PLAYLIST: A Playlist to Celebrate “Riot Grrrl Day”

 Bikini Kill photo

April is known for rain, taxes, rabbits, and silly pranks, but now the month has a new, much cooler holiday: Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, has designated April 9th “Riot Grrrl Day” in honor of Kathleen Hanna, the front woman of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Born in Portland, Hanna’s interest in feminism came at an early age. After dabbling in spoken word performance, she realized that her message would be louder if it was delivered in music.

How can you celebrate “Riot Grrrl Day”? Start by listening to this playlist of badass female-fronted acts.

1. Sleater-Kinney “Bury Our Friends”

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After a long hiatus, Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss, and Corin Tucker reunited Sleater-Kinney with the album Bury Our Friends. Check out the title track above: “Exhume our idols and bury our friends/ We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in.”

2. Speedy Ortiz “Raising The Skate”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KyCF9r9NdMo

Speedy Ortiz is fronted by vocalist/guitarist Sadie Dupuis, who created the witty, anxious “snack rock” that rocked SXSW this year.

3. Screaming Females “Hopeless”

New Jersey’s Screaming Females is actually just one female. She may not exactly scream, but guitarist/singer Marissa Paternoster has earned the description by belting rock vocals that defy her size.

4. Bikini Kill “Rebel Girl”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzMGqVh8G20

Of course, we couldn’t make this playlist without including the person who inspired the holiday: Kathleen Hanna, the original rebel girl.

5. Le Tigre “TKO”

Hanna’s next project, Le Tigre, is more polished, but just as fierce:“I’ll say my piece and when it’s over you’ll be on your knees,” she sings, while rocking a suit in the video for “TKO.”

6. White Lung “Down It Goes”

These Canadian punks are led by singer Mish Way, who is also known for writing edgy articles and putting douchey audience members in their place. 

7. Perfect Pussy “Work”

Meredith Graves is the woman behind the heavy-hitting, possibly-unsafe-to-google punk band, Perfect Pussy.

8. Waxahatchee “Under A Rock”

Waxahatchee is named after a creek in Katie Crutchfield’s hometown in Birmingham, Alabama. Now living in Brooklyn, the singer-songwriter just released her third album, Ivy Trip.

9. Tacocat “You Never Came Back”

Tacocat is here to prove that cat ladies can be cool, too. The Washington State surf-pop group plays upbeat songs that address feminism, as well as topics related to cats and everyday life.

10. She Keeps Bees “Saturn Return”

The husband and wife duo has a name that almost seems like a warning- as in, “watch out for that chick; she keeps bees.” Their sound is a slow, bluesy creep that builds and sneaks up on you.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Lindsey’s SXSW 2014 Rundown

Coachwhips SXSW

Another year of South by Southwest has come and gone.  It was a landmark year for us at AudioFemme, as we hosted our first ever SXSW showcases.  It was certainly a learning experience, to say the least.  Just as we have in years past, we met a wide array of musicians, promoters, industry folks, and music fans from around the world, an experience as enriching as ever.  But networking and seeing as many bands as one can in five days aren’t the only things that go into the SXSW experience.  At its heart is one weird little city redefining the festival experience.  Here’s a rundown of our best moments from Austin, TX.

Most Memorable Performances:

Traams SXSW

Traams

The sun doesn’t shine in the UK the way it does in Austin, and the visible sunburn on these three lads made me feel an empathetic sting.  I caught the post-punk trio at El Sapo, a newly-opened hamburguesa joint on Manor Road, hosting showcases curated by Austin local radio station Music For Listeners.  The showcase included performances from Dublin-based noise pop quartet September Girls, Manchester rockers Pins, and Mississippi psych-pop outfit Dead Gaze, all of whom were arresting.  But there was something especially captivating about the sparks flying during Traams’  frenzied performance, with frontman Stu channeling Alec Ounsworth’s frantic wail.  The boys worked up a real sweat blasting everyone with pummeling pop.

Future Islands

The Baltimore synth punk outfit has long had a reputation as a hardworking and talented live band who’ve released some great albums over the last seven years.  Singles is out March 25th on 4AD and the band took to SXSW for their first time ever to showcase the material, resulting in heaps of long-deserved attention.  I caught their triumphant final performance of eight at Impose’s free Longbranch Inn party, and the vibes were stellar.  Lead singer Samuel T. Herring was absolutely brimming with joy, repeatedly stating how good the energy in the room felt, promising to belt it out until his vocal chords gave up.  The crowd loved him back, bouncing up and down to some stellar new songs, pumping fists, crowd surfing, and begging for another jam before the bar closed for the night.  Future Islands obliged with a hushed version of “Little Dreamer” from 2008’s Wave Like Home.

The Wytches

When we previewed “Wire Frame Mattress” we knew that the UK band were not be missed, and the boys did not disappoint.  Blending surf, sludge, and rockabilly elements with a healthy dose of reverb, The Wytches embodied worst-case-scenario teenage angst like we haven’t seen since watching The Craft at sleepovers.

Coachwhips

Jon Dwyer reunited his early aughts garage rock group and it felt so good.  Eschewing stages as often as possible, Dwyer & Co. preferred to set up shop in the Austin dust and totally wreck it.  I saw them once at the Castle Face Records showcase (that’s Dwyer’s label, which is set to re-release Coachwhips debut Hands on the Controls this month) and again on Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, after which Dwyer set off fireworks during Tony Molina’s set.  Dwyer sings into a mic that looks more like a wad of tape, resulting in a scratchy, unintelligible, yet somehow glorious garble, the short songs every bit as good as those from Thee Oh Sees catalogue but faster, looser, and somehow more primal.

Coachwhips SXSW

Wye Oak

Another Baltimore act that’s been around for years, steadily releasing unnoticed but beautiful records, Wye Oak’s folk-inflected synth pop impressed many a South by audience.  Andy Stack did double duty on drums and keys, using one hand to play each simultaneously.  Just think about that for a minute.  Try to mime those motions.  It’s a good deal harder than rubbing your belly while patting your head, but Stack never missed a beat.  Add to that Jenn Wasner’s honeyed voice, and space rock guitar riffs, and you’ve got a template for the galactic anthems of Shriek, the duo’s fourth studio album.  It comes out April 29th on Merge.

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Wye Oak SXSW
photo by @waywaw

Best Venue to Throw a Showcase: The Parish

Our inaugural SXSW showcase was a success!  There’s no way we could thank everyone involved, but extra special thanks go out to eight bands who came from all over the world to play breathtaking sets for us and for our fans:

Wildcat Apollo SXSW

Wildcat Apollo (Austin)

Fenster SXSW

Fenster (Berlin)

Empires SXSW

Empires (Chicago)

Souldout SXSW

Soldout (Brussels)

Jess Williamson SXSW

Jess Williamson (Austin) – check out that bad-ass guitar strap!

Weeknight SXSW

Weeknight (Brooklyn)

Casket Girls SXSW

Casket Girls (Savannah)

Highasakite SXSW

HighasaKite (Norway)

… and CreepStreet for providing goods to give away!

Worst Venue to Throw a Showcase: Upstairs on Trinity

It’s not actual a venue, it’s a wine bar.  After reading the fine print on a very misleading contract, we learned that we’d have to rent an entire soundsystem to even have a show.  We had to hire our own sound guy too.  Even after pulling off both these feats (no easy task considering our out-of-town status), we weren’t allowed to set up until after 7pm, pushing our showcase back an hour.  There weren’t even extension cords at the “venue” so I had to haul ass down 6th to a CVS to purchase whatever they had in stock.  When psych rockers Electric Eye finally took the stage, their unravelling guitars definitely eased my frayed nerves.

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Electric Eye SXSW
Electric Eye

Followed by Cheerleader’s uplifting pop punk, I was starting to feel a little better – until technical difficulties resurfaced.  Live, learn and shrug it all off with some whiskey, that’s what I always say.

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Cheerleader SXSW
Cheerleader

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Samsaya

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By the time we worked out our sound issues and Samsaya hit the area where a stage might have been in an actual club, I was admittedly wasted, but not enough that I failed to notice how inventive her acoustic set was, featuring musicians from all over the world, and how everyone in attendance – including the bartenders – responded to it.  Leverage Models followed her lead, encouraging some seriously rowdy dancing with their artful antics, only helped by the (still) flowing libations.  I didn’t get any decent pictures of the dance party because of the shitty lighting but also because, you know… libations.  It all ended with me crying alongside I35, unable to get a cab, unidentified cables draped around my neck like someone’s pet python, ’til a random Austinite took pity on us and gave us a lift back to The Enterprise where I passed out in bed still wearing a leather jacket.  We go to pick up our equipment the next day and the venue attempted to overcharge us for an event they had no business booking in the first place and hijacked our rented equipment as collateral while we disputed the bill.  The process of getting it back took up a significant chunk of the rest of the week.  All in all, it presents a gross example of the worst of SXSW profiteering.  But wonderful performances from the bands who played the showcase are what saved the day, so big thanks to them!

Best Random Austin Moment: Salute!

Embattled with the venue from Hell, I was feeling a bit depressed – in part because the show hadn’t gone as planned, we’d inconvenienced Austin friends kind enough to give us rides while juggling insane work schedules, but also because I was missing out on a lot of bands I wanted to check out while going through the whole retracted process.  I smoked some weed a bartender had given me the night before, ate a veggie burrito from Chillitos, and stumbled into The Vortex, a theater/bar in a barn hosting a party that featured Italian bands and a Patrizi’s food truck.  I sat in the sun and took in the sounds of Omosumo, an electronic outfit that could be the lovechild of Led Zeppelin & Daft Punk sent away to boarding school in Palermo.

Runner Up: When Red 7 played The Hold Steady on the soundsystem right before The Hold Steady played

Queerest Showcase: Y’all or Nothing, Presented by Mouthfeel & Young Creature

Listed as a showcase for “not-so-straight shooters” the bill at Cheer-Up Charlies on Saturday night was stacked beginning-to-end with impressive performers, thoughtfully culled from queer scenes in Austin and beyond.  There was a palpable feeling of community and camaraderie in the air and the evening was all about fun.  Gretchen Phillips’ Disco Plague opened the night on the outdoor stage, situated in a white-stone grotto that forms the venue’s patio.  Her improv dance-punk got the entire crowd going.  Meanwhile, performance art duo Hyenaz brought glammed up electro to the inside stage, and it only got crazier from there.  Austinites Mom Jeans‘ quirky pop punk had me beaming; they dedicated songs to John Waters, weed, and Satan.  Leda introduced her band Crooked Bangs with the declaration “I’m a woman, and I don’t know what that means” before proceeding to mesmerize everyone watching with bass playing so nimble I still can’t get over it.  BLXPLTN’s industrial punk-meets-hip-hop vibe is every bit as brutal as Death Grips, their lead single “Stop & Frisk” lambasting the racist practice.  Big Dipper rapped.  Ex Hex rocked.  We deeply regret missing performances by TacocaT and Christeene and Sharon Needles due to some ongoing drama that needed taking care of.  But we wish we could’ve stayed forever.

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Gretchen's Disco Plague SXSW
Gretchen’s Disco Plague

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Hyenaz SXSW
Hyenaz

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Hyenaz SXSW
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Mom Jeans SXSW
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Ex Hex SXSW
Ex Hex

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Band I Saw Most: Amanda X (3 X)

Not because I’m a stalker, just because they got to play early slots on some really rad bills.  They were on point every time.  Hopefully this means a lot more attention for the Philly-based trio in the upcoming year.

Amanda X SXSW

Best SXSW Tradition: Bridge Parties!

Night one I saw Perfect Pussy throw a bass into the Colorado while Meredith Graves wore a sparkly ball gown, followed by bang-up performances by Nothing and Ex-Cult.

Ex-Cult
Ex-Cult on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge

Night two was the aforementioned fireworks display courtesy of John Dwyer while Tony Molina played.  The cops don’t seem to care and I want to be friends with everyone on that bridge forever.

Best Venue for Charging Phones: Cheer Up Charlie’s

Newly inhabiting the former Club DeVille compound as Wonderland has taken over its old East Side location, this is a haven for anyone with a near-dead battery, though Hotel Vegas was a close second.  Both had multiple outlets that were conveniently accessible (rather than behind a bar that forced you to bug your bartender every time you wanted to Instagram something), often times in full view of a stage where bands were playing so you didn’t have to miss the fun.

Worst Venue for Charging Phones: Red 7

Home of Brooklyn Vegan’s day parties, not only was capacity over-policed after Tyler, the Creator incited a riot at Scoot Inn, but Red 7 has a peculiar sparseness that makes finding outlets nearly impossible.  And you couldn’t just hand your phone over to the bartender without paying a $5 charging fee.  A particularly hostile sign on the sound booth discouraged the uncharged masses from inquiring therein.  Now, I know you don’t have to be able to snap a selfie at a show to have a good time.  I was content to simply watch these lovely performances with documenting them.  But ranting and raving about newly discovered bands enriches that fun and hopefully generates some buzz for the artist, which is kind of the whole point of SXSW.  And communicating with friends still waiting in lines outside is pretty paramount, so cell phones at shows count as a necessary evil and everyone kind of has to get used to it.

Best-Kept Secret: Chain-Drive

This little-gay-bar-that-could is hunkered on a quiet street off the main drag of Rainey District.  Met Christeene and Gretchen Phillips and Big Dipper on Tuesday, but the venue hosted out-of-control, unique line-ups every night.

Chain Drive ATX

Most Inflated Price: $6.99 Non-Bank ATM fee at 7th & Red River.

As in, $2 more than non-badgeholder admission to a show steps away at Beerland, where I caught Connections before heading to Hotel Vegas for Forest Swords.

Number of Chase ATMS in the immediate downtown area: 2

That were able to dispense cash: 0

Best Food: Gonzo

Every year I have to stop by Gonzo’s food truck at the East Side Fillin’ Station for a “Pig Roast” – sweet pulled pork topped with provolone, tangy carrot slaw, and spicy brown mustard on Texas toast.  As I ate my annual sammie I literally found myself thinking about how ingenious Texans were for inventing really thick white bread grilled with butter on it.  Austin’s first-ever In-N-Out location was a close second, because a Double Double Animal Style really is a life-changer.

Best Metal Band We Stayed With But Didn’t See Live: Christian Mistress of Portland

They were all very nice but their hair made us jealous.

Christian Mistress

Best Movie We Saw While Charging Phones/Re-Charging Selves At Jackalope: Daughters of Darkness

Best Austinites: It’s a tie!

Jenn from Guitar Center rented us four monitors, two speakers with stands, six fifty foot cables, a sixteen channel mixer, two DI boxes, and two mics with stands within a days notice, and didn’t change us extra when a snafu with the shittiest venue in Austin forced us to keep it longer than we’d planned.  In general she was super understanding, knowledgable, professional, and friendly.

Chris English of Haunted ATX gave us a lift whenever we needed it in a hearse tricked out into a six-seat limo.  We flagged him down out of a cab line a mile long trying to get from the downtown Hilton to the South Lama for Ground Control’s famed Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge punk party.  The TV in the back was playing Dune.  The next night, after another bridge party was announced, we texted him for another ride and he showed within fifteen minutes, giving us the same deal.  Then he came in with an assist in The Great Equipment Rescue of SX2014 when none of our friends were able to help us schlep our equipment from venue to where we were staying, and he gave us a mini-tour of an Austin cemetery because that’s what he normally uses the limo for – haunted tours of Austin.

Best Non-Austinite: Giselle from Vancouver

…who came to our Tuesday showcase.  Bowled over by our line-up, she proclaimed it was one of the best at SXSW and couldn’t understand why anyone would “wait so long to see Jay-Z ” when they could have been partying with us.  Giselle is a little older, probably in her 40’s or maybe early 50’s.  Having recently entered my thirties, I’ve often wondered if I was too old to be so invested in such a youth-centric industry.  Giselle gives zero fucks about that.  She isn’t even in the industry; she told me she “just likes to go to shows”.   She makes trips to Austin each year (as well as to New York for CMJ), travels for other events and festivals and attends shows at home, where she uses her iPhone to snap pics of up-and-coming bands she started finding “when the internet came around and made it easier to discover bands”.  It might be that Giselle is actually myself from the future, sent to the showcase to give me the hope and reassurance I need to keep going.  If that’s so, I’m here to tell you that based on her outfit, normcore will be bigger than ever in fifteen years.

Best Almost-Brushes With Celebrity:

I was invited to go to Willie Nelson’s ranch and was hoping to hang with the country legend, but thanks to the showcase debacle didn’t make the limo.  Annie almost interviewed Debbie Harry of Blondie but the Queen of New Wave rescheduled and switched to over-the phone.

Number of Wrist-bands Accrued: Only one.

A friend said to me, “That’s kinda sad and kinda really amazing.”  But between putting on our own showcases and going to everyone else’s, I didn’t have time to wait around in lines for wristbands, then wait for lines to get into a venue, then wait for lines to get to the patio of the venue where bands were actually performing.  And in what little time I did have, I chose to attend smaller events that lacked the corporate sponsorship necessitating said lines and said wristbands.  So someone else was the one to Instagram Lady Gaga getting puked on; meanwhile I got to see shows unobstructed by big-box advertising that felt way, way more personal and memorable.  For instance: I closed out SXSW at The Owl, a DIY space on the East Side with Eagulls, Tyvek, and Parquet Courts headlining.

Eagulls SXSW
Eagulls at The Owl. Phone died for the last time at SXSW shortly thereafter.

Number of Messages on Thursday morning asking if I was safe:

Lots & lots; truly felt loved. Our hearts go out to those that didn’t get a message back.

An Alphabetical List of Bands I Saw:

Amanda X, BLXPLTN, Big Dipper, Big Ups, Bo Ningen, The Casket Girls, Cheerleader, Coachwhips, Connections, Crooked Bangs, Dead Gaze, Eagulls, Electric Eye, Empires, Ex-Cult, Ex Hex, Far-Out Fangtooth, Fenster, Forest Swords, Future Islands, Gretchen’s Disco Plague, Guerilla Toss, Habibi, HighasaKite, The Hold Steady, Hundred Waters, Hyenaz, Jess Williamson, Juan Wauters, Kishi Bashi, Leverage Models,  Mom Jeans, Nothing, Parquet Courts, Perfect Pussy, Pins, Potty Mouth, Residuels, Samsaya, September Girls, SOLDOUT, STRNGR, Tony Molina, Traams, Tyvek, Vadaat Charigim, Warm Soda, Weeknight, Wild Moccasins, Wildcat Apollo, Wye Oak, The Wytches, Young Magic[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

LOUD & TASTELESS: Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves

 Every Thursday, AF profiles a style icon from the music world. This week, check out Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves, whose inimitable punk rock-chic has us all ready to get pixie cuts of our very own and stock up on vintage Jackie O dresses.

Meredith-of-Perfect-Pussy

Syracuse front-woman Meredith Graves is small yet loud, cute but brash, and may or may not, have a Perfect Pussy.  Then again, who does?  The 26-year old punk vocalist maintains an appearance that is far sweeter than the sound of her voice (and the things that pop up when you google “Perfect Pussy” sans safe-search).  Graves has the blithe smile of a screen actress and jet-black pixie crop that makes her look like she wakes up in a lily pad dewdrop every morning more so than sing in a hardcore band.  I love a girl who can yell her lungs out while looking like Twiggy’s evil twin in a red A-line mini dress.  Hell, she even sports ruffles sometimes.  Check out how to get Graves’ look here!

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Femme Unfiltered: Perfect Pussy

Twice a month, audiofemme profiles artists both emerging and established, who, in this industry, must rebel against misogynist cultural mores. Through their music  they express the attendant hurdles and adversities (vis-a-vis the entertainment industry and beyond) propagated by those mores. For our first installment, Rebecca Kunin profiles Perfect Pussy, who burst onto the scene earlier this year and jolted the music world with its message: women can scream just as loudly as men, and have just as much, if not more to say.

ppm3

 

PERFECT PUSSY: I HAVE LOST ALL DESIRE FOR FEELING

Perfect Pussy is a noisy lo-fi punk band from Syracuse, New York. Meredith Graves heads the band as the lyricist and singer. She is backed by guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski, bassist Greg Ambler and synthesist Shaun Sutkus. Perfect Pussy combines Graves’ screaming lyrics with catchy guitar riffs and driving drums. The instrumentation, which is heavy on reverb, fuzzy guitar and feedback constantly battles Graves’ inaudible shouts. This results in an incredible, yet anxiety inducing and electrifying audio experience.

On April 25 Perfect Pussy released their debut demo, I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling. This EP includes 4 tracks, appropriately titled “I”, “II”, “III” and “IV”. I have Lost all Desire for Feeling features intimate and emotionally evocative lyrics from Graves’ personal life.

I’ve been lying to get attention.

Thankfully none of it ever happened,

nothing ever really happens.

I have a habit of telling extravagant lies;

Ask anyone, they’ll tell you.

So why didn’t I come forward, why didn’t I?

Ha ha ha, I deserve to be hurt like that.

Ha ha ha, it’s so funny isn’t it.

Oh, why didn’t I come forward?

It’s not your fault that I didn’t feel safe.

It is no surprise that Perfect Pussy is paving the way in the bk DIY scene, and mapping new frontiers within the nexus of feminism and punk rock.

perfect pussy

 Perfect Pussy Live: Shea Stadium 12/6/13

I went to see Perfect Pussy at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn last Friday. They were playing with a string of up and coming punk bands (Blessed State, Flagland, Yvette and California X).  Their performance was penultimate.

The first thing that my roommate said to me after entering the venue was, “Geez, there are so many men here!” This statement was very true. The male-to-female ratio was about ten-to-one.

Perfect Pussy took the stage nonchalantly, chatting with the audience and one another as they set up their instruments. After a sound check where Graves had the sound engineer turn the mic way up, (my poor ears!) they paused, and over the impossibly loud reverb and guitar feedback, Graves addressed the audience. “Hey everyone, we’re Perfect Pussy.” There was another brief pause, and the music began.

Then Meredith Graves opened her mouth, and the gender comment my roommate made no longer mattered. Screaming at the top of her lungs until she was red in the face and the veins were popping out of her neck, Graves wiped away all of my previous gender awareness in one fell swoop.

A moshpit instantly formed (the only one of the night) while Graves writhed, pirouetted and hurled her body around haphazardly. Graves commanded power when she flexed her biceps and formed fists on the stage. She even got in one mosher’s face while singing “I.” , pulling  the stranger forward so that their faces were almost touching while shouting “She’ll forget her actions. Someday I’ll forget her actions. Ashes to ashes to ashes, we will all die someday.”

In seemed like as soon as the set started, it had already finished. I had heard that they put on short shows but I didn’t expect it to be quite so short (They played 3 songs that lasted less than 15 minutes).  I like to think that Graves and the gang put so much into their performance that they exhausted themselves after only a few songs. Also, the fact that they have only released 4 tracks makes a 45 minute set perhaps more of a challenge. Regardless, they played an incredible show, well worth the hearing loss that I likely incurred (my ears are still ringing!)

 Femme Unfiltered: PERFECT PUSSY

In her music and performance, Meredith Graves presents an aggressive, unattainable and intimidating attitude.  Her lyrics are often aggressive or sexually explicit. “There’s no room in this world for people who hate men, fuck you // My best friend is back in town. There’s a bad taste in my mouth. Her eyes fell low and heavy with shame and cum.”

Graves’ also displays a more vulnerable and insecure side of herself.  “How long will I have you? //  Who am I to speak of permanence? //  I’ll be fifty in the book of names but goddamn it, I’ll be the last on the list // Someday I’ll stop begging you of who and how.” 

She represents a person who is both aggressive and intimidating yet also shy, vulnerable and flawed. Graves doesn’t seem to care about whether or not she is supposed to be the shy, vulnerable Taylor Swift type or whether she is supposed to play the domineering Beyonce/Lily Allen role. Those models are impossible extremes and, just like men, women are complicated beings. We are sexy, ugly, skinny, fat, mean, nice, shy, outgoing, slutty and prude, all in one person. Graves is brave and honest enough to expose the complexity and confusion of femininity. She displays her battles with aggression and insecurity in her lyrics.  “First I was softer, then I was stronger, now I am frightened, would you look at me now?” //  I’m a tough boy, wild and innocent and dangerous as hell.”

In an interview with Pitchfork she mentioned that the band’s name, Perfect Pussy is a response to her own insecurity about her body image. “Perfect Pussy” is Grave’s declaration that she no longer cares if she is ugly.

“Nobody can look at me and say shit about my appearance or my body, which is all too common for women in music. It’s like, ‘Are you going to call me a cunt? Are you going to tell me I’m ugly? Well, here’s my band name, ‘do your worst, motherfucker.’”

The contradiction posed in aggressive name of the band and her own feelings of insecurity indicate indicates that this complexity extends from her music to her life and back.

Graves’ combination of both femininity and masculinity in her writing and performing is seemingly genuine and effortless. Too often female musicians are pigeon-holed as certain “types”, yet Graves is able to successfully blend various colors of femininity into her music, thus promulgating power through honesty.

*******

Perfect Pussy has just finished playing a number of NYC events this past month and is now headed on a country-wide tour. Listen to I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling here via bandcamp:

 

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YEAR END LIST: AF’s Guide to Riot Grrrl’s Influence in 2013

Body/Head at St. Vitus

It is a goddamn golden age for girl-fronted punk.  It’s not that there haven’t been important works by women in the ensuing years, but 2013 saw a Riot Grrrl Renaissance unlike anything since its early ’90s inception.  Back then, Kathleen Hanna had to make safe spaces at Bikini Kill shows for female attendees by calling out aggressive dudes.  The ladies at the forefront of the movement had to blacklist the mainstream media that painted them alternately as fashion plates, dykes, or whores (sometimes all three, and always with negative connotations; it shouldn’t be implied that to be any of these things is bad or wrong in the first place).  By all accounts, they “couldn’t play” anyway, so the medium and its messages were barely worth discussing as anything more than a passing trend.  Meanwhile, riot grrrls preached their radical politics one Xerox at a time.

If the wisdom of these women seemed to skip the generation that adored Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time” without criticism, it has finally come full circle in a way that feels vital and urgent now.  Not only are we as a culture stepping up to finally examine sexism and exploitation and appropriation within the industry, there are more acts than ever completely unafraid to do their own thing – be it overtly political (see: Priests) or revolutionary in its emotional candidness (looking at you, Waxahatchee).  Maybe it has to do with direct influences of stalwart ensembles like Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile, and maybe it’s a thing that’s happened gradually as those first voices carved out room for other female performers (for instance, in establishing Rock Camps for young female musicians throughout the country, a project that initially came about through discussions and direct action in riot grrrl communities).  There’s no way to make an inclusive list of all the phenomenal bands (punk or otherwise) now blazing their own trails through their various scenes but taking a tally of at least a few of these acts felt like a necessity for me as someone whose entire life was informed by music like this, and girls like them.  And because fifteen years after I discovered it for myself, 2013 feels like one giant, celebratory dance party/victory lap.

CARRYING THE TORCH

If 2013 is the year female-fronted punk broke, it has to be said that not all 90’s era veterans burned out or faded politely away.  In fact, two of the grunge scene’s most influential women put out intensely personal releases this year.

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Kathleen Hanna Kim Gordon
Hanna and Gordon in 1994’s “Bull in the Heather” video

Body/Head, Kim Gordon’s noise project with Bill Nace, created a moving exploration of feminine and masculine tropes in the form of a noise record.  I wouldn’t want to reduce Coming Apart to a document of her split from long-time partner Thurston Moore, but the whole thing feels every bit as raw and awkward as a life change that catastrophic must have been.  It’s Gordon’s most powerful, wild moments in Sonic Youth distilled down and then blown up.  Her vocals can sound desperate and strained at times, but this is ironically the most forceful aspect of the recordings – the anger and the vulnerability existing together in all its anti-harmony.

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Body/Head at St. Vitus
Kim Gordon and Bill Nace perform as Body/Head in June at St. Vitus

Likewise, Hanna’s record is not a chronicle of her late-stage Lyme Disease, the chronic illness that forced her to quit touring with socially-conscious electro outfit Le Tigre (for that, check out Sini Anderson’s brilliant Hanna doc The Punk Singer) but a testament to the triumph that creating it had over her sickness.  Reviving her moniker from ’97’s bedroom-recording project Julie Ruin by adding a “The” to the front and four incredible musicians and co-conspirators at her back, the band released Run Fast in September.  It manages to meld every one of Hanna’s prior sonic sensibilities, burnishing the the dance-punk of Feminist Sweepstakes with the sass and cacophony of The Singles and adopting the confessional tone of that first solo record.

This is riot grrrl all grown up; though neither project should necessarily bear that particular label, it feels like a continuation of the story that in turn validates its importance.  And the influence of Gordon and Hanna and others of their ilk can certainly be heard in a whole host of bands with break-out records that landed this year.  Again, it’s not that anyone in these bands are running around calling themselves riot grrrls, just that they’d be right at home on a playlist with bands who did (and bands of that era, from Red Aunts to Discount to that dog., that demanded my affection as equally).

NEXT WAVE

Katie and Allison Crutchfield have been making music since they were teenagers, most notably in P.S. Elliot before splitting up to pursue creative projects as separate entities.  Katie released American Weekend in 2012 and Cerulean Salt in March, Allison released a self-titled record with her band Swearin’ last year and followed it up with Surfing Strange a few months ago.  The girls are mirror twins, meaning they’re identical but that their features are reversed in some instances, and that’s a good approximation of how their musical projects merge and divide.  Cerulean Salt is stripped down sonically and hyper-focused on thematic subject matter, dealing directly with her family history and its personal stories.  Swearin’ takes a music-making approach more classic to pop punk, its subject matter just as earnest but with a broader focus.  The two have reunited for one-off projects (like an incredible cover of Grimes’ Oblivion for Rookie Mag) and live together in Philly with their boyfriends (both of whom play in Swearin’).  In interviews and in their song lyrics they espouse feminist ideas unabashedly and have talked openly about finding inspiration in the riot grrrl movement.

Speaking of Alison’s boyfriend, Kyle Gilbride produced girl-punk supergroup Upset’s debut album, She’s Gone, out this year on Don Giovanni.  Uniting Vivian Girls contemporaries Ali Koehler and Jenn Prince with Patty Schemel of Hole, She’s Gone is a quirky collection of catchy, rapid-fire jams that at first listen might come off as slightly superficial.  But at the crux of the record is the idea of examining female experience, in particular the formative teenage years, in which break-ups and female rivalry loom large.  Taking what might be written off as juvenile and giving it its due importance in song is what makes the album both accessible and relevant.  If it seems precocious to compare one’s dreams to a dinosaur, at least it validates them by re-calibrating the scale.

Don Giovanni put out another astounding release in The Worriers’ Cruel Optimist.  Fronted by Lauren Denitzio of Measure, the project seeks to combine her interests in literature, art, and queer activism in a way her past musical projects have not.  Over hooky guitars and crashing drums, Denitzio talks about privilege in feminism and the need to re-evaluate personal politics with growing older on “Never Were”, references Jeanette Winterson as a way to talk about androgyny and gender identity on “Passion”, and ruminates on the toll that conservative politics took on a personal relationship in “Killjoy”.  The album closes with “Why We Try”, a triumphant reminder of the reasons these discussions still need to happen in music and elsewhere.  “If we expect something better / things won’t just move forward / Remember why we try“.

In talking about New Brunswick’s esteemed DIY circuit, we’d be remiss to not include Marissa Paternoster, active for several years now in the punk scene there, releasing work under solo moniker Noun as well as with her band Screaming Females.  It’s the latter’s most recent release, Chalk Tape, that sees the band going in some very interesting melodic directions with their particularly searing brand of guitar rock, recording most of the songs without revisions based around concepts scrawled on a chalkboard.  Paternoster’s commanding vocals, gliding easily between out-and-out aggressive and tender, looped sophistication, paired with her exceptional guitar work, make Chalk Tape a tour de force.  Here’s hoping a few misguided Miley fans accidentally stumbled on the wrong “Wrecking Ball”.

Nestled in another well-respected DIY scene, Northampton-based Speedy Ortiz represent a collective of 90’s-era rock enthusiasts with a poet at the helm.  Sadie Dupuis feels more comfortable behind a guitar than on open-mike night, but the lyrics she penned for Major Arcana and delivers with brass are practically worthy of a Pulitzer.  Razor sharp wit, slyly self-deprecating quips, and vitriol marked by vulnerability characterize the general tone of the record, its particular lyrical references so nuanced and clever it begs about a million listens.

Potty Mouth sprang out of the same scene when Ally Einbinder, frustrated with the difficulties of booking shows and playing in bands with men who rarely asked her input when it came to songwriting, decided to form and all-female punk band.  Einbinder and her cohorts are frequent participants in Ladyfest, which has sought to showcase feminist artists across different mediums for thirteen years running.  Bursting with energy and attitude, Potty Mouth’s debut Hell Bent calls bullshit on punk scene bravado, questions obsessive tendencies, encourages punk girls in small towns “it-gets-better” style, and delivers acute, sharp-tongued kiss-offs to any doubters.

Though the pun alludes to classically trained harpist and witchy-voiced weird-folk patron saint Joanna Newsom, Alanna McArdle and her compatriots in Joanna Gruesome stray pretty far from that reference point.  Instead, the UK band cherry-picks from shoegaze, twee, and thunderous punk with Adderal-fueled ferocity.  McArdle is a study in contradictions, one moment singing in a sweet-voiced whisper and the next shouting psychotically, often about crushing skulls or some other, equally violent way of expressing her twisted affections. The group met in anger management, and every second on Weird Sister sees them working out some deeply seated issues, the end result proving what a gift anger can be.

NEXT YEAR

This particular calendar year, it seems, is only the beginning.  With a record crate’s worth of amazing releases from 2013, there’s a bevvy of bands with bandcamp profiles, demos, EPs, cassettes and singles that hold a lot of promise for future releases.  Across the board, when asked how their bands formed or when they started playing, the response is “I wanted to do it so I got a guitar and I just started playing.”  The DIY ethos and “fuck it” attitude are what make these projects so vital and exciting.

Priests

The DC group are explosive live, in particular thanks to Katie Greer’s spastic growl and Daniele Withonel’s revelatory drumming.  The band’s been known to spout off about anti-consumerism between songs, out of breath from the high-energy set, but there’s plenty of radical content in their self-released tapes, too.  Those searching for manifestos need look no further than “USA (Incantations)”, a spoken-word bruiser that skewers the non-inclusive founding of America and ends with “this country was not made for you and it was built on lies and murder”; it kind of makes me want to vote for Priests for president.  Elsewhere on Tape 2, Withonel steps from behind her drum kit to flip the script on the male gaze, with perfect Kathleen Hanna pitch. Whether they’re singing about Lana del Ray or Lillian Hellman, these self-described Marxists provide an electrifying listen.

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Perfect Pussy

Perfect Pussy plays notoriously brief shows – if you blink during their set, you’ll miss ’em – but all have played the Syracuse scene for years now.  The quartet got a lot of attention this over I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, a four song EP with walls of guitar fuzz and synths and some forceful vocals from Meredith Graves buried low in the mix.  Trained in opera but trying out punk, she’s said that because she’s insecure about her singing they’ll likely stay that way when the band records a full length.  But it’s not because she’s trying to hide her words – you can read them by clicking through each song on Perfect Pussy’s bandcamp.  They are well worth extracting from the sludge, coming across like a Jenny Holzer send-up of rape culture, mixed in with some personal meditations on growing past a female betrayal and catharsis through relationships thrown in for good measure.
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Palehound

Ellen Kempner writes off-kilter lyrics that perfectly distill the wonder and worry that comes with being a teenager, but with a wise, almost nostalgic tone that does not belie the fact that she is, actually, a freshman in college, living these experiences for the first time.  Her musician father taught her how to play guitar, and in high school she was in a band called Cheerleader before releasing some solo recordings that morphed into Palehound.  Their excellent Bent Nail EP came together this year, featuring the quintessential “Pet Carrot”, which seesaws from sing-songy folk to scuzzy 90’s grunge more reminiscent of Liz Phair than of Lorde.
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Cayetana

The Philly trio are a perfect picture of female solidarity, repping other girl bands from Philly in interviews and inking their bodies with matching arrow tattoos, as well as getting involved with Philly’s Ladyfest.  They sing about friendships and loss and the city around them with a raspy roar, holding back just enough on their three-song demo to hint at the spaces they’ll grow into.
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All Dogs

Coming out of Columbus, Ohio’s great lo-fi scene (which bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit helped build, and contemporaries Sex Tide and Connections will only continue), All Dogs take that same energy and clean up the grime just a bit to let Maryn Bartley’s hopelessly catchy vocal melodies shine.  There’s a youthful exuberance and earnestness that propels the material on their split cassette with Slouch and their self-titled 7″ released on Salinas Records.  The Crutchfield sisters have been big early supporters; Katie booked them as openers on an upcoming Waxahatchee tour after saying they “made her cry”.
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Tweens

About an hour south in Cincinatti, Bridget Battle takes an endearing 60’s girl group intonation and spits it snottily into a microphone while her bandmates in TWEENS play messy, immediate punk rock.  Their CMJ performances earned them rave reviews and helped them release a bit of the energy they’d pent up during the recording of their first full-length in DUMBO, set to see release sometime this spring.  Until then, they’ll be touring with fellow Ohioans the Deal sisters for The Breeders’ extended reunion shows.
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Heavy Bangs

“I don’t care what you think as long as I can’t hear it / I’ll be a fly some other place.  / I don’t care what you do / As long as you stay away from me / I can’t stand the way you do the things you do.”  So begins “All the Girls” from Heavy Bangs’ bandcamp demos.  It’s a departure from the quirky indie pop Cynthia Schemmer played as guitarist for Radiator Hospital, but it takes cues from the same attention to clever melody.  The best indication of what might come from her solo project are the artful and contemplative postcards she posts to her tumblr (http://cynthiaschemmer.tumblr.com/) before sending them to to friends, apologetically explaining why Philly drew her back after time in New York, or recounting conversations she had with a therapist over the loss of illusions.  Like the two tracks she’s shared, these can feel sad but are intently self-aware, the attention to detail speaking volumes between the lines.
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Are those alive in a golden age ever able to really realize it?  Or can it only be understood by looking back?  With the passage of time we grow older and wiser and we’re better able to put things into context, but there are some moments that are simply meant to be lived.  If you’re not screaming at the top of your lungs to these records or dancing in the front row at one of these shows, you’re doing it wrong.

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