Cardi B made Grammy history on Sunday night with a huge win in the Best Rap Album category for Invasion of Privacy (she had five nominations total). She’s the first solo female rapper to take home the award – the only other woman to have received a Grammy for Best Rap Album is Lauryn Hill, when her group The Fugees nabbed the 1997 honors with their iconic album The Score. Cardi appeared on the red carpet dressed in vintage Thierry Mugler and husband Offset on her arm, signifying the end of a tense hiatus for the couple following rumors of Offset’s infidelity. Cardi also made fast friends with Lady Gaga, who offered support in the face of a backlash D, she also spent time on the red carpet chatting with Lady Gaga, who was quick to support the rapper in the face of backlash from haters following the award ceremony. Cardi took a brief break from Instagram but, never one to rest on her laurels, capped off the week by releasing “Please Me,” a duet with Bruno Mars.
Donald Glover also had a big night, though he didn’t attend the awards ceremony; Childish Gambino’s “This is America” won both Song of the Year (distinctly given to songwriters) and Record of the Year (which goes to the performers, producers, and engineers). It was the first rap single to do so.
Other big winners included Brandi Carlile, who won three of the six awards she was nominated for (Best Americana Album for By the Way, I Forgive You LP and two awards for its single “The Joke”); Kacey Musgraves, who won overall Album of the Year for Golden Hour as well as three additional awards in Counrty categories; Lady Gaga, who won an award for “Shallow” as well as “Joanne” despite it being released two whole years ago; Ariana Grande who nabbed the Best Pop Vocal Album; St. Vincent who won Best Rock Song for “Masseduction;” Greta Van Fleet who won for Best Rock Album; and Best New Artist Dua Lipa.
We’re Not Surprised Ryan Adams is a Creep
“If people knew they would say I was like R Kelley lol.” This is a pretty damning text coming from a 40-year old man who’s soliciting nudes from a teenager, and they came from none other than Ryan Adams, according to an investigative article by the New York Times. The report details the online relationship between Adams and a woman they call Ava, who was just fourteen when the two began to exchange messages that eventually culminated in phone sex less than two years later. The piece has prompted an FBI investigation into the singer-songwriter, though the alleged victim never disclosed her actual age during their relationship and never met in person.
Whether his actions are criminal or not is somewhat beside the point, though, as the rest of the piece establishes a pattern wherein Adams promised young female musicians – including Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Jaye, and his ex-wife Mandy Moore – a boost in their careers via collaboration, mentorship, production, tour spots, releasing music via his label Pax-Am (an offshoot of Capitol), et al, but then attempted to shift the relationship to something sexual, even exposing himself to women who came to his studio to develop their projects. In instances where consensual relationships resulted from his advances, they often became obsessive and abusive, and he allegedly held collaborative work hostage as a means of keeping contact open. After remaining vague in a profile in Glamour earlier this year that prompted him to refer to her as a “soggy piece of cardboard,” former teen-pop-star turned actress Mandy Moore went into much greater detail about the control Adams wielded over her career and their relationship, admitting that he was psychologically abusive.
It’s no secret that Adams has penned vindictive tunes about his exes; one of his most beloved songs, “Come Pick Me Up,” from his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker, is said to be inspired by the end of his relationship with music publicist Amy Lombardi (another track on the record is titled with her first name alone). And though his back to front cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 was critically praised, it certainly raised eyebrows for some. Since the NYT article was published, Liz Phair, Karen Elson, and others have hinted that professional endeavors with Adams went awry due to similar behavior, which through the years has often been seen as erratic, owing to drug abuse an mental health issues. But in an industry that (as manyhavepointedout) still needs to have its #MeToo reckoning thanks to the seemingly inextricable tangle of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, Ryan Adams’ creepitude is a whole new layer of yikes.
That New New
This delightfully bizarre video for “Under The Sun” has got us so pumped for Spellling’s new record Mazy Fly, which drops February 22 via Sacred Bones.
Pecas are all about the smooth grooves on their latest single “T-Shirt.”
Watch an adorable turtle monch some kale in the new Mal Blum video ahead of their tour in support of Lucy Dacus.
This Robyn video is equal parts promotion for her 2018 album Honey and her new clothing line.
Bebe Rexha shared a video for “Last Hurrah” as a teaser for her yet-unannounced sophomore record.
Lizzo shared a video for the epic title track from her forthcoming album, out April 19.
Lydia Ainsworth returns with “Can You Find Her Place,” from the upcoming LP Phantom Forest, out May 10.
Tim Hecker is releasing more music from his Tokyo sessions with Japanese gagaku musicians, which resulted in 2018’s gorgeous Konoyo. The companion album, titled Anoyo, will be out May 10 via Kranky; Hecker will do a series of sold-out performances with the Konoyo ensemble at National Sawdust next week.
Julia Holter shared a video for “Les Jeux to You,” which appears on last year’s Aviary LP.
Hand Habits’ sophomore album placeholder comes out March 1 via Saddle Creek; the video for latest single “what lovers do” follows clips for “can’t calm down” and the LP’s title track.
Flock of Dimes and Madeline Kenney are releasing a split 7″ after working together on the latter’s 2018 LP Perfect Shapes; Jenn Wasner’s other musical project, Wye Oak, just released a track called “Evergreen” for Adult Swim’s singles series.
Potty Mouth are back with SNAFU, out March 1, and have a new video for “Starry Eyes” to get us psyched.
A shooting at Westlake Recording Studio in Hollywood on Tuesday jeopardized the recording sessions of Usher and Rich the Kid; members of the latter’s entourage were pistol whipped in the apparent robbery, but no one was shot.
Katy Perry has pulled a controversial pair of shoes from her website and other retailers after facing backlash from critics who say the design is a little too reminiscent of blackface.
Capcom has uploaded the soundtracks to some of their classic video games, like Mega Man and Street Fighter, to Spotify.
Louisville, KY’s Forecastle Fest announced their lineup for this year, which includes The Killers, The Avett Brothers, Anderson .Paak, Maggie Rogers, Chvrches, and more, and will take place July 12-14.
Ozzy Osbourne is reportedly doing much better after being hospitalized for complications of the flu.
Democratic nominee contender Kamala Harris failed at an attempt to seem cool when she claimed to have listened to Snoop Dog and Tupac while smoking reefer in college… before either had released music.
Record Store Day has named Pearl Jam its official ambassadors for RSD2019. The esteemed position has previously been held by the likes of Metallica, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent, Run the Jewels, Jack White, Iggy Pop, and Chuck D.
Here at AudioFemme, we’re all about making spaces for women in the music industry, whether that’s as music makers or behind the scenes – booking and promoting shows, running sound, shooting bands, and, of course, bringing you top-notch journalism reviews. So we got super excited when we found out about Grrrl Fest, a day-long celebration of women in the creative arts. Organized by an inspiring group of young feminists, it features performances from a dozen or so up-and-coming bands that feature female musicians, short films, spoken word performances, zine-writing workshops, button making, a book sale and a silent auction, and that’s to say nothing of getting your tarot cards read and covering yourself in “glitter tattoos.” Not only are we pumped for Grrrl Fest to take over Silent Barn on June 14th, we were also so impressed with the scope of the event that we just had to learn more from two of its organizers, Ebun Nazon-Power and Bridget Malloy.
AudioFemme: In your words, what is the mission of Grrrl Fest?
Ebun Nazon-Power: Grrrl Fest is about supporting and empowering females (girls and women and anyone who identifies as such) in whatever it is that they do. However, Grrrl Fest is mainly focused on the creative fields such as music, bands, dance, spoken word and art. I think our mission is to reveal to all those young women out there that it is totally okay to be creative and self-expressive in an environment where people (not just females) are being supportive and helpful. We wanted to show girls that there is no one way of being a feminist–there are tons of different kinds and ways. So being in a place where people are coming from all over the city and elsewhere and are all about equality and feminism, it can be a life changing experience and hopefully have a positive effect.
AF: Who makes up the core group of organizers? How do you work together to organize the event?
Ebun: The “core” group I guess would be myself and my other classmates: Christopher Gambino, Savannah Galvin, and Clare Burden, Esme Ahsley-White, Abbie Hornburg and of course my art teacher Bridget Malloy. However, we have plenty of volunteers from different schools who are working with us. The core group organizes at The Beacon School and all the other volunteers are organized through social media like Facebook.
AF: How long have you been doing this?
Ebun: This is the very first year that we are doing this. We honestly began this enormous project like two months ago!!
AF: What inspired you to put Grrrl Fest together?
Bridget Malloy: Some students and I were hanging out in the art room during a free period and Ebun put on her band T-Rextasy. It was such a cool sound. It reminded me of some of the 90’s girl bands. At the same time, I was looking at Savannah’s artwork on the wall. It was this really cool text piece. It reminded me of writing on a bathroom wall. So then somewhere along the way I said, “We should do a ‘Girl Fest!’” Next thing you know we are planning, making calls, getting sponsors and the rest is history. People got right on board too. It was really great how it all just formed so naturally. It really felt like it was the right time for something like this and that many people wanted to see it happen.
AF: You’ve got tons of performers scheduled. What did you look for in terms of artists who you wanted to book?
Ebun: In terms of artists, we automatically knew who was going to play – She Monster, Petal War, and T-Rextasy (in fact, they were kind of the main reason grrrl fest started) which are all teenage girl bands. And then a lot of the people volunteering had some other artists they knew of that could possibly play. We also held auditions at The Beacon School for anyone who wanted to perform whether it be spoken word, dance, or music. We of course wanted mostly female artists, but since Grrrl Fest is not about excluding anybody, we also had several males in mind that were really excited to get involved such as Granted, Yabadum, The Backup Sticks, and Shemp. The only requirement is that every band performing has to do a cover of a female musician/band. We are really excited about this!
Bridget: Petal War, an all-girl band with some of the members being Beacon students and Willie Mae members, had played a show at SXSW and it just seemed like the right time to support all of these amazing young women!
AF: Besides great music, what else will be happening at Grrrl Fest?
Ebun: We will have activities (weather permitting) out in the garden of Silent Barn earlier in the day, from noon to 6pm. There will be tables with hands-on activities: button making, zine making, glitter tattoos, tarot card readings and more. The activities will teach and allow people to really participate in the event. Our sponsors will be in attendance to connect with the crowd too and get them involved in their organizations. There’s a silent auction which will help us to raise money for art in schools. And there will be art for sale benefiting young entrepreneurs with a portion of their sales going to various organizations at Grrrl.
AF: How did you go about getting sponsors for the event? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Bridget: The sponsors for the event really happened so easily. First I have to say The Beacon School has truly supported this from the start. In addition, the people over at Silent Barn were behind this idea from the beginning. Nat Roe has been a dream to work with. He has been with us every step of the way and has supported pretty much anything we sent his way. He was the one that suggested we take the event into the night and have Pottymouth and the rest of the bands play later on in the evening. Originally it was going to be a six-hour event but now it’s about a twelve-hour event! As for the rest, we literally got on the phone and made calls or emailed people we thought could add to the event. BUST Magazine and Tom Tom Magazine were some of the first to back us up. Then Bennington [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][College] came in with a generous donation. They really supported us from the minute this whole idea began. Libby Hux was a huge player at Bennington she literally got right on it and made calls and wrote to people to make that happen. As for Planned Parenthood, Lower East Side Girls Club, Bluestockings, Center for Arts Education, CHiPS, Willie Mae, Makers… we just reached out and asked if they would want to participate. They all said yes! We were thrilled! We even had some people contacting us once people got word of the event.
Ebun: Getting sponsors was not even on my mind when we first started this event actually. It was not until one of the magazines (Tom Tom) e-mailed me asking if they were sponsoring the event and I was like “Oh, duh!” I had some connections with some of the organizations such as WIllie Mae Rock Camp for Girls which is an organization that supports girls in doing music and Tom Tom which is a magazine dedicated to female percussionists.
AF: What aspect of Grrrl Fest excites you the most?
Ebun: I am excited about almost everything! I am excited to see how everything is going to be pulled together. A lot will be going on between these 11 hours and hopefully every bit will be exciting. All of the bands and performers are INCREDIBLE, the crafts should be really fun, and the t-shirts and tote bags (made by classmate and friend Clare Burden) are absolutely phenomenal. Hopefully it will continue to happen every year, and even on a larger scale![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
“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.
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.