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There's a Riot Goin' On 

Ladyfest goes grrl crazy

Wednesday, Jul 24 2002
Putting the "Grr!" in grrl power At the Ladyfest Bay Area press conference several weeks back Loolwa Khazzoom explained the driving force behind her new book, Consequence: Beyond Resisting Rape, this way: "I go up to men who harass me -- and hit them!" The crowd, composed mainly of women save for me and a couple of other guys, let out a huge cheer. I sank lower in my chair, hoping no one noticed me. "Harassment isn't about fighting," she continued. "If men wanted to fight, they'd hit other men. I'm not afraid when I hit them." Another cheer. Khazzoom went on to say that physical and verbal abuse contribute to a bland wardrobe, a lack of public singing, and horrible back problems from constant slouching. By this point, I was trying to slouch my way under my chair.

Despite my reaction, Khazzoom's attitude at the podium -- confident, righteous, even a tad amused -- was invigorating, and I found myself dying to know what happens when you go up to an Israeli soldier who's staring at your chest and sock him in the balls. It was then that I realized Khazzoom's book is what Ladyfest is all about: education meets entertainment, with a visceral smack.

The original Ladyfest took place in Olympia, Wash., in 2000, inspired by the ideals of the early '90s riot grrl movement. As Bratmobile lead singer Alison Wolfe said at the Ladyfest press event, "Riot grrl put feminism in punk, but it also put punk in feminism." The initial six-day event featured music, art, movies, and workshops, all created by women. More than 2,000 people attended, raising $30,000 for a local rape-crisis charity. Even more exciting was the fact that audience members returned home afterward and, over the next two years, staged Ladyfest events in Chicago, New York, and Bloomington, as well as in Glasgow, Scotland, and Ontario, Canada.

Now it's the Bay Area's turn. Between July 24 and 28 the festival presents more than 30 bands, 30 writers and spoken word artists, 40 workshops, 80 movies, and a handful of art exhibitions, with all earnings going to local nonprofits. Beyond a presentation by Khazzoom -- complete with a reading from Consequences and a showing of the anti-harassment video War Zone -- there are workshops on anti-body fascism, gender identity, break dancing, being "fat as fuck," starting a record label, living like an "ethical slut," and more. For visual stimulation, the Pond Gallery hosts "Pow! The Power of Women in Illustrative and Sequential Art," an exhibit of female graffiti and cartoon artists such as Roberta Gregory (Naughty Bits) and Ariel Schrag (Awkward), and renowned New York film curator Astria Suparak delivers "Looking Is Better Than Feeling You," a compendium of the latest cool underground shorts.

Musically, the event offers a ton of great local groups, from the spazzy rock of Erase Errata and Tartufi to the salacious, beat-driven antics of Gravy Train and the End of the World, from the soulful hip hop of Medusa and Sisterz of the Underground to the queer punk of the Pre-Teens and Tribe 8. More than anything else I'm looking forward to "Fuchsia," an electronic music showcase at Galia on Thursday, July 25, which features the experimental noise of Zeek Sheck and the new wave-y rap hysterics of Lil' Pocketknife, along with dance music by DJs Lambchop and Melanie and a recycled-clothing fashion show. I hope Khazzoom will be there, in case anyone needs some learning, knuckles first.

For more information on Ladyfest Bay Area, call 820-1697 or go to

But can he defeat the Green Goblin? Back in 1998, River (aka Frenchman Fabrice Hervé) released a fabulous indie pop song called "Spiderman." With its spastic drumbeats, whirring synths, and helium-ish vocals, the tune was wonderfully euphoric and strange. But with great power comes great responsibility, so it's nice to see that River's new, eponymous album (out on local label Shelflife) is almost as great as his earlier single. Collecting 20 tracks from the past five years, the full-length moves expertly from swaying bossa nova to bouncy synth-pop to electro languor, with River's skyscrapingly high vocals presiding over all. This week, River makes his first Bay Area appearance, playing Thursday, July 25, at the Hemlock Tavern. Santa Rosa's Laura Watling opens at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 923-0923 or visit

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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