As members of CKUT‘s feminist radio collective, my Venus co-hosts and I were asked to program a special set today on the show New Shit for International Women’s Day, on women musicians we love and who’ve inspired us. We ended up having a great time just playing records and chatting about women we admire, so I thought I’d post a link so you can hear the songs and stories we’ve been throwing down.
You’ll be hearing our heroes Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Wendy O. Williams, Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre, Hole, Secret Trial Five, Mary J. Blige, Gina X, Heart, Las Grecas, and The Flying Lizards.
And that’s just the beginning… okay, that’s the whole hour. But as far as amazing women musicians go, they’re a drop in the bucket.
I’ll never forget seeing the punk legend play at the annual New Year’s 24-hour poetry/performance marathon at a church on the Lower East Side, after taking her acoustic guitar out of the black garbage bag she was carrying it in.
My hometown is all abuzz with excitement for the upcoming Pop Montreal music festival, and I’m happy to say that with a lineup of some of the most impressive female performers around, it gets the Venus seal of approval. Full schedule is available on the website, but I’m giving some of my top recommendations here - check the website for times and locations. One cool thing is that if you can’t afford the often-steep ticket prices for some of the bigger names, you can see many of the artists speaking on panels, keynotes, and symposia for free, and if you bring a tiny mp3 player with you and squint it’s like getting a backstage pass to their show.
The Heavy Hitters Diamanda Galas: HIV/AIDS activist and OG (original goth) with a 3.5-octave range, not only is she performing but she’s giving a keynote address on the relationship between art and epidemics. Buffy Ste. Marie: Whether she’s breaking your heart with her voice or breastfeeding her baby on Sesame Street, the iconic singer/songwriter is not to be missed. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks: Despite claiming to hate most punk rock, Lydia Lunch is about the punkest lady ever. It seems unbelievable that her 1970s band is coming together again to play a show with Montreal art punks AIDS Wolf and Duchess Says, but I guess fairy godmothers really do exist. Fever Ray: The female half of Swedish band The Knife (remember that song that you danced to for all of Summer 2007?) is known for the visual feastiness of her live shows, as if her haunting songs aren’t enough on their own. Check out the video for When I Grow Up from her self-titled 2009 album.
I’ve always really liked Blonde Redhead, but after I saw them live a few years ago I stopped trusting them. They’re just way too attractive to be authentic. It’s like I can picture the boardroom meeting that came up with that scenario: “Okay, we need a really hot female singer, and a hot guy backing her up on guitar… no, make that two hot guys… no, wait, let’s make them TWINS! Jackpot!”
Anyway, my personal issues aside, when you combine them with performance artist Miranda July and a beautifully simple concept, you have a delicious hors d’oeuvre of perfection, and, like Swedish Berries, who cares if they’re actually real!
Greenwich passed away yesterday at the age of 68, but she’s left behind a huge legacy of rock solid tunes that have shaped the way pop music is made. She was also a female pioneer, one of the few women to work in the famous Brill Building (Carole King was another), that epicentre of pop hits that churned out hand-claps, rhymes involving “maybe” and “baby”, and some of the sweetest songs ever like they were Kraft Dinner.
It’s sad but unsurprising that Phil Spector is often credited as the architect of all those great 60s girl groups (The Crystals, The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, The Dixie Cups), when in fact it was Greenwich doing most of the songwriting. Phil may have built the Wall of Sound, but it was Ellie who constructed the bricks. Oh yeah, and she never murdered anyone either.
When I was a kid I choreographed a dance to Be My Baby that I would routinely force my parents to watch and admire (they obliged), and I still count on so many of these songs for their ability to make me feel good without going overboard into the land of saccharine mush. They’re so much more than just pop songs, though - they encompass a whole era, a whole style, a whole movement. Big hair! Sincerity to the max! Tragedy with a four-four beat! Dramatic voice-overs! Black women on mainstream radio!
Here are The Crystals with one of my favourite songs of the era, Da Do Ron Ron. Thank you, Ellie Greenwich. You’ll be in my heart heart heart, with your art art art.
MEN will be performing this Saturday in Montreal at La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent) with a veritable panoply of loud and proud women, including Alexis O’Hara and DJ Lynne T, who has been spinning up a storm of late. They play Toronto June 24 at Wrong Bar and June 26 at Lee’s Palace as part of Vazaleen. For more details and tour dates, check out their Myspace.
Why should Portland have all the fun? This August Montreal is hosting its first ever Rock Camp For Girls, a five-day camp where girls learn to play an instrument, form a band, and finish up by playing a show for their hysterical, screaming, panty-tossing fans.
From the organizers:
Rock Camp is a space where girls discover and express their talents, and become leaders in creating their own kind of cultural production through music. Female musicians and community members support girls through instrument instruction, tech tutorials, band practice and skill-building workshops.
RCfG is putting on a number of fundraisers over the next while to help finance the camp, one of which is tomorrow night, and features Giselle Numba One, who I posted on long ages ago, Nightwood, Little Scream, and DJ Lynne T of Lesbians on Ecstasy. There’s a word for it: “ladysplosion”. No, wait, I mean “awesome”. And also “not to be missed”.
Key details: Saturday June 13th Il Motore, 179 Jean-Talon Ouest Show starts at 9:30pm $10
Here’s Giselle Numba One with a little taste of what you might find on Saturday.
For more details on Rock Camp For Girls and related events, check out their site.
I am big sucker for animation. And when it comes with Neko Case, well, say no more, I’m sold.
Neko is a woman after my own heart - besides being an incredibly talented musician, she is always quick to give props to her influences, especially women who have inspired her. She’s also hil-freakin-larious in interview - I highly suggest checking out some of the archives on her website to hear about how what we call PMS is actually anger that comes from not being allowed to “mate”, and how Poison Ivy‘s guitar-playing can get you pregnant. Her travelogues and biography also read better than most fiction out there. In short: a gem.
This is from her fresh-off-the-CD-burner album Middle Cyclone.
Whew! I’m still spent from last week’s rant on community radio. While I gather my energies for the next round, please enjoy this “music video” from Dutch band The Shocking Blue. I really appreciate that period in musical history (the 60s?) when someone had the idea of recording and broadcasting bands, but the whole thing was so new that you mostly just got a lot of awkward standing around in random locales (are they at a zoo? A medical laboratory?) with, like, two cuts, and “special effects” meant flashing an image of a record cover or Mariska Veres’s face really quickly to implant subliminal messages. Enjoy!