underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

old school olympia

I saw this picture of Sea Mart today. It brought back memories of Xmas Past.

This old Beat Happening video shows you what downtown Olympia used to look like.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Punk Comics History by Janelle Hessig

From the Punk Comics Issue of MRR magazine

Janelle Hessig on Shawn Kerri:
She was as prolific as these other more notorious artists and, for me personally, her art resonated more with the things that I like best about punk — action, humor, and being a fucked up kid. So, why isn’t Shawn more well known? One possible contributing factor to her lack of recognition could be that she didn’t fight tooth and nail over copyrights. Around 1986, when the Circle Jerks began pining for mainstream success, their agent and record label decided that they owned the rights to the skanking kid image and shouldn’t pay Shawn. Rather than deal with legal battles and mangled friendships, she just let it go and signed the rights over to Keith Morris. The current day skank kid is a bastardized commercial version of her original art.

Friday, December 17, 2010

top tweny guitar players

1. billy karren
2. christina billotte
3. elisa ambrogio
4. jo johnson
5. raven mahon
6. greg sage
7. jimi hendrix
8. billy childish
9. holly golightly
10. mick collins
11. dan kroha
13. julie cafritz
14. kim gordon
15. erin smith
16. kathi wilcox
17. jessica espeleta
18. bernard sumner
19. ana da silva
20. tara jane o'neil

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best Live Shows of 2010

1. The Human Skab at The Eagle's Hall
2. Grass Widow/ STLS/ Coasting/Broken Water at Northern
3. Impromptu DIO tribute show in Columbus, OH by Black Rainbow
4. Weird TV at Westside Artswalk
5. Hell Woman, Raw War, Tesseract & Dead Head at The Red House
6. Blood Bones at The Olympia Timberland Library
7. Tara Jane ONeil, HeLLL, Dragging an Ox Through Water at Northern
8. Wild Flag/ Western Hymn at Northern
9. The Gossip at 3AM at The Olympia Film Festival (and The Need!)
10. Son Skull, White Lung, Nu Sensae at Old School Pizza

Monday, December 13, 2010


hysterics live in olympia, 2010

I still haven't seen them live, but the demo rules, thanks peter
I went by rainy day and phantom city to buy one to send to layla
but they were all sold out

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Olympia: Save The Loft on Cherry

On Wednesday November 24 there will be a meeting at Bicycle Records to Save the Loft on Cherry

From the Press Release:

The Owner of Fishtail Ale is currently pursuing buying out the remainder of the Loft on Cherry's 5 year lease with the goal of tearing out the floor and using the extra space for beer storage.

This meeting is open to anyone interested in preserving the Loft as a community space for arts and events.

The meeting will be facilitated with an open agenda.

bring healthy snacks

Art Kitchen / Bicycle Records Office
508 Legion (across the hall from the loft)
Olympia, WA

Vote for yr fav female fronted band!!!

MR ET is asking for yr input for his BUST column on new female-fronted bands. The comment section is going crazy!!! Olympia represents! WEIRD TV!!!!! Vote for yr fav here

Sunday, November 14, 2010

K Zip Pack: The Hive Dwellers

K Records is doing a cool subscription-only MP3 series called the K Singles Zip Pack. Check it out:

The K Singles Zip-Pak is a series of downloadables available exclusively by subscription. The songs are drawn from our upcoming hardcopy releases like the International Pop Underground series of 7” records, the Dub Narcotic Disco Plate singles and the regular album releases and show up in your in-box as MP3s. A year’s subscription to the K Singles Zip-Pak means hundreds of new favorite songs, six or more weeks ahead of their regularly scheduled street date. It’s a noisy pop rockin’ overdose: no post-rock, no Dad-rock, just endless screaming, crying and carrying on compressed into bite-sized chunks of three minute pop songs. Passionate music for passionate people, the K Singles Zip-Pak features the latest in K MP3 delectability, new songs by Chain & the Gang, LAKE, Karl Blau, the Hive Dwellers, Strange Boys, Jeremy Jay, and so many more. Subscribers hear the songs weeks before the rest of the civilized world has gotten an inkling of what the future has in store because the K Singles Zip-Pak is the future, in a neat pak-ette.

I like the idea a lot but keep forgetting to write about it. You get a link to click on, download your songs and then drag it into yr music playing program. It's easy to kind of forget about it until one of the songs randomly plays and you are like, "hey wait, what the heck is this?"...call me old fashioned, but I'm still in the mindset where a record is a tangible object you hold in your hand.

This week I got a few MP3's by Calvin Johnson's latest act, The Hive Dwellers. I was listening to the song Lazy Mondays and thinking, hey what does this remind me of? I was like oh yeah, The Go Team song Three Ways to Sunday and then I remembered that in the late 80's The Go Team tried to have a monthly subscription series of 7" releases and how stressful it was to get all the records out on time and in the mail. I think the MP3 world makes this idea a more doable project. It just took the world 21 years to catch up to Calvin's idea! He is a visionary after all!

I wonder if this kind of thing will catch on. It's a good idea and cool to see independent record labels getting creative, thinking of new sustainable ways to distribute music that actually benefit the artist.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Black Flag Beat Happening flyer

someday I'll tell you the story of when Black Flag played at the Tropicana ...and the legendary standoff between Calvin and Henry...I used to actually have it on tape...I promise to get my scanner working after film festival and start updating my jigsaw scrapbook and archive

New Mecca Normal 7": Malachi b/w Blue Sky & Branches

here's another new record I look forward to hearing:

From today's edition of the Mecca Normal newsletter:

Malachi b/w Blue Sky & Branches – part of the International Pop Underground singles series. Malachi is about free speech and anti-war activist Malachi Ritscher (1954-2006).

Mecca Normal is launching our 7″ by inviting bands to cover Blue Sky & Branches at their shows in the months of November & December. We will post videos of cover versions on MySpace.

Olympia Film Festival: Nov 12-20

Full Schedule available here

My picks for the rest of the weekend:

Saturday November 13th

6pm Decline of Western Civilization Part 1 (1981, Penelope Spheeris) Q&A with director

8pm Decline of Western Civilization Part 2 (1998, Penelope Spheeris)Q&A with director

10:30pm The Need & The Gossip Live Show

Sunday November 14th

10am The Great Muppet Caper (1981, Jim Henson)

4pm Cinema of Transgression: The Films of Nick Zedd
Part 1 110 min: They Eat Scum (1979), Thrust in Me (1984), Police State (1987)
Part 2 98 min: Electra Elf: Of Lice & Men (2005), Electra Elf: No Plague Like Home (2007), War is Menstrual Envy Excerpt (1992), Whoregasm (1998), Smiling Faces Tell Lies (1995)
Q&A with Nick Zedd

7:30pm Destroy All Movies!!! w/ Zack Carlson and Bryan Conolly

7:45 Ladies and Gentleman the Fabulous Stains (1982, Lou Adler)written by Nancy Dowd

9:15pm Times Square (1980, Allan Mayle)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wild Flag Live at Northern 11/10/10

Wild Flag played their first show ever at Northern last night. I was psyched to see four seasoned musicians breaking new creative ground. When I was watching Mary and Carrie play guitar I realized it has been a long time since I've seen women playing music together at this level. Not only are they both great guitarists, they each have their own distinct style and sound. No one in this band plays their instrument quite like anyone else. Plus they have melodies and harmonies AND they totally fucking rock. Lots of great singing too!

Mary Timony used to play in Helium, has made several solo albums and before that was in the early 90's DC prog-punk band Autoclave, who made a great pop record that came out first as a demo tape, then a 10", and now is available on CD. She has been one of my favorite guitarists for years. I had always been a fan but the last two Helium records blew my mind and there have been long extended periods of time when I've listened to nothing but The Magic City on repeat. It was super great to see and listen to Mary play guitar with Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), who also has a unique way of playing based on a signature chord style and a percussive note-driven approach. Of course Janet Weiss didn't stop playing drums after Sleater-Kinney and is currently playing at her very best, she may very well be the best drummer out there today, in my humble opinion (and notice I did not say "best female drummer", which she is often credited as). Her beats are solid and driving yet she never loses her grip on a song, always moves it forward and releases tension in the right places. Her fills are fluid and don't drop out or make the song lag, which is a problem for lesser skilled drummers who hit as hard as she does (myself included here) she has her chops up and it is a real pleasure to have the chance to see her play. I don't know Rebecca and am not familiar with her musically but she also sings and played really well with the group, providing solid bass and keyboard ambiance.

Carrie's voice has never sounded better. She is singing from a stronger place and sounded fucking rad. Mary has a beautiful, haunting voice and I look forward to being able to hear it better as she was a little quiet last night. She is one of my favorite singers, there is a truly magical, intimate quality to her voice that just slays me every time I hear her sing, both live and on record. Janet and Rebecca also sang a lot last night, giving the group a solid chorus, which they are exploring with harmony and interweaving vocal lines.

Wild Flag clearly have some good songs already (though I couldn't make out lyrics and sometimes guitar work was difficult to pick apart because of the acoustics in the room) and I am totally looking forward to hearing the records they make together. They were great last night and they are just going to get better. It's very exciting to see women my own age starting this new musical chapter in their lives. They are taking chances, working hard, collaborating and giving it their all. Super inspiring. A fantastic show.

Grass Widow Past Time

I haven't written about Grass Widow yet, partially because their last record, Past Time, was released by Kill Rock Stars (my work) and it's sometimes hard to figure out the line between "promotional writing" and criticism.

When Past Time came out, I noticed a lot of critics tried to lump them into a category that exclusively contained other contemporary all-female bands that I didn't think they shared much in common with other than gender. This is one of the curses of being in an all-female band. While there is a feminist aspect to it as well, your audience tends to only hear your music in relation other all-female groups, which can be unfortunate because there are many ways to listen and in Grass Widow's case, so much to hear!

Grass Widow are like The Raincoats or The Minutemen or even The Melvins in method, meaning they create their own formalistic, aesthetic universe with its own internal logic. They don't sound like they are following anyone's rules at all. They sound like they are listening to themselves and each other and creating their own musical language. The bass often sounds like a guitar, the drum beats are unique and expressive, the guitar playing is personalized and fresh. They use dissonant notes in their melodies and complicated rhythms, but their music feels driven, it doesn't fall behind, there are hooks and there is a solid dynamic. The tension in their songs build and dissipate and build again like Virginia Woolf's writing in The Waves. The singing weaves all of their voices together, creating lyrical complexity. Varying points of views, ideas & impressions linger.

Their aesthetic can be viewed as an argument for multiplicity. There is no "lead vocalist" or front person, they are a group. When three voices are equally amplified which one do we listen to? In philosophical pluralism, multiple subjective perspectives are said to create a more complete picture of reality. In other words, "the truth" is more fully realized when many truths are expressed. Grass Widow is expansive in a similar way. Because of this, reviews that compare them to The Dum Dum Girls or whatever seem particularly offensive in their reductionism. So do statements that describe them as a "surf-band" or a "garage band"...it's like, huh? Is anyone listening to this record?!!! It actually requires some serious effort to take it all in. It's psychedelic in its layers and thought-provoking in content and strategy...not easy to categorize or digest but a joy to listen to.

Past Time is slowly turning into one of my favorite records of all time. It's not every year that a record this good comes out. I urge you to take some time with their songs and check out these videos. They are all totally awesome.

Here's a FREE MP3 for Shadow

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wild Flag

Tonight at Northern Wild Flag

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is the new record I am most looking forward to hearing right now

Leslie Keffer Give It Up LP

Have you heard it yet? Is it good?

600,000 Bands

I realize that yesterday's post might sound kind of like an apocalyptic solemn death knell march, when really there is a humorous side to all of this, that Felt Letters 600,000 Bands discusses, listen here...it's actually very funny, you'll probably want to get your own copy

Monday, November 8, 2010

Q: How rad is the new M.O.D.'s 7"?

A: Fucking Rad!

check it out here

What does it all mean?

My current musical crisis…is that there are a lot of bands that sound good to me….like Tyvek or Weekend or whatever…the first Crystal Stilts LP for example… Sic Alps...but it's not enough, something is missing like The Comet Gain song says.

The recent revelation that Moe Tucker is a spokesperson for the Tea Party means the VU style floor tom/bass drum pounding beat is no longer the sound of the revolution to my ears. I'm playing drums and I'm hearing Fox TV bullshit suddenly. It's disorienting.

Ever since that whole preppy/African trend happened in indie rock, the question is no longer "is this band radical or complacent" in my mind, but "could this band actually be made up of right wing, racist republicans"? And with "gentrification punk" and the boutique-y/cupcake climate spreading like condos, is it really enough to make a cool sounding record? Was it ever?

I remember thinking about this the first time when Pavement were popular in the early 90's. It's not that their music was bad (some of it was good I thought) it was that they didn't seem to stand for anything. Then I saw Clinic in the late 90's and I really thought it was over. This band sounded cool, sonically referenced Wire and other great post-punk guitar bands I love, but they seemed to mean nothing, they didn't matter. Or at least not to me.

So now when I hear a record I like, I don't know, I just don't really care as much as I used to. I want to know what the lyrics are, who the people in the band are…what does any of it mean to them? So they like Joy Division, the first Jesus and Mary Chain LP…so do I. But do we have anything else in common? I find myself asking people "do you think this band votes, are they liberal or conservative?" and then I'm like, what the fuck...it's the mainstreaming of indie rock...I mean whatever happened to real political discourse...I miss the anarchists and socialists of my youth. And it feels like cultural appropriation...or like something has been taken away in the buying and selling of independent music...the context changed.

So this suspicion cumulated into a general distrust of today's independent/underground music scene. And I'm back to listening to punk/hardcore again. There's a cool local punk scene and lately it's been awesome to see a lot of girls/women getting involved and starting bands (have you heard The Hysterics demo??? Hell Woman? Blood Bones? Weird TV?!!! Son Skull???), but punk has to matter too. At least the people in the bands have to believe in what they are doing. Does being in a band mean anything to these kids or are they just killing time until they decide to get back to their "real lives" or whatever? I don't want to be some old geezer who is like "when I saw Black Flag or The Wipers" bla bla bla like a nostalgic Bruce Springsteen song about nostalgia, but seriously, where is the sense of purpose? What does it mean to be in a band right now? And if your band is an exception to this climate, by all means send me your demo! My ears are dying for it. In the meantime I will be over here listening to Mecca Normal and Comet Gain and trying to write songs worth sharing with you.

But of course even when things get bleak there are musical moments to get us through…in the past few weeks I saw Weird TV play a great show at a house party, walked a few blocks and saw Joey Casio perform his poetic revelry to punk perfection. Last weekend I saw a pretty cool sounding band called Dragging an Ox Through Water (pdx). Helll (Tokyo) also played, a drone/noise band in the vein of Deerhoof/The Punks, though not rocking at all, they were contemplative and sounded interesting. Then Tara Jane Oneil played a mind blowing set, an improvish/loop station-y droning soundscape of abstract shit, interrupted by a stunning cover of The Rainbow Connection (Kermit!!!!!??!!!). She ended the show with a cool rendition of her song Dig In, where she threw bells and shakers out into the audience and we were all stomping in time with the amazing Danny Susaki on drums. Seeing these shows was great fun and reminded me that what I like about living here is that there is a community of people who play music and support each other and it doesn't have to be "genre specific" or closed-minded at all. You can go see different kinds of shows and get something out of it. Part of what is rad is that it's not consumer based, everyone participates.

I'm really looking forward to seeing Wild Flag on Wednesday and The Need/The Gossip at The Capitol Theater on Saturday. I know that music matters to these folks and I'm sure that music will mean something to me for those few fleeting moments and this is still what I hold on to and live for when I'm trying to come up with new sounds.

What means the most to you? It means so much to me!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nov 5 Oscar Grant protests in Oakland, 152 people arrested

Yesterday people gathered in Oakland to protest a two year sentence for Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant.

152 people were arrested.

Here's some footage to give you an idea of what happened.

Nov 5 Oakland, "We are all Oscar Grant" protest footage

7:20 pm Oakland, minutes before arrests start happening

7:40 pm Oakland, "This is a crime scene". Police threaten to arrest media if they do not leave & start arresting the crowd of trapped protesters.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rye Rye and M.I.A. Sunshine/ U.S. Girls Red Ford Radio

This is my favorite song right now and it's not underground but I'm glad because I want everyone to hear it like it's the beatles or the rolling stones so it is still a part of jigsaw fanzine

May I suggest listening to Buzz Chant by U.S. Girls right after this song? or how about this one instead:

Actually if this was a mix tape I'd put Red Ford Radio on as the first track, followed by Sunshine xo DJTV

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Deadline was an early 80's DC punk band made up of four teenage boys. Brendan Canty (Fugazi, Rites of Spring) played drums. Peterbilt (Guy Picciotto's label) released a rad limited pressing Deadline 12" in the early 90. This footage captures teenage hardcore boys in public at an awkward stage (notice the singer's unfortunate par-for-the-course insecure/homophobic jab at his friends in Insurrection) but this band is actually really great and I was happy to see this live after all these years!


Meltdown is a DC band of all teenage girls from the mid/late 90's. This is a Super 8 movie that documents their radness. Their voices, the words, the weird way they play guitar...this is the sound of a secret society of girls....making their own kind of sense. I love this group and am so happy this footage exists!

Monday, November 1, 2010

guitar madness

Elisa Ambrogio

Marcia Bassett

Patti Smith

Lauren K Newman

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In the Mail: Fanzines by Teal Triggs

This came in the mail today:

I got this email from the author back in August:

I wanted to let you know that I have included covers of your zine Jigsaw 5 and 5 1/2 in FANZINES (Thames & Hudson) which talk about the history of riot grrrl fanzines. The book in general covers a history of zines from science-fiction to present day. The book is due out in September an I hope it will help celebrate the work of self-publishers.

I do hope this is okay -

Usually people contact you ahead of time, you know to get your permission and stuff! This put me off a little, but I thanked her for writing and asked for a free copy. People always say "I didn't know how to get ahold of you" when they fail to ask permission for something, but really all you have to do is turn on a computer and type in my name and you can find me in about two seconds so I have a hard time believing that.

Anyhow, reading through the section on grrl zines, I immediately noticed a few blatant factual errors and thought the contextual framing was bizarrely off. Again, it seems like if the author (or editors or publisher) had just bothered to use the internet, they would have been able to clear a lot of this up. Example: Bruce Pavitt had something to do with organizing The International Pop Underground Festival? And of course Calvin Johnson is named too. But actually it was Candice Pederson from K Records who organized IPU. You can ask Calvin himself! Or anyone else who lived in Olympia or went to the convention. It made me not want to go back and read the writing on early fanzines. But I will.

I think there should be a way to contest "false information" in published works. Because once it's in a book, it's a "fact". People will use this book as a source for further writing on the subject matter. My sister Maggie had an idea for a website called Interview Regrets dot com, where bands can go in and clarify what they actually really said when they are misquoted, or even what they meant to say. Maybe we need something like that for history books too. Because once something is in print, it becomes an authority.

Fanzines is mostly full of primary documents-scans of fanzine covers and pages. So it seems like the author might have had a lot of time to research and fact check, since there's not too much original text in the book. It has a nice paper-back cover, but it's kind of flimsy and doesn't ship well--mine arrived with a severely dented corner so I guess I won't be selling it on eBay. The printing is a little color xerox-y in tone, but it kind of works for the subject matter. I will put it on the shelf to be reconsidered at a later date. Hopefully by then I won't have forgotten what actually happened and read it and think that Sub Pop had something to do with IPU!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to the Year 2010...Son Skull Birth Scene/Rewind EP

So you might not know it by my recent posts, but The Jigsaw Underground is vehemently anti-nostalgia. Documenting history is cool, but that is different than creating a sentimental picture of the past to wallow in. The purpose of history is to help us actively create the future. But while we are so caught up in the future and the past, sometimes we forget about the present. Jigsaw Fanzine Headquarters is overflowing with records and tapes and zines that are just waiting to be reviewed. So here's one I've been meaning to get to for awhile now....

Son Skull Birth Scene/Rewind EP
(Perreninial P.O. Box 2084 Olympia, WA 98507)

Son Skull are a pretty straight forward hardcore punk band from Olympia. I've seen them transform a male-dominated punk house show into an inclusive pit of ecstatic rage. Going to see them has been pretty consistently rewarding over the past few years. For awhile they were my favorite local band, the only group that had the ability to transmit punk energy straight into my bloodstream. I'd go see other groups and it didn't hit me. Maybe I'd appreciate a guitar tone, a drum beat or a friend's new take on the 60's or the 90's… but I wasn't getting the fuel I need. But when I walk into a room and Son Skull is playing--depleted from the work week, socially awkward, beaten down by the sexist creeps in the room-- the sheer sound of Mary's voice and Hayes' epic guitar playing never fails to renew me.

Their self-released Birth Scene/Rewind EP captures some of that energy and allows the listener to establish a deeper, more contemplative connection with the songs. A fury of guitar feedback/punk noise, rad female punk vocals, flailing yet focused beats & good solid rhythms/melody provided by the bass…it's cool to be able to hear the words. Contemplative lyrics about alienation, depression, economics, personal/political power dynamics, family and friendship.

A few stick out:

The chorus of Cement Mixer sounds cool surrounded by grinding/repetitive bass and drums creating the sound of a machine about to come unhinged. Then the lyrics: Cement Mixer/ In My Chest/ Cement Mixer/ In My Chest…the robotic detachment of suppressed emotion with no outlet physically threatening to break free…the song expresses a familiar modern state of being: Sinking sick pit feeling/looking for something/to hold on to/or hit you with. A vivid articulation of the alienated individual in society…. a child at school, a worker at her job, or someone in a messed up family situation...the struggle for self-control in a dead end, hopeless situation.

I also like the feminist hoes-before-bros motif of Boston Girls with the awesome line What's better than your girlfriends/true love that calls you out. My favorite might be the class war anthem Housing, which nicely uses a personal example of a family who gets kicked out of their home by their landlord to illustrate the injustice of private property: It starts off with This is my fucking house/I had my baby in this living room and ends with You say you need if for your family/Well fuck you/Because that used to mean me. You can also view the landlord as a father figure in this story, making it a nice critique of patriarchy but maybe that's a stretch.

Perennial Death explores the nature of existence itself. This theme might sound murky and dirge-like when examined by a different group. Son Skull are determined to plow through in the face of stark truths. The song itself sounds like breathing after you've been running for a few miles, the exhilaration of serotonin or whatever that chemical feeling is called, the sensation of your body being able to go further than seemed possible a few minutes earlier, the pounding of blood inside your brain…an evolutionary mechanism that kicks in when we don't think we can go on…the chorus sounds like a cry of resistance, a pained plea. Perennial! Perennial Death! We are always dying. But we are still alive. This is the kind of thing I need to hear on a regular basis.

Son Skull are still one of the only bands that will get me to leave my apartment full of books and records and walk across town to go to a house party, because their music still feels more real to me than most of the other groups around right now. I don't mean any disrespect by saying that. It's just that nothing else really hits me this hard and most of the time I'd rather be reading books or going to a movie with my boyfriend than hanging out in a drunk punk environment. Son Skull are the kind of stark, vibrant punk band that make everything else sound like easy listening music. I hope they stick around for awhile.

Carrie Brownstein tribute to Ari Up

Check out Carrie Brownstein's Ari Up tribute on NPR

"The Slits were a life-changing band that made life-changing music. What does life-changing mean? It means someone puts a song on a mix tape or throws a record on and you stop dead in your tracks because now, whatever path you were on no longer exists. In that moment, you think of histrionic and cliche things such as "from this day forward" and "from here on out," and you hope to God you have the conviction to follow through with all the things this music has inspired you to do. And, hey, you don't always do them, or all of them, but the fact that some song like "Typical Girls" — with its swirling punch punch punch of a melody — makes you think that you're capable and bold and a little on fire, well isn't that what music is for?"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Molly Neuman on Ari Up

Molly Neuman quoted in a recent article about Ari Up:

"The Slits were mythic to me as a young punk," says Molly Neuman, drummer for Bratmobile and the Frumpies and co-founder of the legendary 'zine Girl Germs. "Their records were impossible to find, so I only had their songs on mix tapes. I used to play them whenever I was at friends' houses who had them. The rhythms, the riffs, the lyrics and the vocals have the same power for me now that they did then."

Chris Sutton Remembers Ari Up

I have 2 great memories involving Ari Up.


Early December 2008. I was on a promotional tour of the U.S. with The Gossip bouncing around the country, finally ending up in San Francisco for two nights. On the second night we found out that The Slits were performing at a venue called Bottom of the Hill. Nathan, who knew the promoter, had gotten everyone in the group on the list for the show. We had to perform across town on the same night but we were hoping to be able to catch at least a portion of The Slits set. After a couple of drinks and a very long set of girl group standards performed by the opening act, we dejectedly started to make plans to return to our show with seeing any music. Just as we were about to leave we were motioned quickly into the backstage area to where Ari, Tess, and the rest of girls were relaxing. Immediately there was a warm vibe and Ari Up welcomed us with the loudest "HEEEYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!" i'd ever heard in my life. Dressed completely in a gold spandex outfit and various colors twisting her formidable dreadlocks and pure electricity screaming from her eyes. Instant impression. Right away, she broke into an animated story about how she hadn't gotten any sleep the last few days "I just got off of a plane from England, and I've been very upset because there was a terrible riot near my home in Jamaica and that's where my son is now. I have no way of contacting him". As suddenly as she had gone to the somber place, she broke into a wide smile and changed the subject. "We must play music together, let's go on tour!, It'll be so great for both of us!" I can speak for everyone in our group that we unanimously agreed with her. "It'll be punk! we will both set up on stage together and we will alternate songs as a set! Yes! It will be like a new band!" Her energy was infectious and was bursting from her obvious fatigue. "You know, it's like the old days, everyone played with everyone else because that is all we had! So poor in those days.." she continued " Like Flowers of Romance! That was the band that everyone in the scene was in but never played or practiced really. Sid, Me, Tess, Joe.. everyone... Nobody does that anymore, you know? Everyone is afraid of real punk"." We couldn't play our instruments, thats why we couldn't play shows!!" laughed Tess from the corner of the room with her kind english accent. "Still the best, though" Ari said under her breath. Ari's enthusiasm was infectious and she held court with funny quotes and exaggerated mannerisms suggesting that her whole life might be one long, constant, dance. We still had a show to play though and we were way late for it so we had to leave suddenly. "You are all punk, stay in touch!" she exclaimed to all of us as we walked down the stairs to exit the venue "PUNK IS LOVE!!!!" "SLITS GET RICH!!" "LOVE REGGAE!" Ari blessed us with several of her mantras. I left that tiny room filled with a mixture of a euphoric daze and appreciative self-reflection. "No big whoop, we just hung out with THE FUCKING SLITS!" said Beth. We all laughed. The hangout probably lasted for maybe 45 minutes and we didn't see them play that night, but I don't know how I couldve gotten a more completely visceral experience. The Slits have meant so much to me in my musical development and have ideologically represented what I believe in musically, so you can imagine I was trying to soak up as much of their wisdom as I could that night, and they were so open and conversational with us. Months later Hannah and I saw her play in Paris and it was amazing! It was probably the best reggae band I had ever seen play, no joke (and they punked it up too!!) Tess shook the rafters, Ari almost got naked, the sound was amazing, an absolutely incredible performance overall. We were ushered out of the venue too quickly to be able to say hi to her unfortunately, but we were certain that we were gonna see her again someday. When I heard that she died I sat for a while in shock and then listened to New Age Steppers "Fade Away" 10 times in a row. It seemed like the proper tribute. We'll all miss you Ari!!!!


Watching my friend Tobi sing the "Shoplifting" on stage with The Slits while standing next to members of the band Shoplifting.

Video from Slits show in Paris:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Victoria Yeulet on Ari Up

So starting I should say that when I was 11 years old my brother took me to see Lee Scratch Perry, I was really into Public Enemy, Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth at the time and I knew they were all fans, and although I've never really gotten into reggae at all, I appreciate the good stuff, and I remember watching Lee Scratch Perry and being completely amazed and blown away by his character.

Then when I was 15 I think, I discovered Ari Up, and it was like being transported to that place again, but discovering women who were as totally insanely incredible. I had gotten into Riot Grrl stuff and X-ray spex and Headcoatees when I was about 14 and I loved it, totally inspiring, this kind of energy that I couldn't explain, and knowing that particularly Poly was the same age when she was doing her thing drove me and my friends crazy. I had seen the Raincoats perform and got really into them, and found something in them that interested me more, and became completely obsessed by Palmolive, leading me then finally to finding the Slits. It was weird cos on all the punk comps you found X-ray spex and The Rezillos etc, and I liked this stuff, but hearing The Raincoats and The Slits really felt like a hidden history to me, and it felt like the kind of punk I could relate to far more, it had so much depth and felt like a new language.

Hearing 'Cut' especially I was just in the feeling of 'how the fuck did they make it, where do these sounds COME FROM?' I'm pretty much obsessed by female vocals, and always have been since I was a child, and I couldn't believe the sounds she made, and how everything worked together, and the photos inside the sleeve really gave me an idea of what it was like to be a proper grown up woman, rather than an excitable teen, seeing their photos was like total magic, and actually I remember thinking wow I wish I had the confidence about my body to be on the cover of a record like that, cos for once I saw women's naked bodies that were owned, rather than being sold.

Of course lyrically it was like everything you wanted to say being said, all perfectly and encased in this world of unbelievable creative sound, and I still get that feeling hearing their records today. When I got to University I remember reading Hebdige's 'Subcultures' book and just being outraged that he would write on about The Clash and how revolutionary their mix of punk and reggae was and he barely mentioned The Slits, I remember bringing this up in seminars and of course most kids there barely knew the Clash so they had no idea who the Slits were, and by that time I couldn't have given a shit about the Clash. The Slits soundtracked a lot of my first year away from home and in University cos I hated pretty much everyone there and I used to shoplift a lot at that time too, so I remember always having them on my walkman or in my mind when I did it.

I remember finally getting to see the Don Letts short film about The Slits at the BFI a couple of years after that maybe, and just thinking they were still so exciting to me, the part where they just change their clothes in a shopfront and when they go cruising into the reggae club and are dancing. Along with Vivienne Dick's films this was the real inspiration for me making a film about Erase Errata, cos I felt the same way when I heard the sounds they made, and I wasn't really listening to hardly any 'punk' based music at all by that point.

The Slits also made sense in the way that finding out about Rip Rig and Panic and Neneh Cherry's part in their history was like a big exciting circle too as she was my favourite pop star as a kid, it really localised a lot of female music history in London for me, and made me really assess female musical communities as I looked more into what these women did and who they surrounded themselves with and what they worked together on.

When I worked in a record shop I was lucky enough to meet Ari Up, she came into the shop and was like a fucking beam, I remember just smiling so much at her as she said 'I'm Ari Up, I am in The slits' to me and my colleague who was a massive punk freak, and we both responded 'we know'. She had copies of her latest record and said that she was having problems with her distribution company so she was just taking copies around to get them into shops but that no shops would buy them from her, we then of course bought a massive handful and I think I just told her it was great to meet her. It made me so sad that people would only ever think of her as this 'thing' from 'then' rather than now, and wouldn't support her.

To me the Slits will always be one of the most important bands in music history, changing sound and vision for me and other women and men, I was so glad when the book finally came out about them because I think what they created, and carried on creating in the reformed line-up was a new mine field of opportunity for music, and women in music, one that gains more depth with every listen and every scream and howl that Ari produced.

Everett True Tribute to Ari Up

Everett True on Ari Up

More here.

Ari Up Memorial by Sam Ott

So, I think I heard about the Slits when I was 16 and sitting in my friend Shane's room at some Oakland punk house. He had a record of the Slits' demos (?) some bootleg of something or other.

I remember thinking how primal it sounded, the drumming reminded me of the tom tom drumming from Bow Wow Wow, who I love/d. How it sounded, maybe, like something my friends and I could do.

Then I bought Cut, and it boggled my mind! As someone who grew up listening to 80s/90s hardcore, reggae was at most an annoyance that plagued the stoner dudes I went to high school with- dub wasn't even on my radar.

The rhythms on Cut, the vocal patterns, the basslines! It was revelatory- I owned Clash records but never paid attention to their influences, but listening to Cut made me hear all of it- made me seek out connections like Don Letts and On U and Adrian Sherwood, and even though it took me years to draw all the lines inbetween, the Slits led me to the Raincoats, the Pop Group, dancehall, dub, Trojan Records, Lee Perry and Junior Mervin.

Not to even mention that the Slits were the age I was when I joined my first band. I still can't believe that anyone so young could make music so perfect, so dynamic, so wild.

I had a friend who bootlegs videos for a living make me a Slits VHS, it's the only thing I ever paid him for.

I love Ari Up's voice, her lyrics, her wildness, her sexiness, her weird patois, and I'm heartbroken that she's dead.

I hope there's an army of 14 year olds ready to make records just as awesome. I bet there is.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slits guitarist Viv Albertine on Ari Up

Viv Albertine posted her tribute to Ari Up on her blog

the whole thing is really great. here's an excerpt:

She was totally unselfconscious about her body and remained so throughout her life. Ari's biggest gift to me was she made The Slits a safe place for a woman of any shape or size to be relaxed and free with her body. She celebrated womanliness, she reveled in it. She was so sensual on and off stage it was empowering to any girl who saw her. I'm not kidding. The way she carried herself was a revolution.

Stage was Ari's home. She was in her element there. That is where she could let go completely. She was at her best there. She pissed there. Stage is one of the only places a woman with that much energy, power and self belief can show off and sometimes get away with it.

The singing voice that Ari developed, that has been so copied and referenced over the years came very quickly. That is because she was true to herself. She used sounds that she heard around her from animals, birds, playground chants, accents and melded them all together. It happened without thinking. She was as unselfconscious about her voice as she was about her body.

In Memory of Ari Up by Tobi Vail

I have been listening to The Slits non-stop since I heard Ari Up died last week, thinking about how much they mean to me and wondering how to express what we have lost...I don't know if there is any way to do that, but honoring Ari Up somehow is really important to me. I don't think the world would be the same without The Slits. I know my life would not be. I can't even imagine how things might have turned out differently. It makes me feel very small but also awed by how big of an effect one person can have on planet earth. Well, I know The Slits was a group and not just their singer, but no one can deny that without Ari Up The Slits would not be The Slits...and without The Slits, things would have turned out differently for girls and ok for guys too and music would not be as free-form and unrestricted. They opened things up. Minds. Hearts. Ears. Bodies. They annihilated boredom. They celebrated joy. Their songs expressed sadness and marked limits but turned things upside down and created room for us to breathe...to think...to live...to create.

These words are not songs but if you get your Slits records out you will hear what I mean. Voices and instruments and phrasings and words and rhythms that are so expressive they can't be categorized or contained. Nothing is literal nothing is as it seems, everything can be questioned, taunted into nothingness, built upon and made fresh. Life/Music is repetition and contradiction and melodies that seem to drift off and suddenly start again. Typical Girls Typical Girls Typical Girls. Unpredictable! Predictable!

My personal story with The Slits goes on and on. I am a big fan and have studied them closely. I will just tell a sliver of my own Slits story here tonight in hopes that it will encourage you to share yours. If you have something you'd like me to post you can email me or post it in the comments.

I first heard about The Slits in 8th grade...1982 maybe. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I am pretty sure that my best friend Heidi and I met this guy at the mall and got his number. We started calling him up and talking on the phone, asking him what bands he liked and stuff. He looked kind of punk, but he told us that punk was dead and that he was an "ant-person". I seem to remember he had blond hair in tiny braids and a bunch of piercings and dressed weird. We told him that we wanted to start a band. Or maybe we told him we had already started our band, that is probably more likely. He said that he thought we should listen to The Slits. He said they used to be punk but now they played "ant-music". He told us about someone named "Viv from The Slits". Heidi decided to change her name to Viv. We tagged "Viv" and "Viv from The Slits" and "The Slits" everywhere. It took us 3 or 4 years for our band to play our first show and even though I don't think I actually ever heard a Slits record until a year or two later, The Slits were an inspiration to us, simply by existing. I remember imagining what they might sound like and wondering what "ant-music" was besides Adam Ant. Guy-we-met-at-the-mall had probably read about post-punk somewhere and decided it was all "ant-music".

Fast forward to early 1988. I am 18. I decide to quit school and move to Eugene because I need to get away from Olympia for awhile. Calvin gives me three records as a going away present: The Slits Cut, The Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth and X Ray Spex Germ Free Adolescents. I had never listened to any of these records before. They were all super hard to find. I don't think I had ever even heard of The Young Marble Giants or X Ray Spex, which is weird since I had worked at KAOS for three years and been going to shows in Olympia all through high school. So even though I was a music obsessive and a big part of the hardcore punk and independent/underground music scene in Olympia, I still didn't have access to this music until someone shared it with me. I got a copy of the first Raincoats album around this time too, probably from Calvin. I remember being in my apartment, feeling so homesick and overwhelmed by how the world limited my options and made things harder for me just because I happened to be born female. Listening to this music I started imagining that it didn't have to be this way. Maybe things could change. Mecca Normal said Oh Yes You Can. Maybe there was hope. I decided my next serious band would be female-led and have a feminist outlook.

Ok new chapter. Bikini Kill is on tour. Everywhere we go, girls are starved for more. We start making them lists.
"Here are some movies you need to see: Out of The Blue, Times Square, Born in Flames and Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains. Here's a list of bands with women in them that you need to hear, we are not the only group! Before us there were a bunch of female-led/all female bands that no one knows about anymore like The Raincoats. X Ray Spex. Girlschool. The Runaways. Young Marble Giants. The Marine Girls. Anti-Scrunti Faction. Sin 34. Sadonation. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Pink Section. Jerri Rossi. 45 Grave. The Avengers. Mecca Normal. Rubella Ballet. Dolly Mixture. The Modettes. Kleenex. Delta 5. THE SLITS! THE SLITS THE SLITS!"
We wrote THE SLITS on a girl's arm in Oklahoma City after the show. Instead of drawing a penis in the dressing room, we'd scrawl out one of our lists. We made fanzines documenting this history and sent countless letters to isolated young girls telling them about music they should try and hear somehow. We traded tapes. Later, when people started standing in line to get their Bikini Kill record signed after the show, we'd try to usurp the weird dynamic by using this ritual as a way to write a secret history of girl-punk on our own records. Because none of this music should be out of print and hard to find. This was our music. The history didn't deserve to be lost, we needed to keep it alive by word of mouth and sharpie tattoos!

I went to see the Slits in Seattle a few years ago with old school Olympia riot grrls Angie Hart & Michelle Noel. We were freaking out the whole time and Ari Up pulled us up onstage to sing back-ups during Shoplifting. I got to do the scream! It was so fun and then we were back in the audience dancing around some more. Afterward we said hi briefly but I didn't introduce myself, it was a perfect moment as it was, us -the wild girls in the audience and Ari the wild lady who made us a part of the show -there was no need for an explanation or a proper introduction.

I got back home after the show and thought, maybe I could join The Slits. Even though I don't play Slits style drums and I had my own life and my own work to do I really just wanted to quit everything and be on that stage with Ari Up forever. We exchanged a few emails after that but thinking about it some more, I realized that what I really wanted to be doing was screaming my own songs and beating my own rhythms on stage. There have been times in my life where I have lost the desire to perform and create but The Slits make me remember why I do what I do and they are one of the reasons I am here today still playing guitar and drums and typing these words out for you.

Thank You Ari Up. For everything. The Slits music will live forever.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Black Wedge Tour, 1986

Jean Smith on The Black Wedge tour:

"Touring the west coast in 1986 opened our eyes to a whole different underground, a whole new punk rock. Everywhere we visited we met artists, writers, musicians and activists with a DIY aesthetic and their own methods for making things happen. It was a challenge for us, could these berry-picking, pie-baking kids organizing dance parties and swimming hole picnics be political? Everyone happy, picking up instruments to join in the fun. Us with our smash the state ferocity, and them with a bag of marshmallows and some extra sticks."

Read more

It's hard not to think she's talking about Olympia here!

Man Thinks Woman When He Talks To Me

Be sure to check out today's Magnet piece by David Lester and Jean Smith from Mecca Normal. Jean wrote a cool short story about a struggling woman writer in a male dominated literary scene who finds herself doing traditional "women's work" at the book store readings. It's a thoughtful, well written piece. This is a part of a weekly series they've been doing, today's edition also comes with a free MP3 of Mecca Normal's classic feminist story-song Man Thinks Woman performed live in Toronto, 1987.

Before I had studied feminist theory or read much women's history, Jean Smith's song lyrics were one of the main sources for feminist analysis in my life. I first saw Mecca Normal when I was about 16 years old, it was 1986. They were in Olympia as a part of The Black Wedge tour, which was a group of anarchist writers and musicians traveling down the coast in DOA's old school bus. Jean's songs and voice spoke directly to my experience as a female. When you suddenly find yourself a teenage girl, the double standards imposed on you are unacknowledged yet psychologically devastating. Not only are you dealing with overt sexism, which is a little easier to understand and address, but also the insidious cattiness between girlfriends, the subtle monitoring of your body/sexuality by boys/men and then there's your own self-sabotage and competition towards other girls/women or what feminist theorists called "internalized oppression".

As I was slowly piecing together all of this, without a language to view it as systemic, in comes Mecca Normal, with their stories about women living under patriarchy. They provided a way for me to view my own personal experience of female adolescence as political. Even more amazing, 26 years later, they are still working artists and their work has consistently done this kind of thing--they use storytelling, sound, light, texture and image to examine the world politically. In doing so, they help us locate our own experience in terms of power. This kind of political art creates space for resistance.

For example, Bikini Kill was heavily influenced and inspired by Mecca Normal. We wanted to create a feminist youth culture so that girls could resist. But in order to even have the idea that maybe we could change things, we needed a political analysis of how capitalism and patriarchy impacted our lives as young women. Mecca Normal helped us see that and actively encouraged us to find our own voice and participate. Please check out their music and art if you aren't familiar with it.

Illustration by David Lester

From Magnet:
"Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 26-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith."

A picture of me and my friend Heidi, 1985.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

silence is a rhythm too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Girls To The Front Book Tour at the Olympia Library!

Photos by Kelsey Smith

Last night in Olympia a bunch of "old school Olympia riot grrrls" participated in a panel discussion at the library organized by Sara Peté as a part of The Girls To The Front Book Tour with visiting author, Sara Marcus. I was nervous and didn't really want to do it, but I wanted Michelle Noel and Angie Hart to do it, so I agreed. I really hate public speaking, getting my picture taken and doing anything in front of an audience without my drum set (I like to play guitar and sing but always get really bad stage fright). I also feel way more comfortable writing than talking and generally do most interviews via the written word. But I thought about it and participating in this kind of local, living history is an important part of living in a community. Plus I really wanted to hear what the other panelists had to say and I had things I wanted to say. So I sucked it up, put on some lipstick, a bit of eyeliner and my favorite Ramones T Shirt (that was my mom's when I was in Middle School) and forced myself out of the house and into the streets. As I was walking to the library, I realized I had so much stage fright that I thought I might throw up, but when I got there, I just kept thinking, this is Olympia you can do this, and ignored all the cameras that were being set up, trying not to think "this awkward moment of your life will now be on youtube forever".

At first everyone introduced themselves. Olympia artist Bridget Irish started. She talked about being a film person and working at Evergreen on visual media arts in the early 90's, mentioning that at the time, there was a generation gap happening between the older feminists and the younger ones. I wish she had gotten to talk more about that, because I don't actually know that history very well. She then mentioned she had been in a band during the Tropicana era (84/85) in Olympia (the all-girl, mostly acapela group Rain Shadow with Nicole and Lisa) and that she had also sang in The Slattenlies (with Maggie Vail, Jessica Espeleta and Natalie Cox) in the mid-90's.

Next up was Billy Karren, guitarist of Bikini Kill, who wanted to come and share his experience of having witnessed the (pre)meeting before the first riot grrrl meeting, which took place in Malcolm X park in Washington DC, June 1991 (I was there too but I let Bill tell the story, he generally has a better memory than me). He asked how many people in the room had been to a riot grrl meeting and not that many people raised their hand (I think many of them were toddlers in the early 90's) and he said "ok, I see we have a lot of work to do", which I thought was pretty funny and got a few laughs.

Then it was Diana Arens turn, who was the program director at KAOS during the early 90s. She talked about having to defend the existence of a show called Riot Grrl Radio, the details are fuzzy in my mind, but the story involved Calvin Johnson backing her up and some ruffled feathers about a bluegrass show being moved to a different time slot. One of the points she made was that there is room for a men's movement or as (I think) Calvin said, a whole day of programming by for and about men, so really no one needs to get upset when someone decides to showcase music made by women. Diana used to do the amazing Free Things Are Cool radio show, which had many live bands play on the air over the years. Diana also does sound and knows how to record bands, so she talked about that a little bit.

Michelle Noel, one of my good friends that I still hang out with from that time period, came next. Michelle talked about why she moved from Tacoma to Olympia in the early 90's, one of the reasons being that people in Olympia weren't all on heroin and she wanted to go to college. I remember Michelle from The Community World Theater days in Tacoma in the late 80's. She was supportive of girls in bands early on. When she was talking a bunch of memories came flooding back into my head. I remember having a conversation with her about an article I wrote in the first Bikini Kill fanzine in early 1991. We were in the bathroom at Evergreen on the third floor of the library building. As I remember it, we were at a Nirvana show, but that might not be right because there were many shows back then and they all blur together in my mind. Michelle told me she read the article I wrote about Yoko Ono, where I talk about how "the yoko ono myth" is something (straight) guys in bands impose onto their girlfriends. This is the girlfriend-as-distraction idea, where the girl(friend) is always the opposite of the band, the domestic partner, the threat to The Beatles, the weird, eccentric, irrational force that might break up his band. While this is happening, it's not only totally obnoxious, but oppressive-- because your identity is framed in relation to his identity, you are seen as the opposite of his band and by extension, the opposite of any band, so the likelihood that you would ever start your own band is not even an idea in your mind, because girl(friend)=opposite of someone in a band. Michelle liked the article a lot and we had a pretty intense talk in the bathroom, a female space away from the male-dominated show happening a few feet away from us. I think I gave her my fanzine Jigsaw soon after that and invited her to my radio show, or maybe she was already volunteering at KAOS, anyhow we ended up doing a show together called Jigsaw Radio for that year and for a few short weeks played together in a version of Bratmobile. Later Michelle got her own radio show, which she did for years, started setting up shows and became one of the driving forces behind the local Olympia music festival, Yo Yo A Go Go. I don't know if Michelle said any of that, but I was thinking of it all when she was talking, being transported back to that time period and feeling very nervous that I was sitting there in front of so many people.

Then it was my turn. I introduced myself and said something about how I was really happy that Bridget Irish had come to talk because in 1985 I taped her band playing live on KAOS, memorized all the lyrics and showed up at their first (and only) show ever, knowing all the words, which had totally freaked them out. I still sing those songs in my head! I don't think I said this, but I was trying to evoke that there was a continuum from the early 80's Olympia scene and the early 90's era, as a lot of people don't know any of this history, so I wanted to share at least some of it.

Next up was Akiko Carver, who said that she was younger than all of us and wasn't as involved. I remember Akiko as being a totally radical riot grrl who brought issues of race and elitism to the forefront of the discussion, pushing for a more inclusive vision and praxis. I might have her confused with her old friend Cindy Hales, because I didn't know either of them very well at the time and they used to always hang out together. In the late 90's Akiko was in the band Semi-Automatic and today plays in an experimental group called Gentle with Marissa Handren. I think she played with Ari Up from the Slits for awhile when she lived in Brooklyn, but maybe they were just friends. I know Akiko (or was it Cindy) was at the final Bratmobile show in New York City, where they broke up on stage, and that there was some kind of anti-racist action that happened at the show that she may have been involved in, but that didn't come up during the panel and I didn't really know the details so I didn't bring it up, though Sara Marcus does write a bit about this in her book.

Then Sash Sunday introduced herself, saying that going to riot grrrl meetings was an important part of her life when she was in high school, growing up in Olympia and that it still really meant a lot to her today, that it really helped her get through her own teen years. I thought a little bit about what that would have been like if I had had something like that happening when I was a teen, wondering if my experience had been that much different than hers.

At this point Sara Marcus read a bit of the introduction from her book, where she talked about her own discovery of riot grrrl. Although Marcus grew up in a suburb of DC, she found out about riot grrrl from an article in Newsweek magazine. I really like the parts of Girls To The Front where she talks about her own experience. After the panel was over, I asked her if she felt comfortable writing in that voice, and she said that she most definitely did not and will not be reading that part of the book in front of people on the rest of the tour, but she thought that since everyone else was putting themselves on the line and making themselves vulnerable, it was appropriate for her to do the same and that is why she included a bit of her own story in the book. I thought that was really thoughtful of her and appreciated it a lot.

The rest of the panel is kind of a blur in my mind. People asked questions, we rambled on about the difference between that time period and today (the internet being an obviously huge difference and the one we mainly focused on). At one point someone asked a question about trans involvement in riot grrrl. I was asked this question before a few years ago by a classmate of mine when I went back to school. I said this last night, but I will say it again here because I'm not sure what the answer is to that question. As I remember it, in the early 90's there was not a lot of trans visibility within punk or even within feminism. I don't know if it's because it wasn't on my radar because of my own ignorance or what, but I don't remember. What I didn't say but thought about later, that maybe I could have said, is that anytime Bikini Kill played a show, no matter where we were in the world, if there were any genderqueer/trans/gay teens and/or radical lesbians in the punk scene, they would be up front at our show and the whole night would be for those kids. Those were the Bikini Kill fans! But as for riot grrrl I'm not really sure. It is a good point to bring up because not everyone did feel included in riot grrl. I have tried to talk about this before, but in fact there were times that I didn't feel included in riot grrl and that wasn't always for non-political reasons, sometimes I actually felt alienated from the politics of it. Anyhow I tried to say this during the talk, but I'm not sure what I actually said.

It is important to ask who felt included in riot grrl and who didn't. It was not for everybody. There was this idea that it was inclusive because "anybody could do it" and anybody got to decide what a riot grrl was (in theory at least), but because not everyone has equal access to information, resources and leisure time, dominant hierarchies reproduced themselves in riot grrl, just as they have throughout the history of feminism. This would have been a good point to bring a discussion of race and class into play and I was hoping that would come up in one of the questions, but it didn't really come up. This made me go home and look for this cool article that Mimi Nguyen wrote about race and riot grrrl, where she says:

I want to reconsider what we meant when we said “community,” “safe space,” and of course, “the personal is political,” because somewhere along the way, the utopian impulse broke down and something dangerous happened. See, the assumption of safety is all too often an assumption of sameness, and that sameness in riot grrrl -and in other feminist spaces– depended upon a transcendent “girl love” that acknowledged difference but only so far. That is, in the process of translating the urgencies of political realities into accessible terms of personal relevance, a fundamental misrecognition occurs that ruptured riot grrrl’s fabrication of a singularity of female/feminist community. It was assumed that riot grrrl was, for once, for the first time, a level playing field for all women involved, regardless or in spite of differences of class or race. But what became painfully clear, for those of us in the midst of the fray, was this: that the central issues was not one of merely acknowledging difference,” but how and which differences were recognized and duly engaged.

So today I am thinking about that. Please post your thoughts in the comments!

Here are a few videos from The Sara Marcus Girls To The Front Book Tour:

Girls To the Front author Sara Marcus talking about Riot Grrrl on KING5 TV

Kathleen Hanna talking about Girls To The Front in NYC

After the panel local queer feminist band Blood Bones played their set!