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Friday, April 3, 2015

Debaser Turns 7: Listen To An All-Riot Grrrl Mix by Jamie Jams

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2015 at 11:14 AM

click to enlarge Bikini Kill
  • Bikini Kill
For seven years now, Debaser — a monthly party at the Knockout dedicated to early '90s alt-rock — has been doin' its thing, led by DJ Jamie Jams with a rotating assortment of partners in crime. Thematically, the party is like traveling back in time to a college-town house party circa 1992, featuring the brash, guitar-heavy sounds of Generation X, who came to terms with the existential crises of their day by writing some seriously good rock'n'roll. To celebrate the party's seventh anniversary (taking place this Saturday at The Knockout, free in flannel before 11 p.m.!), Jamie Jams has put together an all-Riot Grrrl mix, complete with track-by-track annotation. Without further ado, read on while you listen along as you prepare to crowd surf at the party on Saturday.

Revolution Girl Style Now!
by Jamie Jams

I feel like our party is well known for its riotous fake-moshing and good-natured sing-a-longs, but less so for our commitment to scene history and creating a safe space for women—because you can't have a party without the ladies. The particular ladies on this mix have been fighting for your right to party for some time and their commitment to feminist ideals sometimes overshadows the simple truth that they were trying to carve out a space for women within the d.i.y. scene itself—within punk rock.

Above and beyond raising young, female voices on issues many in the mainstream media still won't touch, Riot Grrrl was, in a more concrete sense, a reaction to the physical dominance of male energy at shows; and as a reaction, has much in common with the rise of emo in the early 80's hardcore scene. The women who innovated Riot Grrrl as a style were profoundly influenced by both the politics of the time and the history of the local D.C. scene and one can draw parallels to both the "Revolution Summer" of 1985 that gave birth to emo and the post-Rodney King political climate that still echoes in the works of Public Enemy.

The artists featured here are by no means exhaustive of the various indie-cred selections we might have made, but they hopefully do illustrate the immense influence that a handful of female voices, literally personal friends in Olympia, WA and Washington, D.C., had on the music industry writ-large on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 90's. We also wanted to prove that a set of music most people would consider less than virtuoso in it's technical mastery was indeed as vital and danceable as anything you can find. We'll be doing our best to pepper these songs in throughout our set on Saturday and we hope to see all the "Girls up front!"

And without further ado… the mix.

Debaser | Riot Grrrl Mix by Jamie Jams on Mixcloud

Bikini Kill - Strawberry Julius

Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna is practically synonymous with Riot Grrrl, as much as she wishes that weren't so - going as far as to declare a media blackout in 1992, in response to mainstream media mischaracterizations of the movement. She did, however, practically invent the term (alongside Alison Wolfe and Molly Neuman of Bratmobile), itself a conflation of Jen Smith's call for a "Girl Riot" in response to political events of 1991 and Tobi Vail's frequent use of the phrase "Revolution Grrrl Style Now!" in her fanzine Jigsaw.

Sleater Kinney - Words and Guitar

A veritable Riot Grrrl super group, Sleater Kinney, named after the Sleater Kinney Road exit on Interstate 5 outside Olympia, WA, draws upon the talents of Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of Excuse 17, with the excellent addition of Janet Weiss of Quasi in 1996. The scene around Evergreen State College's KAOS radio and the many social connections to like-minded groups in Washington, DC was both a breeding ground for radical, progressive ideals and a nexus of the D.I.Y. punk community.

Frumpies - Be Good

Kathleen Hanna frequently steals the shine from Riot Grrrl in general and Bikini Kill in particular, but the Frumpies prove that the rest of the movement's leading lights are equally important (and talented). The Frumpies are essentially Bikini Kill without Kathleen Hanna and it's all great. Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox and Billy Karren pummel these catchy, simple songs with every bit as much lo-fi style and swagger. 

Peechees - Grease

Another all-star group, The Peechees were formed by Lookout! Records co-owners Christopher Appelgren and Molly Neuman (of Bratmobile), along with guitarist Carlos Cañedo and bass player Rop Vasquez. They frequently toured with Kill Rock Stars label-mates Bikini Kill, Unwound and Sleater Kinney and they're from Oakland!

Bratmobile - Cherrybomb

Many of the bands on this mix drew inspiration from the legendary, female punk icons of the late 70's and early 80's like Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene, The Slits, The Au Pairs, The Raincoats, The B-52's and Joan Jett & The Runaways. Joan Jett was actually a DC scene local and a fairly accessible member of the community at the time. She even help produce Bikini Kill's famed Rebel Girl single.

Huggy Bear - Her Jazz

Fiercely independent to the point of not even telling anyone their names for the first few years, Huggy Bear were essentially the leaders of the U.K. Riot Grrrl movement forming contemporaneously with Bikini Kill and sharing a split 12 inch.

Henry's Dress - Hey Allison

Henry's Dress was originally from Albuquerque, NM but they made their name here in San Francisco as part of the Slumberland Records roster. Amy Linton (later of the Aisler's Set), Matt Harmon and Hayyim Sanchez absolutely pummel it in a lightning-burst of pop-inspired, buzz-saw punk songs who's echo you can still hear in modern SF bands like the Terry Malts. Highly recommended.

Sonic Youth - My Friend Goo

Kim Gordon obviously falls into her own category as something of elder statesman of the Riot Grrrl movement. Aside from having been around long enough to have played with all the 70's girl punk bands mentioned earlier, she also definitely partied with both sides of the school yard girl-fight (the Olympia/D.C. factions). My Friend Goo was the first song that made us realize Riot Grrrl was danceable, as performed by resident Riot Grrrl expert, DJ Sarah Gion at the first Debaser!

Babes in Toyland - Sweet 69

Another classic Debaser track with loads of cultural history and fun facts. So the Babes weren't exactly a Riot Grrrl band. They were somewhere in-between an original inspiration for Riot Grrrl and their own particular brand of girl ass-kicking. They did however invent (or at least popularize) the Kinderwhore style you might remember from countless Sonic Youth and Hole videos. Kat Bjelland actually cribbed this vibe from Kim Shattuck of The Muffs, but I think it's safe to say all those baby doll dresses were her fault.

Lush - Ladykillers

Lush was famous for being one of the quintessential shoegaze bands of the early 90's along with My Bloody Valentine and Ride, but when their 1994 album Split famously tanked in the twin waves of Britpop and Grunge, they opted for a new approach. The result, Lovelife, has more in common with Elastica (and in my opinion Heavenly) than any of their previous work and stands as a great example of how Riot Grrrl shifted the pop landscape even in the U.K.

Elastica - Stutter

My purist friends might jump down my throat, but I feel Elastica stands as another great example of how much impact this vibe had on both sides of the Atlantic. Elastica's Justine Frischmann has a girl power all her own, and we've been reading a lot lately about her early 2000's connection with M.I.A. which in my opinion makes her both amazing in her own right and an important and overlooked figure in a transitional period for indie rock.

Hole - Violet

Lastly, how can we do a Riot Grrrl mix without a respectful nod to the ultimate anti-Riot Grrrl, Courtney Love. At once a creature of the scene that spawned all these bands and a fierce opponent, Courtney Love has tons of songs about how miserable all these girls in the Olympia scene made her. Courtney Love is almost like the evil super-villain of the Riot Grrrl movement, but I prefer to think of her as it's ultimate anti-hero. These girls were dealing with a lot of important issues, but at the end of the day, they are all still human. Courtney Love dove right into the feelings side of the equation and I think this is part of the reason her music still resonates.

"I told you from the start, just how this would end…"

DJ Jamie Jams has been playing 90's records to sweaty crowds for way too long. Debaser's 7th Anniversary is this Saturday, April 4th at The Knockout, 3223 Mission St. SF, CA, 94110.
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Chris Zaldua


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