My dearest subscriber[s] to Emily Magazine and other stalkers,
I know you’re like OH GOD WHERE R THOSE POSTS THAT SHED NEW LITE ON THE HUMAN CONDITION WAT HAPPEND 2 HER etc etc. There’s no good answer other than the fact that I can’t ever finish what I start whether it’s a sandwich or Anna Karenina, plus I’ve been RLLY busy feeling weird about Franco on “Freaks and Geeks” and making these:
Last night I went to a “punk show” in a sweaty donation-run venue; cigarettes were smoked two at a time by the trombonist (tru punx, that) (inside, I might add, like it was 2001 in Tulsa) and some cartoon porn played behind them. Usual Tuesday shit. There were three bands, including the newest project of Das Racist’s Kool AD, Party Animal. Somewhere between the first and last bands, that gnawing little voice that sometimes strikes when I go to shows crawled into my cranium: where are the girls with something to say? [And before you’re like, OH GOD HERE SHE GOES AGAIN, let me just say that if that thought exists in your mind, you are already extinct, the world doesn’t need you anymore and is waiting for you to end. (Tuff love.) ]Anecdotally, over the past ten years, I’ve been to hundreds of shows: let’s estimate I’ve seen about 200 bands that average 4 people each. That’s 800 people, and I’d guess about 20 to 30 of those people have been female. And not because of any vendetta of my own against female performers, but based mostly on a wide survey of both fringe and popular acts of multiple genres over the past decade.
In Lester Bangs‘ 1979 piece “White Noise Supremacists,” he calls bullshit on what he perceived as overt racism in his own circle, the New York underground. He does, however, manage to call Nico a “cunt,” while maintaining that sexism in the scene was “even more pervasive.”
Thanks to the iron fist of prep school set in a cultural vacuum, my own introduction to a scene of any sort came woefully late: I was a sophomore in college and new to Burlington, Vermont (but of course, the reason prep school exists at all is to keep its minions’ eye on the prize of Adam Smith). My new best friend Meredith was a product of New England punk the way I was of Mid-Atlantic radio, and she knew a band who described their sound as falling in the middle of Bad Brains and Cat Stevens. After our first meeting at the state fair riding the ferris wheel, putting our lives in the hands of the drunk carnies blaring Master of Puppets, we began spending Friday nights with them. Our evenings became marathons of Scattergories, Genesee Cream Ale and Emilio Estevez’s greatest hits. We went to their shows at 242 Main, an all-ages venue in Burlington (initiated in the 80s by then-mayor Bernie Sanders, the last governmental paragon of the Radical Left, currently one of the only senators who finds time in his schedule to acknowledge wealth disparity and corporate oligarchy in this country). On Halloween, Meredith and I paid tribute to Marc Bolan and David Bowie by dressing as our imagined cover band, Peppers & Milk (named for Bowie’s alleged diet during “Young Americans”-era coke fiending). At 242, Meredith had a literal pissing contest in the co-ed bathroom with a guy in a Captain’s hat (who suffered from performance anxiety).
The guys, raised in a small punk microcosm were like no one I’d met before, and became my own standard of males my age. Everyone else at school lived for snowboarding, Phish and weed. Around the Scattergories board, a T was rolled, and one of the prompts was some variation of a come-on. “Ten, like perfect ten,” said one of the guys. “But that’s stupid and sexist,” he continued. The next guy, who we didn’t know as well, was up. “I put tits comma bitch,” he said without missing a beat. We all erupted in laughter. Over another game and another case of Gennessee, a guy who was visiting from out of town mused, “Well girls can’t be punks because girls are just girls.” Meredith WHOA-WHOA-WHOA-ed her indignation. Later our friend told us he was just quoting a song. But the question remained: what were we? Friends, fans, audience members? Just girls?
Discussing this over $10 manhattans with a friend last night between sets (punk as fuk), she posited that it’s not “part of the female ego” to get up in front of a room full of people/ the world and express oneself. It’s a theory impossible to truly assess, but there’s something inherently imbalanced about the cultural constant of woman as spectator. In our (ahem) post-punk world, why is it still radical for a woman to demand an audience? If that’s the general cultural consensus, punk failed. so. fucking. hard., and we’re as provincial as Joanie and Chachi. The baddest female I’ve ever seen in person was at a basement metal show in Portland, 2009: all denim, leopard undercut, shredded like a fucking boss. Pimply audience bros didn’t stand a chance.
I’m tending to side with Kate Carraway on this one, who listed “Trying” under her list of “What Girls Hate”:
“…I was listing on a scrap of paper the bands that my guy friends have started (which number infinity) and the number of bands that my girl friends have started (two). I think I am just going to radicalize myself and my choices and stop assessing and advising on how a lot of women are too uncomfortable and too threatened by doing anything/having an opinion/saying anything to be creative or have a good time or whatever because there is too much to it and I feel like being a bitch about it makes me a ‘Smile!’ guy but with reverse intentions. I do have this idea that instead of telling each other to “S a D” we should say ‘D some S.'”
Obviously I’m another useless idealist who dreams of a world built from punk shows where humans of all sorts share their voices and jump around and everyone high fives everyone else. Party Animal’s battle cry is a song called “Inappropriate Boner”: maybe it’s that fear that keeps the keys to the stage in the boy’s pockets.