All Hail the Rock Revolution

This weekend was so full of live music that I feel like I could crash right now and wake up next week. It was intense.

Friday night I went to see BugGiRL and Adrian and the Sickness rock the fuck out like there was no tomorrow and it was everything I could have asked for. I love the energy and the feel of rock and metal. There is just nothing like the sound of blazing guitars and the heavy drums. It’s like an aural shot of adrenaline. And both bands delivered everything I’d hoped for and more. Amber, of BugGiRL is a pure shot of rock-n-roll energy. Her influences are definitely classic rock, from AC/DC to Mötley Crüe and beyond. She wields her guitar like the cock-rock instrument it’s been immortalized as, full of that incredible dirty, sexual energy that makes rock-n-roll the genre that it’s supposed to be. Her energy is frantic and fun to witness and be a part of.

And Adrian, of Adrian and the Sickness? oh my. You have not lived until you’ve seen a guitar goddess in action. Her fingers flew over the fretboard of her wireless guitar and she was in fact a woman possessed by the spirit of the music. It’s no wonder that she’s named her band Adrian and the Sickness. Anyone with a connection to music knows that it is powerful, and a force that can be all consuming–in other words: a sickness. A disease that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Adrian proved that. Her technique and her energy was impossible to resist. Part of me wonders how many guys she has made feel incompetent (or at least uncomfortable) due to her incredible mastery.

Between BugGiRL and Adrian & the Sickness, it was hard not to be inspired. Why fear the guitar when you’ve got women onstage proving that the instrument itself is not gendered. Anyone can make it their own. And if you know a woman who wants to get into learning the guitar (or are one yourself!) I suggest you look into both of these bands. They’ll get ya on the right track.

Saturday I went to an all day concert put on by a local rock radio station, 97.5 The Blaze. Saturday was wonderful. It was an outdoor concert in the heart of Salt Lake City (known as Gallivan Plaza) and I’m sun burnt. The music was great, especially the local bands. Believe it or not, SLC has a damn good rock scene. While a few of the names are well known to the local music community (the most notable being Royal Bliss, who really owned the stage–their reputation is well earned), I was familiar with none of them. Which on one hand is exciting, because you’re in the best place to discover new bands and musicians. The day was well spent, I enjoyed the music, the bands, the crowd, and the station’s effort throwing this incredible bash, but after spending the night before with talented/bad ass women musicians I couldn’t for the life of me shake this nagging feeling that….well…

….there was something missing.

97.5 has a good relationship with women. They’ve brought in acts like Halestorm into Utah, so it’s not like their ignoring the women who’re paving their way into the rock/metal scenes. The lineup for 2011’s Viva Salt Lake, well…it’s just what it is, right? It’s who they could get. Chill out, it’s not a big deal…Can we move on now?

But see, this right here, this very attitude, is exactly why women–especially in the rock/metal scene–aren’t getting the same respect the boys are getting. This attitude has been in place since June Millington picked up a guitar and started the band Fanny with her sister and some friends in the 70s. This is the same attitude that saw laughing record executives look at Joan Jett post-Runaways and say “Ohhh no, we’re not signing you.” Joan Jett had to go it alone and release her music independently. Today she’s still going as a musician and she’s still running her label Blackheart Records, where she’s making sure she’s signing acts like Girl in a Coma (3 piece alt/rock) and the Dollyrots (awesome pop/rock). It’s unquestionably a women-forward label.

Women have been a significant part of every music scene, from the blues, to jazz, to alternative, to rock to punk….WE’VE BEEN THERE. Yet women musicians are constantly left out of the rock picture despite the fact that more and more women are taking up instruments with the help of Rock’n’Roll Camps for Girls and other supportive parents and friends. The 90s saw a grrrl revolution in punk. With the leadership of musicians like Kathleen Hanna, Allison Wolfe, Carrie Brownstein and so many others, women finally found themselves represented in boy dominated scenes in a real way. Suddenly women could kick ass. Suddenly women could go to the local punk rock venue and actually HAVE a space to scream out their frustrations.

And yet, despite the progress, despite the work of musicians such as Courtney Love, Kat Bjelland, Otep, Kittie, Tairrie B., and so many others, women are still marginalized in a system that is happy stuck in the status quo. Women fronted bands are still regulated mainly to the rock magazine “hottest women in rock” issues instead of being a real and balanced part of the rockpages. This is NOT OKAY. This cannot continue to be the case. We’ve been fighting this war in different stages since the 60s and 70s, and it’s bizarre to think that as much accomplishment that we’ve had, you can still listen to a local rock radio station for more than an hour and not hear women represented. It’s bizarre to look at the rock charts and see no women-fronted acts represented. A quick glance at the Billboard rock charts reveals that the only act on the top 10 for the past couple weeks with a woman is Sick Puppies, which has Emma Anzai on bass. Thank goodness we have some representation. It’s better than none. But one woman among a male dominated field is not enough.

It’s hard to find faith in a system that is clearly broken. At the same time, the fact that the system is as broken as it is gives me a chance to do what I do, and bring amazing women artists to public attention. I’m happy to keep that gig. That said, I would like to see a balance in the mainstream rock world. I would like to see more women recognized without the feminist journalists/critics reminding people why it’s important that the musician is recognized for MORE than her looks. I’d like to see artists profiled in Bust/Bitch profiled equally in Rolling Stone/Spin. This disconnect is not okay.

I’m going to end this blog with a challenge. It’s a challenge to myself and it’s a challenge directed at anyone who reads this and who feels similarly.

It’s simple in essence. The challenge is to speak up. To pay attention. To request, request, request music on radio stations you listen to. Send music suggestions to music magazines/radio stations and if their coverage of women musicians is scarce or sexist, call them out on it. Don’t let that magazine/radio station be anything less than the best. You are a consumer of that media and as such, you have some power. Use it. Speak up.

Do you like a band? Join their street team. Support the hell out of them. Get them heard in whatever way you can. Write about them. Talk about them. Go to their gigs and bring friends. Buy their albums.

Don’t. Be. Silent.

Do. Be. Persistent.

The women-in-rock revolution is still ongoing, and the only way to make it real is to be part of it, and to own your role in it. So whether it’s as a musician, a writer, a radio host, OWN IT.

 

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2 thoughts on “All Hail the Rock Revolution

  1. djmoonlight June 13, 2011 / 2:22 pm

    what a great blog, thank you for it! I totally agree with you and I do my best to support the scene with my all female fronted radio show Pigtails and Army Boots and I’ve just organised and done Ladyfest Essex (uk) and hope to continue with the show and hopefully arrange more gigs where I can promote the hell out of these amazing musicians!
    by the way you can find me at http://djmoonlightmusic.blogspot.com

  2. vegawriters June 13, 2011 / 2:46 pm

    You raise some wonderful issues. Where pop music is peppered with scantily clad women meant to increase the American public’s fascination with teenage sexuality, rock music is, as you have pointed out, a male-dominated world that pushes women to the side.

    My favorite musicians are male. I prefer the male vocal to the female. I like the deep rumble. And, like you, I feel the female voice is missing in women. I am tired of the Amy Lee look a likes, especially when so many of them are much more talented than Amy.

    All you can do is keep requesting and keep writing and celebrate the places (like the Blaze) that actually do give some kind of heads up. Join the music advisory panels. Make sure they know when the smaller bands are rolling through town. A lot of the time the groups don’t even contact the radio stations so make it your job to do it for them. 🙂

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