She’s BADASS: A Small Collection of Women That Rock

One of the benefits of writing Monday’s post about how women in rock tend to be invisible, especially in mainstream media, was that I remembered why I initially started this blog in the first place. This blog was intended to be a resource where bands under the radar from all different genres–from quirky alt/pop to metal to acoustic–could be highlighted. It was intended to be part of the conversation about how women’s presence in music is a hell of a lot more than a cute sidekick. And I’m happy to say that I’m back. In the past few weeks I’ve been listening to a lot of music and I’m so excited to bring you more awesome bands/musicians that you may or might not know! I’m also looking forward to bringing you some of SLC’s best bands. It took a while, but suddenly the SLC music scene is huge and exciting and standing right in front of me. And I am so proud to be part of this kickass community. Just wait. If you don’t know what the SLC scene holds in store for you…you’re in for a surprise.

I also created another 8tracks mix for your listening pleasure. I will add the disclaimer that it’s pretty heavy on the metal/rock side. If you’re not interested in the heavier genres, this might not be your favorite mix ever. But if you’re a fan of metal/hard rock, then do feel free to check this out. It’s by no means comprehensive. It doesn’t even scratch the surface. I may actually have to make this a series.

SHE’S BADASS: Playlist on 8tracks

(Artists included on this mix include My Ruin, Otep, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Kittie, 7 Year Bitch and a few others. Check it out!)

I apologize for not embedding the mix onto this page–I actually haven’t been able to figure out how to make it work (tragic, right?!?). I personally love women in hard rock/heavy metal. I think metal is one of those genres that boys still try to hold onto pretty tightly. Arguments like “boys will be boys” and “far too aggressive for women” are thrown all over the place, but the fact is, women are just as there as the guys. The beauty of metal is found in the direct hard-hitting power, and the idea of only men being powerful is not only ludicrous, it is wrong.

Happy Weekend.

 

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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.

 

OT3P Coming to SALT LAKE CITY

Who: OT3P
When: Monday, 3/22/10, Doors at 6 pm (via In The Venue)
Where: In The Venue (579 West 200 South)
How Much: $15 in advance/$18 at door.

Why you should care:

Since the release of Sevas Tra (2002), Otep has been unique in the metal scene. Not only is she as badass and hardworking as any of her male counterparts, she’s one of the only “out” lesbians in the genre. She’s also a poet.

Metal, musically, is not the friendliest places for women. Even in 2010, despite progress made by women like Otep, Angela Gossow, and–stretching even farther back–Lita Ford and Girlschool–is still male dominated. Men are expected to be angry, loud, and aggressive. Women–not so much. Women musicians certainly match/even outnumber their male counterparts in genres such as pop/folk/singer-songwriter. But, in metal, the gender disparity is HUGE. And most of the well known women in metal are singers for the goth/metal variety (think Nightwish. Lacuna Coil. Etc.) Women bassists/guitarists/drummers are even LESS well known.

Otep Shamaya is a conscious musician. Her lyrics and music are tied deep in emotion, to the point where some songs are almost hard to listen to. The first time I heard the song “Buried Alive” and watched the video, it made me uncomfortable–it sounded and felt like she was breaking down emotionally in front of me, on the screen, through her vocals. It scared me. That kind of passion, that kind of raw ability is hard to find just anywhere. In addition to emotion, she has a deep awareness of social awareness. In her albums you’ll find a knowledge of political issues (“Warhead”), and social issues (“Rise, Rebel, Resist”).

“Rise, Rebel, Resist”-one of Otep’s newest video offerings!-is an outright metal anthem in support of being LGBT and being proud of it. It’s a powerful song, and not just for the LGBT community, but for anyone who has been cast into the social misfit role. The song is on her most recent album, Smash the Control Machine, which is why the band (made up of Otep herself, Evil J (bass), Rob Patterson (guitar), and Mark Bistany (drums).

The point of this whole entry: If you are in Salt Lake this Monday–Do NOT Miss this show. I know what Otep has to offer and it is nothing less than passion, which is one of the most vital ingredients for any show that you’ll remember years after it’s done. And not liking metal is NOT an excuse. So there.

If you are in another state where Otep has yet to leave their mark on your fair city–check their tour schedule. And go.

“Art Saves.Make the pain a weapon you can use.”-Otep Shamaya

Video Love <3:

The Usual Suspects.

Women guitarists are too often overshadowed by their male counterparts. This is a fact that we all know and why we love books like She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and lists like Venus Zine’s Best Female Guitarists of All Time.

But could these books and lists be leaving out some formidable musicians who could, very likely, kick Joan Jett’s rock-tastic abilities out of the water? Could writers/journalists interested in giving women musicians exposure that they haven’t had in the male dominated world of rock-and-roll be ignoring some musicians?

The answer: Hell Yes.

The names on Venus Zine are not unfamiliar. The musicians listed span from electric gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), to country (Rosie Flores), to alternative rock (PJ Harvey) and finally to rock (Joan Jett).

If we were to take this short list seriously, we’d be thinking women musicians don’t go beyond mainstream rock. How Lita Ford didn’t make this list is beyond me.

But this post is about women who aren’t the usual suspects.

And these unusual suspects do turn up in the genres so buried in male domination that many writers forget women exist.

METAL.

Though the Great Kat has been around for quite a while–her album Beethoven on Speed came out in 1990–you won’t find her in She’s a Rebel or The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls. And you sure won’t find her on a Venus Zine best of female guitarists, despite her long musical background. When it comes right down to it, she can shred like the best of ’em. One need only listen to “Flight of the Bumblebees” to understand just what she can do technically.

And by the way, people give Trans-Siberian a lot of credit for the heavy metal renditions of classical tunes.

Well, The Great Kat had several years on them. Before they were even a group, she was comWagner\'s Warposing metal versions of classical tunes from artists like Beethoven, Back, Pagannini, and others. Where TSO enjoys the complicated orchestral sound, The Great Kat kept it simple: electric guitar & violin.

The Great Kat, born Katherine Thomas, earned a scholarship at Juilliard as a violin student at the age of 15. From there she began to perform as a classical violinist until the realization hit her that classical music was dead.

So began the career of The Great Kat. She’s been named one of the “Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time” by Guitar One magazine.

And yet, though she is, as she herself claims, “fast, furious, and virtuosic” (think six-note-per-second metal), you won’t see her on any lists compiled by Venus Zine or in the index of any of the more popular woman musician friendly books.

But by her very existence she proves that women can make a name for themselves in metal. So if you have a top ten list of favorite guitarists or want to make one, add her to yours and pass the word on.

Metal isn’t just for boys anymore.