I first met Adele Bertei when I accompanied Wayne Kramer’s organization Jail Guitar Doors on a visit to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. Jail Guitar Doors brings guitars and musical instruction to the incarcerated. There was a group of musicians that day, putting on a show, and one pixie-ish woman was introduced as Adele. “What’s your last name?” I asked, and when she answered “Bertei,” I got all fangirlish. Bertei was a pioneer of the New York postpunk scene, playing for the Contortions and the Bloods, the infamous all-girl band. As a solo artist and songwriter, she has kicked around the underground and pop scenes on both coasts and in Europe since. She also acted in the incredibly ahead-of-its-time film Born in Flames.
When I heard that Bertei was directing a new web series about an all-girl punk band, I was confident she knew what she was doing. Scenes from Venus Flytrap posted as part of their Indiegogo campaign were even funnier and spot-on than I had predicted. Led by the magnetic singer Tinkerbelle, VFT is Tribe 8 for the Trumpistan era. The cast is so ridiculously cool — Alice Bag, Asia Argento, Nic Harcourt, Margaret Cho, Silas Howard, Lydia Lunch, etc. — I had to write about it, which I did, for LA Weekly.
Adele’s the real deal, and a good soul to boot. She’s still working in the prisons, and started her own support group for women after release, WREN (Women’s Renewal Network). She’s trying to raise $50,000 for Venus Flytrap. Consider it a payment against the patriarchy.
Photo by Andrew Thomas Huang
I can never get enough Bjork. I interviewed her recently for LA Weekly and could have talked for hours. I’ve interviewed her several times, including once in Iceland for a cover of Request magazine, and I always admire her intellectual curiosity and open heart. Plus, we both love Beyonce. I’m looking forward to checking out her Digital exhibition that opens at the Magic Box this weekend, and seeing her at the Disney Concert Hall May 30. Enjoy the story!
“Trouble in the Heartland,” in which I come clean about my love affair with Bruce Springsteen.
It’s becoming a running theme: Someone I wrote about 15, 20, 25 years ago finally gets their day in the sun, and I get to reconnect. Call it Early Adopter Syndrome, or, as poet Mike Tyler says, the Turtle Generation finally crossing the finish line. In today’s edition, it’s a his and a her: that old queer punk Hedwig. Eighteen years ago I interviewed John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask, the creators of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for The Village Voice. I was such a tireless Hedwig advocate back then that Carrie Brownstein — yeah, I was onto her a long time ago too — used to tease me about my obsession. Cue forward to 2014, and the old “slip of a girlie” is finally on Broadway, and, er, snatching Tonys. I caught up with John and Stephen recently for the LA Weekly. They are both rabid music fans, and it’s always great fun to talk about punk and politics with them. The revival of Hedwig launches at the Pantages tonight, with Darren Criss in the title role and Tony-winner Lena Hall as Yitzhak and, on Sunday nights, Hedwig — more gender warping from this vanguard show.
In honor of America’s first Man Booker Prize winner, I’m reposting my 1990 Village Voice feature on Paul Beatty, back when he was still a poet.
Tribe 8 was one of my favorite bands of the 1990s. I followed them to the end of the earth — well, to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. They changed the world that year, smashing generation gaps and sending the ladies of the land into the moshpit. They never got their due and still don’t; in Pitchfork’s recent list of punk feminist anthems, their seminal voice is woefully MIA — still too rad for that site’s chamber-music cultural feminism aesthetic. So I was thrilled to catch up recently with guitarist Flipper, now going by the name Silas Howard and an accomplished director of film and television. Here‘s how I wrote it up for the LA Weekly.
Vivien Goldman has inspired me for decades. She is a true artist and friend. I got to write about her for NPR.