Tag Archives: Evelyn McDonnell

Women Who Rockening

Theo Kogan and Murray Hill

Theo Kogan and Murray Hill at Persisticon’s The Rockening

Women get shit done, they are funny AF, they are fed up with patriarchs, and, of course, they rock. Those were four of my takeaways from the Rockening Sunday night, the comedy, music, and activism event presented by Persisticon at the Bell House in Brooklyn. Timed to take place just a couple weeks before the midterm elections, The Rockening both served as a galvanizing gathering for girl power and a fundraiser to turn the evening’s energy into concrete action. A group of musicians, artists, and comedians formed Persisticon after the 2016 election to help get women elected to office, and this, their second event, raised buckets of money for Emily’s List.

It also was a launch party for the book I edited, Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl, so I can’t pretend to be unbiased. Subjectively, it was one of the single best days of my life, as I felt my own work, and those of my collaborators in this volume, celebrated and connected to a cause. And I wasn’t alone; “I want to live at Persisticon forever,” wailed one friend, a reporter for a prominent newspaper. The feeling in the room was electric, positive, uproarious. People laughed at my jokes! Objectively, the not-small venue was full of people, sold out in fact, of tickets that started at $50 — yes, the Women Who Rock launch party sold out! The final take isn’t in, but the estimate is we raised $15,000 for Emily’s List.

Catalina Cruz could become the first dreamer elected in New York state.

Having Janeane Garafalo headline is a good way to pack your launch party. Persisticon put together a smart, fast-paced variety show, smoothly segueing from the politician Catalina Cruz (who could become the first Dreamer elected to New York State assembly) joined by the quick-witted Full Frontal with Samantha Bee correspondent Ashley Nicole Black, to the parodic punk burlesque act Tiger Bay and Fancy Feast, ending with the star of Mystery Men and Reality Bites, who has long persisted as an icon of a cerebral dark, dry humor that women don’t get to show often and who poked fun at Mumford and Sons. Murray Hill, who has been king of the drag kings since I lived in New York almost two decades ago, threaded it all together with his borough-politician parody. When it came time for my Women Who Rock crew to take the stage, Hill joked about how the six of us looked like a band; it was true, without consulting or even knowing each other, we were all dressed in our best black and leather/pleather. Then DJ Tikka Masala played “I Love Rock’n’Roll,” of course a perfect entrance song for me, the Runaways biographer, and we took the stage like bad-ass scribes, clutching pieces of paper.

It was a bit of a daunting task to provide the literary portion of this raucous event. I wasn’t even sure if we were going to do any readings at various points during the months-long planning for the Rockening. But Persisticon producer Lynn Harris selected portions of one essay from each writer and seamlessly weaved them together. So when Katherine Turman started talking about the transformation of Anna Mae Bullock and Anne Muntges’s drawing of Tina Turner was projected on the wall behind her, you could hear a pin drop in the Bell House. Each reader was greeted with enthusiastic applause followed by the most attentive appreciation a wordsmith could ever hope for, as Jeanne Fury praised Cyndi Lauper, Jana Martin told the story of Mahalia Jackson, Holly George-Warren commemorated Patsy Cline, and Caryn Rose eulogized Aretha Franklin, offering the final word of our set: “Amen.” Afterwards, people told us we provided just the dose of serious purpose the evening needed.

The Persisticon crew

And then, the fun girls want to have. Contributor Theo Kogan, a Persisticon founder, the initial conceptualizer of the Rockening and of course, the singer for the legendary Lunachicks, took the stage with guitarist Sean Pierce. She talked about her love of Deborah Harry, whom she wrote about for WWR, then sang “Heart of Glass,” her voice moving from the soprano verse lines to the Lunachicksesque roar of the chorus like a full-throttle code shifter. Thus, Blondie and the Lunachicks were evoked and entwined. Theo Kogan is the very definition of a woman who rocks.

Kogan and Pierce were a tough act to follow, and probably only a visitor from the dead could pull it off. “Ladies and gentlemen, Nico!” Theo announced. Looking pale and moving stiffly like a zombie, a skinny woman with a blond shag and eyes like coal took the stage, to the immense confusion of the audience. “How?!” a male voice shouted. Apparently, many Rockeners had never seen Tammy Faye Starlite’s genius Nico impersonation before. I’m such a fan, I had asked Tammy to write about Nico for Women Who Rock. Her experimental first-person narrative ultimately didn’t make sense in the context of the book, but she got to make fun of me at the Rockening for cutting it. Faye is like a drag performance artist who mostly portrays women but is currently doing a Rolling Stones show. Her Nico is at once blotto and brilliant. Sunday, she sang “Heroes,” and when Faye moves from banter to song, her act shifts from pathos to empathy. Keeping with the theme of the night, Faye/Nico paused the music for a little political interlude. She called out for a man of the people to run against the “saffron” man in the White House, someone who could speak to the elites about their tax cuts but had also worked the fields of New Jersey, someone “not only meant to run, but born to run.” And then Faye went from Nico to Bowie to Springsteen, and somehow it was a joke that made sense, at least to me, who had just Friday seen Bruce’s Broadway show, which in its own way is a eulogy for patriarchy.

I had pushed for this moment — my contributors, Theo, Tammy Faye — and thanks to the incredible Persisticon organizers, including executive producer Diana Kane, with their clever script and, as Hill put it so well, “gentle micromanagement,” it came off brilliantly. This was girl power in action, microcosmic proof of how much better the world would be if women ran it. After all, Tammy played my last book party too, four years ago for Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways, when she was the Cherie Currie of the Runaways tribute band the Stay-At-Homes. But that venue was run by males and they treated us like shit — just like the Runaways used to get treated. It was so fundamentally different to be at an event run by the ladies. This is what we speak of when we speak of safe spaces, and empowering spaces. I want to live at Persisticon forever too.

Catalina Cruz

The capper: The book’s publicist, goddess Kara Thornton, blew some of the artwork up into giant posters that hung behind the merch booth (where, needless to say, copies of Women Who Rock sold like hot cakes). Catalina Cruz asked to take home the Selena poster drawn by Winnie T. Frick. I hope she hangs it in her office in Albany, after women rock the vote Nov. 6.

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Bag Wig McDonnell Poster!

Web Version Bag-Wig-McDonnell 5.13.2015 Jon KropCheck out the fabulous flyer for The F Word in Oakland May 13.

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The F Word Tonight!

Riot Grrrl, OCMA

Wall of handbills at Alien She

Tonight is the night: Join writers Alicia Armendaiz (aka Alice Bag), Tracie Morris and moi for The F Word Vol. II panel at the Orange County Museum of Art. Book signing, food truck, and screening of a video of the original F Word panel — including GB Jones, Sha-Key, Erin Smith, Jean Smith, Tinuviel, Kathleen Hanna, Chin-a Pannacione, Tracie and me — starts at 6. Panel at 7 in the museum auditorium. And don’t forget to check out the Alien She show of Riot Grrrl inspired art, including the wall of handbills pictured here.

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Two New Podcasts Featuring Queens of Noise

There are two new podcasts you can add to your iTunes or streaming pleasure. One is the Bullseye With Jesse Thorn that aired on NPR stations this weekend:

The other is the debut podcast by David Kukoff, author of the new novel Children of the Canyon:

http://davidkukoff.com/podcasts/#sthash.gVDMRoOd.jD8BuguS.dpbs

 

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“The Feminist Meeting”

Queens of Noise

Exene, Allison, and Evelyn

Why do we keep reinventing the wheel? How come every generation of women musicians has to address all over again the confrontation between expression and exploitation, as if a hundred women haven’t gone before them? These were some of the questions raised last night at Queens of Noise: Music, Feminism, and Punk: Then and Now, the Aloud event at the Los Angeles Central Library that I hosted with amazing extra-special guests Exene Cervenka and Allison Wolfe.

Apologies to those who were not able to get in to “the feminist meeting,” as one would-be attendee described the event (according to a colleague). The podcast will be posted next week — and goddess, I hope it goes viral. Of course I’m biased, but, led by an Exene on fire, we addressed crucial issues of the value of and need for women to make themselves heard, not just seen. Riot Grrrl, Rock Camp for Girls, Pussy Riot, the Runaways, X, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Kathleen Hanna, Bratmobile, mentoring, self-esteem, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, books, history, documentation, activism, etc. — these were just some of the issues and topics we addressed in a wide-ranging, cross-generational conversation. The audience asked sharp questions. And Exene sang a song. It was an EPIC night.

 

Queens of Noise – Event – Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

via Queens of Noise – Event – Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

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New Times Interview

Journalist Liz Tracy is holding it down for the ladies as the only distaff music editor in the Village Voice/New Times chain. And she works my old turf, the 305 (and 954). We met last month at the MEOW Conference in Austin. She interviewed me prior to my appearance this Sunday at the Miami Book Fair.

Evelyn McDonnell on Writing the Story of the Runaways.

via Evelyn McDonnell on Writing the Story of the Runaways.

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Praises #QueensofNoise

It still amazes me when reviewers completely get what I wanted to achieve with Queens of Noise. Fortunately for me, a lot of them do. The latest wonderful review of the book comes from Wayne Wise in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Spoiler alert: the ending follows.

“Ms. McDonnell cuts through the mythology and personal memories to find the larger story. She looks beyond the labels without losing their significance. The Runaways were exploited teenage girls. They were revolutionaries who changed history, strong women who followed their dreams.

They were vulnerable girls who were overwhelmed by sex, drugs and rock and roll. They were rock stars. They were, in their time, failures. They were all of these things. Ms. McDonnell is aware of the mythology that surrounds this band without ever losing sight of the real people involved. She gives them back their humanity while maintaining their status as legends.”

via \’Queens of Noise\’: How the Runaways opened doors for women rockers – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

via ‘Queens of Noise’: How the Runaways opened doors for women rockers – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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