The Punk Feminism show at Stanford May 12 with Alice Bag, Allison Wolfe, and myself was nicely documented in a podcast feature by Liam Kane-Grande for the Peninsula Press. He makes great use of music by the Bags, Bratmobile, and Sex Stains — unreleased tracks! Hear them here first! They sound great.
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It was literally my punk rock dream come true. There I was, on stage with some of my ultimate musical heroines, singing “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” The F Word show at Studio Grand in Oakland May 13 wasn’t just a historic first — Cali punk legends Alice Bag and Frightwig on a bill together. It was a feminist singalong and call to action. These are women, and one man (veteran keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman), who take seriously the participatory mission of DIY culture and embraced the intimate setting of a community space with photographs of social justice organizations on the wall. Though the Wig and Bag met in person for the first time that day, they quickly got into each other’s grooves and unleashed some fearsome woman power.
I did my best to warm the crowd up with a little discourse on the collusion of punk and feminism. (I’ll post my pieces later.) Having made the online introductions of the bands, I played MC and DJ (and a little Hype Woman too). After a critical karaoke of Patti Smith’s “Till Victory” (I’ll post that as well), I intro’d Bag — aka Alicia Velasquez — and her bassist, awesome Angie Skull. Alice interspersed excerpts from her memoir Violence Girl and her new book, Pipebomb for the Soul, about her days in Nicaragua with the Sandinistas, with songs. Frightwig’s Deanna Mitchell, Cecilia Kuhn, Mia d’Bruzzi, Eric Drew Feldman and I joined in as backing singers for “Women on Top” and “Modern Day Virgin Sacrifice.”
Then, it was Frightwig‘s turn. But first, more Bag Wig McDonnell: I recited Poly-Styrene’s famous intro to “Oh Bondage Up Yours,” and then there we all were, an unplugged rendering of the classic punk feminist anthem. I even sang the second verse, Nike help me. (The goddess, not the shoemaker.) Angie, Alice and I also aided and abetted the newish Frightwig song “War on Women.”
The ‘Wig closed the evening with new songs as well as some of their classics from the 1980s, including “My Crotch Does Not Say Go.” Drummer Kuhn ended with the intense “Lament,” one of many songs that evening that probed uneven social systems and questions of identity.
We practiced our jams for the first time just an hour before the show started. It was also a rare acoustic show for Frightwig. So the night had a very raw, collaborative quality to it. Watching these women learn each other’s songs and find instant notes of harmony and grace — and of collision and dissent — was a tremendous, inspiring experience. I had gotten a taste of it the day before, at Stanford, when I watched Angie and Alice join Allison Wolfe (Sex Stains, Bratmobile, etc.) for another herstoric jam, this one a rendering of the Bratmobile ode to a girl named “Panik.” I know punk isn’t about technical virtuosity, but I just have to say it: All these women can really sing. Without the distortion, you could hear that.
I’m so grateful that I got to be not just a witness, but a participant, in these moments.
Thanks to Vanessa at Studio Grand and to Ruben Martinez, Jeff Chang, and Ellen Oh at the Stanford Institute for Diversity in the Arts for making these moments happen.
TKO declared at the end of the 10th round after Allison Wolfe, Alice Bag, and Evelyn McDonnell schooled the hoi polloi at Stanford about the Punk Rock Sexual Revolution. Muchas gracias to Ruben Martinez, Jeff Chang, Ellen Oh, and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts and the CCRMA for hosting the Punk Feminism event.
Attention Bay Areans! On May 12, come hear me and two icons of punk rock feminism dreams come true, Alice Bag and Allison Wolfe, speak/read/perform at Stanford University. Free lunch! The next day, Alice and I will be at Studio Grand in Oakland with the phenomenal feminists of Frightwig.
PUNK FEMINISM: Girl Bands, Violence Girls, Riot Grrrls
A Panel Discussion & Performance
Presented by Rubén Martínez, Visiting Artist, Institute for Diversity in the Arts
Allison Wolfe (Sex Stains, Bratmobile)
Alicia Velasquez (a.k.a. Alice Bag of The Bags)
Evelyn McDonnell (author, Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways)
May 12, 2015, 11:30am – 1:30pm
The event is free and open to the public, and a catered lunch will be served.
The Knoll, 660 Lomita Court
Stanford, California 94305-8180
A trio of punk feminist pioneers – a musician/songwriter, a musician/author and an award-winning journalist and author – visit Stanford for a performance panel of music, spoken word and commentary revealing the roots of the punk feminist movement and asserting its relevance today.
The “Riot Grrrl” movement took off in the Seattle/Olympia Washington area in the early 1990s and Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile was there. A decade and a half earlier, Alicia Velasquez, a.k.a. Alice Bag, fronted the seminal East L.A. punk band The Bags. Veteran journalist and author Evelyn McDonnell has witnessed all the important alternative and underground scenes in which women have played key roles during the last three decades.
Between the three of them there is deep knowledge of Chicana punk, the Los Angeles “new music” scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the trials and tribulations of women in the music industry (McDonnell’s recent book tells the story of the 1970s “girl band” The Runaways), and a generation’s worth of feminist cultural production.
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