Sleater-Kinney @ the Sound Academy, 2015

In case you missed it – Riot Grrrl super trio Sleater-Kinney rocked Toronto’s Sound Academy a few weeks ago. Below is a sample video of the group performing “Jumper” (one of our personal favourites!)

Here’s praying for a Riot Grrrl pop culture revival with Sleater-Kinney at the helm.

The Canadian Juno Awards and Strong Canadian Female Artistry

As Grrrl1 and I discussed over lunch together, genres (specifically rock) are ever changing. There is a missing piece in the music scene of strong Riot grrrl feminist punk rock music. The genre has seemed to dissipate and retreat in the last few years. However, there have been strong women in music, from Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Sia, and Iggy Azalea in the recent years paving their own way. Yet, there is still a missing piece where women within the rock genre are still dominated heavily by masculinity and dude rock stereotypes.

Since the Canadian Juno Awards have come to Hamilton Ontario I’ve thrown myself head first into Canadian music artist scene again and have been listening to some awesome music that have women first and foremost that rock out.

Lights
Lights is not heavy metal rock, but she can certainly rock out live in concert. (I have been following her since her start in 2006.). From Timmins Ontario, Lights Poxleitner is a female Canadian Electro Pop artist with powerful female sound.

An advocate for her fans to sponsor kids in Haiti, and playing concerts at local middle schools to create awareness of the charity the 30 Hr Famine. Lights is a strong women with a powerful voice and strong musical sound. Her music is just as hard-hitting as many other electro pop artists in her genre category. Radio play of her song “Up We Go” has been on heavy rotation since her release of her new album “Little Machines” late last year. There’s no stopping her bit-crushed keyboard, subby kick drum and bass-lines and powerful harmonies from making waves in the Canadian music scene.

Check out Lights recent video, “Running With The Boys

Ironically, there are no boys in this video, but it’s a great anthem!

With her combat boots, plaid shirt, black high waisted jeans and epic shaggy hair comb-over Lights will be performing at the Junos on Sunday March 15, 2015!!!

The Mohrs
I cannot get over this band, The Mohrs, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Jackie Mohr, this harder rock sound with strong vocals is definitely a band to look out for in the next few years.

I love her style, her strength, and her passion for music. Originally from Winnipeg, from my families hometown, The Mohrs radio ready rock sound is showing the way that strong women can be the front(wo)man of a band without having to be severely feminine or overtly masculine!

Check out their song “Perfectly Sane” here,

Love this band. Check out them out and see what you think. I hope they are recognized for a Juno in the near future.

Vag Halen
The next band I stumbled upon this week is a band called Vag Halen, (their name says it all doesn’t it) who is a Toronto all female queer cover band. HOW AWESOME IS THAT, RIGHT?!

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Lead sing Vanessa Dunn, doing what she does best on stage! http://www.vaghalen.com/media/

These girls rock extra hard and look like they are having fun subverting sexuality by performing on stage both music and performance art. These girls exude sexuality so fluidly with their shaggy hair, fishnet stockings, and knee-high boots reminiscent of Riotgrrrls Bikini Kill and Hair metal bands of the 80s. I literally cannot get enough of this group and their female empowering performances.

Here is a recent interview with the lead signer Vanessa Dunn, (Rated PG)

I love what she has to say in this video, it is inspiring to see women be strong with their own voice in the music scene.

The landscape for women artistry is changing and women are taking back both sound and instrument. Strong women, who can play and rock just as hard as their counterparts is certainly long overdue! Seeing powerful Canadian women permeate the radio waves with their music is where genres are changing and I cant wait to see what all these artists have in their arsenal in the years to come.

Now I’m off to watch the Junos! Strong women! Go team!

Further Reading

Juno Nominees 2015

Lights Past Albums Listen here

The Mohrs tour dates

Sleater-Kinney: Poster Grrrls

Among the Riot Grrrl universe, Sleater Kinney is an enigma. Perhaps it is the newfound fame of guitarist-turned-Portlandia-star Carrie Brownstein, or perhaps it is that among the ruckus of early riot grrrl bands, they stood out as the least threatening to the masses. Their demure outfits clash with the moral-panic inducing garb of their contemporaries. They retain their widespread popularity among music fans of all genres while most other riot grrrls have faded into the woodwork. The above video promotes their new album, No Cities to Love and features an interview with the band. Although their music still rocks hard and their live performances can be ferocious, Sleater-Kinney has managed to remain with the times whilst staying true to Riot Grrrl’s original values.

Riot Style?

Since the genre’s heyday Riot Grrrl aesthetics have continued to (ironically) permeate popular culture. Though many still appreciate these fashions as subversive and countercultural statements, much of the recognition involves the recontextualization of these images for the purpose of nostalgic glorification.

A good example is the widespread popularity of these images on websites such as Pinterest and Tumblr, where they are shared and imbued with meanings that serve the purposes of a new generation of young women. Punk fashion has even permeated high-end clothing trends. One Tweet by former grunge rocker Courtney Love snarked that she was “having gasms at the idea of rich ladies buying what we used to wear”, in response to the overwhelming surge of punk/grunge fashion in an industry that is arguable the antithesis of punk rock values.

See link for more examples: http://grungebook.tumblr.com/post/44828314223/courtney-love-loves-slimane-grunge-line

Also check out the Riot Grrrl homage on Pinterest:

Riot Style!

“Dress Like You’re Asking for It”

Despite its gradual absorption and appropriation by the exact culture of commodification that Riot Grrrls fought to defy, the style of the movement was one of its most defining characteristics. Riot Grrrl fashion – in tandem with its DIY philosophy – was strongly individualistic. However, there are a few characteristics that are noticeably similar throughout, namely playing with gender & critiques of heteronormative femininity, often utilizing tongue-in-cheek, shocking, and ironic ensembles. 

Often misinterpreted by the media, style was an integral part of the Riot Grrrl movement in that it challenged the mainstream aesthetics that were were complicit in women’s oppression. “I was trying to do interesting gender stuff,” Kathleen explained in an interview. “Like, fucking with the idea that I’m a woman who still has what’s considered masculine traits.”(From: http://www.openingceremony.us/entry.asp?pid=8923)

Check out some examples below! (click the images for links to source)

Writers and critics tend to focus on Bikini Kill’s politics and feminism, but Hanna says she put a lot of thought into her on-stage outfits. “Fashion really was a big part of our band, and we really liked goofing around with fashion, but people think it’s antithetical to feminism.”

“It was the man inside me,”

The idea is: What constitutes asking for it?” … We accept that women who wear revealing clothing invite commentary on their body…“If you wear a dress that says ‘kill me’ on it, does that mean you’re asking for it?”

Sources:

http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/06/dress-like-youre-asking-for-it-with-bikini-kill.html

Girls to the Front: The Egalitarian Role of Audiences and Musicians Within the Riot Grrrl Genre

As we have written in our recent blog posts, audience interaction is an integral part of the Riot Grrrl movement and genre within the context of musical performances and off-stage interactions. Just as Riot Grrrl entails a community focused on production, a set of ideals, and a means of transmission, the exchange between artist and community is another key facet of this genre. This post will explore the importance and role between musician and audience in defining Riot Grrrl through DIY Zines, social inclusion, and involvement from both artist and audience.

Retrieved from http://www.worldaccordingtomaggie.com/photographyylms/bikini-kill-poster

To preface, the dichotomy that usually exists between performers and consumers of music is rendered almost non-existent within this genre. The term ‘audience’ becomes potentially problematic when applied to Riot Grrrl music culture. So, the term ‘audience’ will be used lightly. The normal juxtaposition of the performer as a figure that is to be looked at and the audience as people who “look” cannot always be applied to this genre. We view this genre as an exchange of power that is egalitarian between performer and audience member. Performers and audiences move fluidly between roles, and their gaze is never focused on one another, but at common goals and aesthetic values. Elke Zobl describes in her article, Revolution Grrrl and Lady Style, Now! that the encouragement of audience members to actively participate along with the artist “merged the distinctive (and hierarchical) roles between audience and performer” (Zobl, 446) and in the process has helped create participatory culture among Riot Grrrls and the musician.

DIY Culture
Participants in the Riot Grrrl movement have been seen as the “third wave” of feminism, resisting male dominated punk hegemony by creating a supportive environment for female interaction. Zines such as Girl Germs and Chainsaw, helped establish the culture of both the community and the bands influencing cooperatively the message of what Riot Grrrl would become. These zines have created an atmosphere for young women to address issues like anorexia, body image, rape, sexism, and racism. Since the early 1990s these ideas dispersed internationally through “Revolution Grrrl and Lady Style, Now!” Zines were largely self-published self-distributed magazines made for young women and queer youth creating an informal network of friendships within the Riot Grrrl scene. This movement relied on an “expansive and shifting networks of clubs, labels, record stores, zines, and zine distributors (“distros”)” (Zobl, 446). Zine writing and publishing became a method of empowerment by subverting standard patriarchal mainstream media without being censored.

Through this feminist network, listeners were able to take and assert themselves as cultural activists for their own gender. The creation of art became a revolutionary act to counter the mainstream. Bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Heavens to Betsy helped offer a gateway into the subculture that is Riot Grrrl. Instead of accepting mainstream representations of the female body, and removing themselves from popular (corporate) culture, young women, feminists, and band members have used these tools of cultural production for themselves. Listeners and audience members have assumed the role of do-it-yourself-ers (DIY) creating their own personal symbols, style, cultural system, and images of self-representation in which to show their own political resistance. Zobl states in her article, “They simply do not want to be part of the establishment and mainstream culture; instead they want to provide an alternative to the dominant culture“ (Zobl, 445).

As we have noted, Riot Grrrls have created a deep-rooted punk feminist community and helped evoke young women and girls’ sub cultural resistance through an exploration of radical political individuality. Examples like Bikini Kill have declared a “Revolution Girl-Style” in their manifesto:

“They called upon young women to form bands, to mutually learn and teach the playing of instruments, and to publish zines.” (Zobl, 446).

This radical cultural resistance and alternative to the dominant culture is a way for these women to assert themselves among a male oriented music culture. By publishing zines, the community was offered a way of collective empowerment by voicing their opinions against, sexism, and gender based discrimination. By encouraging audience members to actively participate during shows and through their acts of DIY culture. Through the genre, a message of revolution was created, “for young women: namely, self-empowerment through the method of DIY” (Zobl, 446). By doing these actions, many Riot Grrrls liberated themselves from restrictive (male) notions of control by empowering one another through these DIY methods.

‘Grrrl Love” and audience participation
Riot Grrrls recognized young women who have been conditioned to be competitive, envious, and resentful of one another. Communities within the movement decided to remedy this damaging social construct and female on female bullying by creating and advocating for “grrrl love.” Allowing for a space where women should be supportive and encourage their fellow grrrl. Bikini Kill’s Riot Grrrl anthem “Rebel Girl” entails this ‘grrrl love’ transforming the genre and the audience through acts of inclusion and camaraderie.

Take a listen here, Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill

This “Rebel Girl” anthem teaches grrrls to stand up for each other in the face of rumor and gossip. For example in the lyrics, “They say she’s a slut but I know/she is my best friend” shows the way in which women can deflect gossip and remain in solidarity. As well, “That girl she holds her head up so high/I think I wanna be her best friend” offers a way in which womanhood exudes a state of confidence and high self-esteem.

Lead singer of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna is a prime example of exuding confident womanhood in the face of opposition. In this clip, you will see her address the crowd and bring the girls to the front. Specifically from times 0:40-1:04.

The Punk Singer- Bikini Kill, Girls to the Front

The way in which Hanna uses her body to subvert ideals of the female body, and pushes for the females to stand at the front (with loud cheering from the crowd) shows the way in which the community and the singer are actually purposefully connected, breaking the barrier between performer and the crowd. This pushing of boundaries between performer and crowd become intertwined with one another to create a live experience that incorporates everyone involved. The hierarchy of artist/performer over the audience is removed through the connection and merging of audience and performer participation. The advocating for girls to come to the front and the “boys to chill out for once” is a way in which Hanna has attempted to gain control of the space where women are supported within the room of the club.

In the name of “grrrl love,” Riot Grrrl artists have encouraged young women to entwine feminist art, activism, music, and politics. Notoriously Bikini Kill is known for stopping in the middle of their shows to confront violence or sexist comments from the male audience. Hanna shared in an interview,

“At a show, as the person with the microphone I feel like I have a certain responsibility, because I can communicate to everybody in the room. So if I see a woman being fucked with, I might say, ‘You—outta here now!’ and make the community accountable for removing that person.” (Lesbian Histories, Angry Women in Rock, 90).

This act of participation from both the lead singer as well as crowd creates a culture of inclusion and a way in which to stand up against oppression. Hannas democratic participation and responsibility over the audience creates a place of safe exposure among the crowd. This encouragement for an audience to keenly participate along with the performer is a way in which the Riot Grrrl genre has influence and has been influenced by their audience cooperatively. Through DIY Zines, social inclusion, and participation artists like Bikini Kill have incorporated their audience to empower and create a place of subculture through inclusion and solidarity within the genre.

Further Reading:

“Bikini Kill LIVE!”

This video shows Kathleen Hanna engaging with her fans on stage about body image.

Bikini Kill- The Singles

There’s something about this album that gets me all fired up! Take a listen!

Want to see more cool zines? Here’s a new take on them! These girls have tapped into their inner punk rock feminist and made an anthology inspired by Riot Grrrl and zine culture that is worth a look!

References:

Brittanie A. “Lesbian Histories: Browse the Essays.” Lesbian Histories: Browse the Essays. Web. 05 Mar. 2015.

Brockes, Emma. “What Happens When a Riot Grrrl Grows Up?” The Guardian. 9 May 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

Rosenberg, Jessica, and Gitana Garofalo. “Riot Grrrl: Revolutions from within.” JSTOR. The University of Chicago Press, Spring 1998. Web. 06 Mar. 2015.

Zobl, Elke. “Revolution Grrrl and Lady Style, Now!” Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice 16.4 (2004): 445-52. JSTOR. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.

“Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl [The Singles].” YouTube. YouTube, Web. 05 Mar. 2015.