Category Archives: LOUD WOMEN community

“What Did Riot Grrrl Ever Do For Us?” Part 1

By Ngaire Ruth Published on The Friendly Critic, 18 May 2018

For Charlotte Horton, Lucy Jordan, KitKat, Maedb and all the women I know, and am yet to meet.

BEFORE THE DAYS OF FULL TIME CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SCHOOLS THERE WERE ONLY SUMMER ROCK CAMPS. FINALLY, IN THE PRE-DIGITAL 90S, ROCK SCHOOLS FOR GIRLS ARRIVED, THANKS TO RIOT GRRRL.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Riot Grrrl is the name for a pre-digital 90s feminist movement, which has been a major influence on alternative music, arts and academia across the world for boys and girls.

Riot Grrrl feminism was action/reaction in a world where feminist news or opinion was otherwise described as post feminist, assumed to be a movement which belonged to a whole different generation.

The term is, arguably, incorrectly used as a genre, associated with a style of punk and grunge.

In began in the 90s, Olympia, Washington, US, where there was an emerging scene of fresh independent bands, notably Nirvana and Bikini Kill, and labels K Records and Kill Rock Stars, later home to Beth Ditto’s Gossip and the fabulous Sleater-Kinney. It wasn’t long before the Olympia crowd melded with the DC scene, home of Dischord Records, where it continued to grow into a worldwide phenomena, including in the UK. Watch out for rare vinyl releases under the mixed moniker DisKord.

Riot Grrrl had at its heart, girl love: support each other in friendship, celebrate differences and organise, create, collaborate on creative projects, protests, ideas and events. Out of this came action groups and organisations that survive to this day, such as LaDIYevents (UK and the US), new writing, new music, a slow steady normalising of girls in rock and indie bands. (See part 2)

Riot Grrrl feminism was about creating whatever form of beauty was comfortable for you, and not having to declare your sexuality or gender (my perspective). The essential part was don’t wear make-up and girly clothes because you think that’s what makes you attractive to other girls and boys. Be a girl. Don’t be a girl, if you want to be a boy. Fall in love with a girl or a boy, today, tomorrow. The era was reflected in the mainstream (Blur‘s hit track ‘Girls/Boys’).

Riot Grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill launched the first Girls To Front (in the mosh pit/at the gig) campaign as an experiment on the UK tour with Huggy Bear.

It’s met with confusion, aggression, disdain, cynicism and outright rudeness by boys in the audience and in bands. Today, women’s safety at gigs is STILL A PROBLEM, as pointed out in the recent article in The Guardian, even though there are many organisations and bands out there championing women’s safety at concerts, for example the excellent music site and promoter, Get in Her EarsThe Loud Women collective and Safe Gigs for Women. (Post your links and recommendations of similar organisations and groups that support women’s safety at gigs in comments. Go!)

Bikini Kill is in the middle of their first tour in 23 years, London 10th & 11th June, Brixton Academy

Girl Power is not what the Spice Girls did.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

In 1992 Everett True wrote a controversial article in the Melody Maker, Why Women Can’t Rock (Reading festival issue). He didn’t blame the women, he blamed the traditions of rock n roll, and the music press. Nirvana, who had been sixth below headliner Iggy Pop on the Friday the year before, were now top of the bill on Sunday, soon to become one of the most legendary Reading performances of all time. Kurt wore dresses, and talked about women punk bands both as his contemporaries, and having been inspirational to his art (e.g. The Raincoats).

In the previous month, Jo Johnson, of UK underground Riot Grrrl band Huggy Bear, is photographed with RIOT GRRL written on her knuckles in the Melody Maker. I really engaged with the Riot Grrrl slogan: this is happening without your permission. Nice.

On the day of the festival, to add to the MM festival spread, I walk around the site with my walkman asking people about the women artists (on the billing), a low representation (no change there). “Can women rock?” I ask. It’s hopeless. Even the girls define the artists from the male viewpoint –

Shonen Knife are crap. They only get away with it because they’re playing up to being girly. It makes boys feel secure.”

Marsha Duvall

“I thought P J Harvey was a bloke, she’s so fucking ugly.”

Evan Bruce

Lunachicks don’t have to get their tits out on stage to grab our attention. they deserve their success.”

Joanne

Tears. We’re hardwired to take these things too seriously, that’s the nature of the job.

Heart already broken. In an interview with P J Harvey (Siren, 1992), pre her major signing that spring, and my new favourite artist, she’d said to me:

“I hate the word feminist. It can do so much more damage than good. All I want to do is write honestly, and I’m a woman, so I guess you can’t avoid it.”

P J Harvey, 1992

I write in my diary: 

I’ve seen Huggy Bear five times in a month. Where are they when we need them? Where’s the revolution? Is anyone else out there a fucking feminist? 
It’s too bloody weird growing up in the old-skool, male-dominated world of music, not least because women are described according to a typology, and I’m expected to like anything created by a woman because I’m one. So many women rock bands are just shitter versions of the men’s crap bands! I want a new sound and a new language that challenges my creative writing and critical thinking skills. I want to avoid generic muso words, like ‘seminal’ and ‘undulating’. I want more feminist men like Mudhoney and Nirvana! I want more songs like Kat Bjelland’s Bruise Violet and more bands like Babes in Toyland so that I can shout Liar Liar Liiiiiiiiiii errrrrrrrrrr again in a pack of women, at a big gig.

On the 14th March 1993 US band, Bikini Kill play at the ULU, London with Huggy Bear and Witchy Poo.

I loved Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna most of all, because she did not say excuse me.

She did not make me feel I needed to be clever or get educated to be able to join in, and she didn’t care if I bought the records or not (but the debut album Pussy Whipped sold an estimated 75 000 copies late 1993) . She wanted revolution, and somehow it sounded possible coming from her. I related to her hard hitting lyrics, more so than Babes in Toyland, and more than the UK Riot Grrrl bands already here who had stolen my heart: Huggy Bear and Linus. But there were more coming. More fanzines, organisations, events and changes to the structure of underground music culture. (See part 2)

OUR LANGUAGE, OUR PROBLEMS, OUR DECLARATION OF NOT TODAY, TOMORROW, OR EVER AGAIN

Out of all the early active US bands – Bratmobile, (Allison and Molly, originally the women behind the fanzine Girl Germs, and later Erin), Heavens To Betsy (Corin Tucker and Tracy Sawyer) Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill, are credited as pioneers of the revolution, for good reason.

They produced a Bikini Kill fanzine, and flyers and leaflets which they gave out to the girls at every show, in case the message was lost through the joy and noise. Tobi Vail, drummer, ran a fanzine called Jigsaw. (2010, Sara Marcus). As a singer songwriter and performer Kathleen was one of the first to Just Do It, and always was the most powerful communicator in interviews and panels, and on the stage; a primal scream that grew to fill the room as the audience joined in. What a fucking relief, pure shared joy, a mutual fury, a declaration and warning that we/I/her/him/they will not

KEEP QUIET
BE POLITE
LISTEN NICELY 
BE TOO EMBARRASSED TO CALL YOU OUT

All wrapped up in alternative rock swagger and sass.

CHALLENGE (AND TOTALLY IGNORE), THE TRADITIONAL STANDARDS OF BEAUTY IN MAINSTREAM CULTURE

The new thing about Riot Grrrl feminism was the freedom to be who you wanted. Just don’t wear make up and girly clothes because you think that’s what makes you attractive to other girls and boys.

Another declaration of Riot Grrrl and Bikini Kill, which tallied with academia of mainstream third wave feminism, and could be applied to both creative and commercial products and images, was the question: is the woman a maker of meaning or the bearer of meaning?

Riot Grrrl did not get away without the media and bands like the Spice Girls, “co opting their style and language”, (Cherie Turner, 2001). The term Grrrl Power was the title of an issue of a Bikini Kill fanzine.

After an extensive UK tour, the deal is sealed at a tiny venue, the Sausage Machine, my local in Hampstead, (where I first reviewed the unsigned P J Harvey), Bikini Kill with Blood Sausage and Linus as support (3rd April). See feature picture.

Everything changes.


References and recommended reading

Images from https://library.rockhall.com/riot_grrrl the Gayle Wald Riot Grrrl Collection and the Kill Rock Stars Collection file on Bikini Kill and https://bikinikill.com

Cherie Turner, (2001) The Riot Girl Movement, The Rosen Publishing Group: New York

Sara Marcus, (2010) Girls to the Front, The true story of the Riot Grrrl revolution, Harper Perennial: London New York Toronto

Sarah Marsh, (2019) The Guardian, Groping a big problem at gigs say promoters and campaigners https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/08/groping-sexual-harassment-a-big-problem-at-gigs-say-promoters-and-campaigners-sleaford-mods[accessed May 2019]

Check out The Guardian, The Art and Politics of Riot Grrrlhttps://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2013/jun/30/punk-music [accessed May 2019]

Next in part 2:

Girls to the front, girl love, the Bikini Kill documentary, more bands and more revolution now.

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Hell Hath No Fury Fest

Just a fortnight to go until Hell Hath No Fury Fest rolls into Manchester’s Bread Shed, presenting two days of UK punk rock sheroes. Check out the full line-up:

Friday
Piss Kitti Falaun Cryptic Street Pussy Liquor The Baby Seals Mobina Galore

Saturday
Fistymuffs Midwich Cuckoos Swansong Bee Hart Witching Waves Ms Mohammed Cultdreams Drones Petrol Girls War on Women Afterparty

Access info:
Wheelchair accessible, entrance from Sidney Street – the venue is all one level. However, there are steps between the Flour and Flagon bar and the Bread Shed venue space.

The toilets will be gender neutral for the fest.

Age restrictions 14+ until 9pm (18+ after)

You can listen to all of the bands who have been announced, on the Official HHNFF2 Playlist on Spotify!

*****Weekend Tickets are now available at anarchisticundertones.bigcartel.com*****

Tier 1 – LIMITED Super Early Bird Tickets at £12.00 ****SOLD OUT****

Tier 2 – Standard Advance Tickets at £15.00

£20.00 Weekend Ticket – On the Door

£10.00 Friday Ticket- On the door
£15.00 Saturday Ticket – On the door

Noisy Daughters – showcasing female music talent in NE England

Darlington-based music collective Noisy Daughters run gigs, film screenings, panel discussions and workshops – and now they’ve linked up with some friends to release a Noisy Daughters album. 

The Noisy Daughters Vinyl compilation features exclusively female musicians from the North East, and launches 17 May, in conjunction with Butterfly Effect Records, as well as Rianne Thompson of BBC Introducing / Amazing Radio.

To celebrate its launch, there’s g a night of live music from artists featured on the album: Martha HillKomparrisonKay Greyson & Eve Conway.

The event is at Voodoo Café on Friday May 17th, with doors at 7:30pm

Plus! A free bottle of ‘Noisy Daughters’ beer for the first 50 attendees, provided exclusively for the event by Saints Row Brewing Co.

Tickets are £5, or you can get a copy of the album thrown in for an extra tenner, to pick up on at the event – you can even get it signed by the artists on the night. Get your tickets in advance from here.

‘Double Dare Ya’: a documentary on riot grrrl in 2019

Effy Mitchell has just launched ‘Double Dare Ya’ on the world – the results of a documentary project interviewing bands and organisations that make up the UK’s current feminist punk/riot grrrl scene in 2019. It’s a brilliant piece of herstory capturing our scene right now.

LOUD WOMEN’s Cassie Fox was included (with a very sore throat at the time so she’s by far the most quiet woman in this!)

Interviewed bands / organisations :
Peach Club
Cheerbleederz
Fresh Punks
Dream Nails
Penance stare
Witching waves
Cult Dreams
Lunar Sounds
Fig by four
ZALU
Babe Punch
Farting suffragettes
Suffrajitsu
Noise and the naive
Loud Women (Cassie Fox)
Sounds for the cause ( Rynn )
Bomb the twist records ( Sarah )
Girls rock Edinburgh ( Caro and Fiona )

Featured bands + organisations + other contributors:
Maid of ace
Against me!
Pussy liquor
GLOSS
FISTY MUFFS
I, Doris
Guttfull
Petrol Girls
Wet Brain Hooligans

Girl gang Leeds
Women in music Nottingham
Cramond island of punk
FYWROK festival

Archive footage –

Bikini kill
L7
Hole
Huggy Bear
X Ray spex


Girl Germs podcast

Review by Caitlin Lydon

Legendary independent record label Kill Rock Stars have launched a podcast miniseries celebrating the 25th anniversary of Potty Mouth – the seminal album of Bratmobile. Separated into five bite-sized parts, Girl Germs charts the musical journey of Allison Wolfe, Erin Smith and Molly Neuman, who came together during the early days of Riot Grrrl – the underground feminist punk movement that defined much of the DIY music scene of the 90s.

For anyone already interested in the feminist punk scene of the 90s, mentions of the landscape where Bratmobile formed will already sound familiar, as references to Evergreen State College, the town of Olympia and the scene that surrounded Oregon at that time crop up continually to define the environment Bratmobile was born out of. From the first episode it becomes clear that there were no bystanders in the thriving punk scene of Olympia during this time, and to fit in you needed to be actively contributing and creating – whether it was setting up feminist art gallery like Reko Muse, creating zines to spread awareness of social issues and underground activists, or organising spoken word open mic nights. For Bratmobile, this meant starting a band and, as Molly Neuman explains, their band was pretty much as DIY as you could get – they learnt to play as they went along, decided to play their first gig with Bikini Kill as a dare, and recorded their debut album in 24 hours – which explains the unrestrained often primitive sounds that encapsulates much of Bratmobile’s music.

The story of Bratmobile in Girl Germs is punctuated by reflections not only from the band, but their peers and a generation of bands they inspired. Contemporaries such as Tae Won Yu of Kicking Giant reflects on the DIY elements of the band being a catalyst for a new way of making music, believing Bratmobile ‘changed what people thought was worth doing in punk rock’ by refusing to copy other bands to figure out the next steps to take, instead creating and honing a sound that seemed entirely unique to the current music scene.

Girl Germs tracks not only Bratmobile’s rise to fame, but the rise of Riot Grrrl in general – Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy speaks to this as she reminisces on her place in the scene, and the sometimes negative pressures that affected many women in the movement. Tucker explains that many Riot Grrrl bands were making music before bands like Nirvana broke, so the underground scene was something the media wasn’t often interested in – or worse still, something they trivialised entirely. Tucker reflects on her own efforts to distance herself from the Riot Grrrl scene, which often became a trap for women in punk music, to constantly only be asked what it’s like to be a woman in punk, not someone in a band making great music. And though the Riot Grrrl era is long gone, the idea of being a woman in a band as a novelty is still something that is perpetuated in much of the music industry today.

It’s important to remember the flaws and criticisms of the Riot Grrrl movement – by no means perfect, the scene was often rightly accused of not being diverse and inclusive enough, and fights within the scene itself about policing the right way to be a ‘Riot Grrrl’ is discussed in the podcast as being a major reason for Bratmobile’s initial break up on stage in 1994. This is worth noting, because the nostalgia that often surrounds these movements and scenes often does not reflect what the music scene actually needed, and still needs today – for all women to be part of the movement, for it to be any kind of movement at all.

From Riot Grrrl icons Bikini Kill announcing their first tour in over 20 years, to NME fronting an entire series of women in music nights using the ‘Girls To The Front’ tag line, the spirit of Riot Grrrl ethos captured so neatly in the Girl Germs podcast is clearly something that still has a huge relevancy in music industry today. Towards the end of the podcast, there is hope that the continuing legacy of Bratmobile will inspire more women and girls to pick up an instrument, claim their space, and whether they think they are ready or not, do it anyway.

I, Doris: The Girl From Clapham – track of the day

Ever wondered what the story of Squeeze‘s classic ‘Up the Junction’ might look like from her point of view? London’s I, Doris are here to tell you.

The band are releasing today (fittingly, International Women’s Day) their debut single, ‘The Girl From Clapham’ – a loving, fuzzed-up tribute to the original song, with a poignant reminder that women’s experiences are all too often erased from history.

The new song lyrics were written by punk poet Janine Booth, and published in her brilliant anthology ‘Disaffected Middle Aged Women‘. Squeeze’s Chris Difford has given the new lyrics – and the I, Doris version of the song – his personal seal of approval. All profits from the sale of the track on Bandcamp are being donated to domestic violence charity Women’s Aid.

I, Doris are a self-proclaimed “kitchenpunk mummycore” band, consisting four 40-something women, dressed in dinnerlady-esque tabards, and answering to the name of Doris (that’s Doris on guitar, Doris on bass, Doris on drums, and Doris on – wait for it – keytar). Audience members are sworn in to the Doris collective with a group pledge at the start of each gig. Their live set is 60s girl-group style pop with lashings of fuzzy punk and plenty of good-humoured swipes at the patriarchy. At least, we think they’re good-humoured.

Bassist Doris (AKA LOUD WOMEN’s own Cassie Fox) takes the lead vocals on ‘The Girl From Clapham’.

I, Doris
L-R: Doris, Doris, Doris and Doris.

“I’ve always loved the song, and feel so honoured to get to sing this version” she says, “I am, legit, a girl from Clapham though. My childhood and teens were spent by/on Clapham Common, mostly trying to stay out of the way of my drunk and violent father. The song strikes a big power chord for me. That feeling at the end – of being trapped in a hopeless situation – it’s painfully familiar to a lot of people I’m sure, particularly women. This is the reason I was keen for the profits from the track to go to Women’s Aid.”

I, Doris are currently blazing a gloriously happy trail through the DIY gigs circuit, and beyond – they’ve played with Mekons in Leeds, the launch of Loud Women NYC in Brooklyn, they’re playing the Royal Albert Hall on 17 March, and Rebellion Festival on 2 August. Keep an eye on the I, Doris Facebook page for news of their continued adventures.

 ‘The Girl From Clapham’ by I, Doris is out 8 March 2019, available to download from Bandcamp for £1 or more, which will be donated to Women’s Aid.

LOUD WOMEN at the Royal Albert Hall: ILL, Nun Habit, Lilith Ai and I, Doris – 17 March 2019

ILL at the RAH

Join us on 17 March for a LOUD WOMEN takeover at London’s Royal Albert Hall! Headliners ILL will be performing a one-off “witchy queer cabaret”, with a collage of dealing with the topic of identity (with added bits from ILL videos) on a loop as a backdrop to their killer set. Here’s a sneak preview of the video:

Support on the night will come from:

* Nun Habit – London-based five-piece, whose fuzzy garage rock sound places a heavy emphasis on loud noises, pop-y tunes and having a good time.

* Lilith Ai – a DIY singer-songwriter, who performs poignant tales of modern city life. Born in northeast London Ai grew up streetwise. In her early teens with only £70 in her pocket, she ran away to America and spent the next few years living on the streets Queens New York which has heavily influenced her music.

* I, Doris – Mummycore riotpop kitchenpunx. “One of the most radical and fun bands we’ve ever seen … they take a glittering disco punk meat cleaver to the gender challenges that no-one else is talking about. Armed with a keytar, a wealth of wit, and a communal I, Doris pledge, you can imagine these Londoners going down a storm at any kind of event.” – Kitmonsters

The event is part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Unstoppable Voices series of events, in partnership with LOUD WOMEN and The Quietus.

Tickets £13.50 / £5 concessions