.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You wanna take it, but you can't have it: or, some loser fucked up my arm at a show last night.

I was at a show last night in Brooklyn when three guys in the audience started to mosh violently, shoving each other and falling into other people in the crowd. Everyone in the room, male and female, edged back and away from the instigators.

The more space we gave them, the more space they took. Even with half the room to themselves, they managed to bang into other people. One of the moshers collided violently with a pair of red-headed girls who had been watching the band with interest, and who then left the room. Shortly after that one of them bashed into my arm, andhard, and then he fell over. When he stood back up, he stayed near me. He started to drunkenly lean on me, and in an incidence of unmitigated show rage, I shoved his body away with all the strength I could muster. I wanted to say something to him, but I admit that I was afraid of how he would react, so I didn't.

It's not like this is the first time this has ever happened to me. Recently, at a show in a different area of Brooklyn, I was tolerating a set of lackluster pop punk by some generic dude band when the guys in the audience got predictable. They started hoisting each other up and launching each other onto the audience, in an attempt to crowd surf. I watched as the girls at the show, some of whom had been singing along and clearly enjoying the band's performance, retreated from the area, moving to the back to avoid being kicked in the face. Unwilling to put up with any more douchebaggery or bad music, I walked out.

I decided to go downstairs to hang out in front of the building, and in the stairwell I ran into a music blogger acquaintance. She asked me what was going on with the show, and when I told her about the ill-advised crowd surfing, she cut me off, and said "Oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?"

I don't remember how I responded to her, because all I remember from that moment is being nearly blind with rage.

In case you don't understand why I was enraged, allow me to interpret the subtext of her statement. Her statement, said in a flat, condescending monotone, makes me the subject through her use of "you", and if focuses on my feelings rather than the actions of the people in the room. Her use of the word 'feel' implies that my reaction was emotional, and therefore not rational, and therefore not legitimate. The word 'uncomfortable' trivializes my feelings, it reduces genuine fear for my safety to minor 'discomfort', which she apparently thought I should have just put up with.

In short, "oh, and you started to feel uncomfortable?" translates to, "Oh, you were a stupid little girl who went to a show when you couldn't handle it, and it got you upset." The comment implies that my negative experience at the show was my fault, and it implies that I'm the one who's wrong here for expecting to not have to be afraid at a show, when the jerks who made it unsafe are the ones who are really responsible.

What I should have said to this person is, "No, it didn't make me uncomfortable, it made me angry." Yes, it makes me angry that I'm scared at shows. It makes me angry that I have to watch other girls leave, or move away from the front of the room, because they seem like they're scared, too.

It makes me angry that when guys act that way, I want to ask them to stop, and to be considerate, but that I don't because I'm scared of them hurting me, and I'm scared of all the other people at the show ganging up on me, and I worry that I'll ruin the show for everyone. It makes me angry because I don't want to be that girl who worries about ruining a show when she's knows rationally that none of this is her fault.

It makes me angry that at both of these shows, the bands didn't say anything to try and calm the crowd down. They didn't ask the audience to be considerate. They just let it happen.

It makes me angry that these guys feel entitled to take up all the space at a show; that I've been socialized, as a girl, to constantly think of everyone else's comfort and safety, and that I would thusly never dream of diving into an unsuspecting crowd of singing kids because I wouldn't want to hurt them, while these guys couldn't give less of a fuck.

And it makes me angry that sexists like this blogger don't want to do anything about violence at shows, that they think it's how shows are supposed to be. It makes me angry that that blogger basically said to me, "yes, they are entitled to that dangerous behavior, and you just have to put up with it or stop going to shows."

"Oh, and you got started to feel uncomfortable?" implies that the show, and what happened there, was normal, but I was not. It implies that men's violent behavior is 'natural' -- really, she might as well have shrugged and said "Boys will be boys" -- and that I shouldn't have expected anything different. To act as if such behavior is normal and acceptable is to buy into oppressive gender stereotypes, and perpetuate the sexism that tries to keep girls out of scenes and away from shows.

Violent moshing, crowd surfing and other poor behavior is not normal, 'natural', or acceptable; it's the result of a society telling its men that they are expected to do stupid, dangerous things and let other people worry about the consequences. And if it's not natural, that means that we can change it. We can have safer shows, we can hold people accountable, and we can have a space where we aren't scared. But if we want it, we have to demand it. We have to speak up, myself included -- but in order for that to happen, we have to feel safe enough to speak honestly about these issues.

How do we make that happen? No really, I'm asking all of you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hump Day Treat, Pop Confessional Edition

It's going to decimate whatever 'indie cred' I might have, but today I present a song that I've listening to on the regular this summer as I struggle with grief, guilt, depression, and the inevitable avalanche of paperwork that accompanies death.

"Fixed at Zero" is the first single and title track off of Versaemerge's first full-length album. It was released in June by the dreaded Fueled by Ramen, a record label that I detest for various personal and professional reasons. The bandmembers themselves, while not untalented, seem completely socially and politically unaware, a trait that I usually can't put up with in artists of any genre. But I can't help it, I love this song, and often find myself singing it when I'm by myself (which is a lot lately). So enjoy some "pop-posthardcore" and my embarrassment on this hump day.

p.s. My favorite version of this song is from an impromptu, outdoor performance in Georgia that you can watch here. There's also an official video that uses the studio version of the song, in which both audio and visual are hideously over-produced and kind of ridiculous, in my humble, professional opinion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salvador Calling!

After a summer that seemed like nothing but bad news, fall finally brings tidings of activist feminist, postcolonial joy from Brazil! Salvador's own feminist punk collective and distro, Na Lâmina da Faca, wants YOU to help them plan their upcoming feminist women's festival! Here, look at the flier they e-mailed me:

My Portuguese is limited, but from what I can tell the flier says, "You girls who: play in bands (or are learning to play an instrument), and who are zinestresses, performers, DJs, urban artists, video makers, and workshop facilitators.... Get in touch and plan an independent, counter-cultural festival for women with us!"

"Convocatória abierta de 20/08 à 20/10/2010" means "Open call from August 20 to October 20, 2010". Which means that the collective is accepting submissions right now! So diy and independent feminist artists, send your music, art work, zines, writing, links, and also your festival ideas to

No art or links to send? No worries, just send your love and support! Do your part to support your sisters in Na Lâmina da Faca by reposting the flier, reading and recommending their blog, and listening to and supporting the Brazilian punk bands they write about and the Brazilian zines they distribute. Help spread the love, and help put the international in International Girl Gang Underground!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hump Day Treat, In Keeping with Yesterday's Theme Edition

As it happens, two of the members of the panel I wrote about yesterday play in a band called Titfit, which I've been lucky enough to see live a couple times during this long, busy summer. Unsurprisingly, sexual health community activists Lee (vocals and guitar) and Kat (bass and vocals) preach what they practice in their band's songs, like in this particular song about an inconsiderate and dishonest partner.

The song might not sound positive, but as I see it, there can never be enough queer punk break up anthems. And this one is especially good because it encourages us to demand more from our relationships and from ourselves. As Lee sings, we owe it to each other to take care of one another. So feel the righteous rage and sex positivity on this miserably humid hump day!