The Aging Punk 026

The Aging Punk 026

Sunday, 09 July 2017

Toasting the XX Factor – The Aging Punk Looks At How More Women Are Taking Up The Axe To Save Rock N’ Roll.

I recently went to a show featuring one of my favorite local bands. There were three bands on the bill in total; I walked into the bar in the middle of the first band’s set. I was disappointed to see that it consisted of all guys.

Not that I have anything against male musicians, but right now most of my favorite bands are lead by women. I don’t mean just fronted by women, I mean lead by women; with women as the driving creative force. The band I was there to see, Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, has two women up front – guitar, bass, and vocals – and they kick ass, cranking out tunes which hit you in the gut. I was hoping for more of that from the other bands.

Not that the opening band, The Kyotees, was bad. They played decent heavy metal, with lots of shredding guitar and lyrics about various states of fucked-uppedness. It’s just that I had heard it all before, many times. Somehow, when women are leading the musical charge, even the most overplayed styles sound fresh.

Lucky for me, here in Southern California, I find myself surrounded by woman-led bands, most playing some version of punk/alternative (or, as I like to call it, “noisy guitar rock” ). It seems as though one rock cliché has shifted: instead of a primarily male band with a woman bassist, we now get almost all women bands, except for a male drummer.

Why do I find these bands so appealing? Sure – as a guy, I enjoy watching a woman onstage more than a man, but while I consider the women in these bands all beautiful, they do not play up their sexuality for the most part. In fact, many of them flat out downplay it. They are there to play, not flirt, and my love for them comes from listening, not looking.

These women bring a fresh energy to music which, for the most part, has grown stale. They rock as hard as any guy, yet still bring a little more roll to the rock. Just like women themselves, they can be just as muscular as guys, but still have some soft edges. The differences are usually subtle, but undeniable.
Of course, there have been all-women bands before, from The Shes (look them up) to Fanny and the Runaways, The Go-Gos and The Bangles, to the whole Riot Grrl scene. But the current crop do it without calling attention to that fact; without being either self-conscious or self-promoting about the fact that, “Yup, drink it in, I’m a chick.” They just play. (Of course, the irony here is that I am calling attention to the fact.)

Anyway, if you believe women can rock as hard as men or even more importantly, if you’re sceptical and in need of proof, here are some bands to check out:

Spare Parts for Broken Hearts: As I said, this trio kicks ass. By that, I mean they pack real emotional punch into their music. When, in “Golden Black,” they sing “I want it…/ I want it back” you feel the desire and the desperation as much from the delivery as from the words.

Iress: The third band on the bill on that night when I was won by Spare Parts for Broken Hearts was Iress. I had never seen them before, but I was impressed. Four-piece, with two women upfront on guitars and vocals. They played an extremely slowed down version of metal, as if you took a Black Sabbath 45 (does such a thing exist?) and played it at 33. If there was a positive synonym for “sludge” it would describe this band’s music.

Feels: My absolute favorite on this list. Four-piece with that aforementioned male drummer, lead by Leana Geronimo (Raw Geronimo, The Like) on guitar and vocals. Catchy tunes with lots of fuzzed out guitar. Lyrics that can be both humorous and profound at the same time (“I can’t do this small talk/ I’ll try, but I’m bored as fuck/… The world as we know it is coming to an end/ and you keep talking about nothing” – “Small Talk”). They’re a killer band, live.

Cherry Glazerr: This band, lead by 19-year-old Clementine Creevy (guitar, vocals, songs), is getting a good bit of attention, at least locally, with consistent airplay on public radio stations and press in major papers. Creevy brings a solid punk attack to both her guitar playing and vocals, but is not constrained by the genre. Her lyrics often address the concerns of being a young woman (“Told You I’d Be with the Guys” “White’s Not My Color This Evening”).

Warpaint: This all-female band employs a much cleaner guitar sound than the others. Spacey and droney, they build their sound around vocal harmonies and interlaced guitar lines. The result is hypnotic; lulling you almost into inattention, until you suddenly realize how intensely they are jamming together.

The next three bands only have a single female member and, not only is she front and center, she’s a driving musical force. In addition, the female member plays guitar with personal style in the cases of all three bands.

King Kang:
Esther Kang uses repetition – sometimes through sampling and looping, sometimes just repeating guitar and vocal lines – to make her musical points. The results are often hypnotic – pulling you into a trance state. Kang can hypnotize quite effectively solo; with a full band behind her, the music goes from trance-like to ferocious.

Megafauna: Dani Neff presents herself as the stereotypical guitar hero, with frenzied playing and a complete catalog of guitar hero poses. Luckily, she has the chops to pull it off and a solid rhythm section behind her, which can move from straightahead metal to various quirky experiments. One of the few non-SoCal bands on my list, they hail from Austin, TX.

Pleasures: Pleasures are the other non-SoCal band here, calling St. Petersburg FL home. With Katherine Kelly taking guitar and vocals, they go full-on, deep, psychedelic. The title of their debut album, Fucked Up Dreams Come True, should give you a hint regarding where they’re coming from. (A remixed version, Deluxed Up Dreams Come True was released this year.)

Honorable Mentions – I haven’t listened to them enough to write about them, but I have enjoyed what I have heard – include The Regrettes (L.A.) and La Luz (Seattle). There are also several other women-led bands I love, such as Brenda Carsey and the Awe and Queen Califia, which don’t fit into the “noisy guitar rock” category. Yes, my musical world is filled with women.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a possibly random, possibly very relevant, comparison: the election of Donald Trump has inspired a number of women to get involved in the once fairly exclusive boy’s club of U.S. Politics, just as these women are getting involved in the fairly male-dominated arena of rock n’ roll. Of course, there have long been women involved in both, but we seem to be passing a threshold where their presence and influence has suddenly escalated. Again, the differences they bring are subtle and not always nameable, but definitely present. May they resurrect our politics just as, I believe, these bands have resurrected rock music. [Murray Thomas]

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