Ned Flanders from the Simpsons knew what was up! Now where the hell is my left-handed can opener?!? (Note: while there are no lefties in the lineup, there is in fact a Ned Flanders themed metal, or ahem “Nedal,” band, Okilly Dokilly, that is worth checking out)
International Lefthanders Day is one of those cheeky- probably made up- weird holidays that not many people know about, unless you’re a dorky lefty which….. why hello there, this is me! Being that it is currently this joyous day, and I myself am a lefty musician, I thought it would be fun to give a shout out to some of my favorite lefty artists which is what happens when you let me be the editor in chief of a blog, ha! These artists range a wide gamut of styles, some I know personally, some are legends, some are indie faves. But I love all of them and the music they create(d) so wanted to make a little list to show my appreciation. The only criteria is you gotta play lefty- being left handed but playing a righty guitar doesn’t count nor does open handed drumming.
On the subject of lefty drummers, try playing drums full lefty for 25 years, this is the NUMBER ONE comment you will get “but have you tried playing open handed?” which 99.9% of the time comes from the mouth of a man. See a recent tweet of mine for my opinion on being asked THAT. I list it on my band’s stage plot to NOT change the drums around because sound techs are sometimes very confused as to what is happening when I set up. I also sass Fender on Instagram every year for their one day a year focus on lefty guitarists while ignoring us the rest of the time and barely making anything available in lefty models; it’s really tradition at this point!
So while FTA is not in fact turning into a listicle site, this was fun and I liked putting it together. All of these artists are people I love and respect and for the ones in the more DIY realm, or who are/were lesser known, I absolutely recommend checking them out. You probably already know who that Kurt guy is though….
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana circa late 1993 on the In Utero tour (photo by Kevin Mazur)
I know, I know, maybe it’s cliche to include this, but I don’t care. Kurt Cobain’s music has meant so much to me over the years and I still very distinctly remember the time period around his death which was heavy for a young kid to navigate. In the years afterwards, I taught myself to play guitar and it was very hard to find a lefty chord chart (and no YouTube at the time) so I would look at pictures of him playing to match what his fret hand was doing and that really helped a lot. I am sadly just a shade too young to have seen them play live- I was a week shy of 13 at the time of KC’s death- and I obviously wouldn’t have been taking pics of them at 10 or 11 years old, never mind going to their shows. So instead I chose this image because it was, and still is, one of my favorites of Kurt; it really just is so stirring to look at even now, almost 30 years later.
Not to make this too much of a rant, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that I was DEEPLY angered by the announcement of a “new” Nirvana track made by AI a few months ago (that was also disgustingly and disgracefully announced on the anniversary of his death). FTA was still under construction at the time so I didn’t get to fully elaborate on it….I may eventually…but suffice it to say that I really wish that people would stop continuously circling like vultures and picking his bones (and that goes for the other artists who were graverobbed as part of this project, the members of the so called “27 Club”). The man fucking died by suicide in large part over this type of shit, and the industry has continued to exploit his ghost for decades since; I don’t need to have known the man personally to know that he’d absolutely be spinning in his grave over this.
The project “The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club” claims to have a focus on “mental health” but here is the real catch: “In addition to raising awareness about mental health resources, Over the Bridge hopes the project emphasizes exactly how much work goes into creating AI music” and there it is, the REAL reason, the big tech money stench all over it. Plain as day, the true purpose becomes clear, which is to suck the marrow of the bones of dead artists who made legendary music and to use that to push their tech agenda to commodify everything, increase surveillance of our habits, and wipe humans completely out of the picture.
The truly bizarre part of this all being that how can you even entertain removing people from one of one of the most amazing elements of being human in the first place- the ability to express ourselves through art and music? It’s gross, there is really no other way to put it, it’s just plain gross and so unbelievably arrogant and disrespectful to the artists that were effectively artistically body snatched to make this happen. And on the subject of them also exploiting mental health as a cause, as I tweeted at the time, Nothing says ‘we care about you and your mental health’ like saying ‘eh whatever, we can just get a computer to copy your music for profit after you’re gone’
The King of the Surf Guitar, Dick Dale (I have seen this photo many times over the years but have not seen it credited to anyone, I will amend if/when I find out)
I admit, I also get a little angsty when I talk about Dick Dale. Not because I don’t love him, I do, but because I really feel he never got the respect he deserved in life and still hasn’t in death. He was a Grammy Award winning artist who early in his career pushed the limits of what was then possible for electric amplification along with Leo Fender, and in part gave us some of the robust amp technology we have today. Oh and in the process of all that, he also invented an entire genre of music too- that being surf music. Yes surf may be a bit of niche genre, but it is one that none-the-less has influenced many other people. Surf music and his songs specifically have found their way into pop culture again and again over the decades- from the surf craze of the 1960s (NO the Beach Boys are NOT a surf band, I said what I said), to the classic “Miserlou” being featured first in Pulp Fiction in 1994 (trust me, this is likely where you know the song from), to that same song being sampled by the Black Eyed Peas, for their 2006 song, “Pump It.”
Sounds like an impressive enough resume right? Well apparently not since many people I talk to don’t seem to know who he is and he has never been even nominated by the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, never mind inducted. And to make matters worse, everytime I have seen “Miserlou,” come up in a show or movie where I have had the closed captioning on, it is always credited to the Black Eyed Peas. He was very sick at the end of his life but had to continue to tour to make a living almost to the very end because he just wasn’t making the money you’d think an artist with his resume should have been. That was so sad to me. I was so bummed when he died and knowing all the rest of his story too and how he’d been slighted again and again over the years by the industry.
He was a pioneer and is a legend who should be recognized for his contributions to music and pop culture, but the “establishment” seems content on ignoring him completely. I got to see him perform probably around 2005 and he was already in his late sixties by then but still put on an incredible and energetic performance that rivaled that of someone half his age. I feel fortunate I got to see him then and I still have a custom pick he gave me that night super glued to my Stratocaster. I did photograph the night but I have to dig through some old hard drives to find them but will share it when I eventually get to that.
I really hope the “establishment,” whoever they are, finally wakes up soon and gives him the respect in death they never bothered to give him in life.
My Strat which I have played many awesome gigs with. (Don’t mind the dust!)
Jimi Hendrix performing in the late 1960s (I am a bad history of photography student since I don’t know who took that photo but I will amend when I find out). This is one of my favorite music related photographs of all time.
I absolutely can not have a post about legendary lefty musicians without mentioning Jimi Hendrix, I mean come on, who could? What rock music fan has looked at the above photo and not heard “Purple Haze,” playing right out of the image or thought “damn I wish I could have seen THAT live”??? I’d wager not very many. We all know that his life was tragically cut way too short, but his influence is still felt so strongly today in the rock world, it’s like he’s still alive, somehow in the ether….there but we just can’t see him. Punk, heavy metal, noise rock, grunge, etc etc etc, tell me any of these genres could have existed without his influence? I really don’t believe that they could.
Sadly he was also recently graverobbed by the same AI abomination that the rest of the “27 Club” was, but I have refused to listen to any of the songs that came out of that. I won’t indulge or encourage such disgusting disrespect for artists who quite literally changed the face of music and expanded the realm of what was possible. No computer could ever EVER hope to replicate otherworldly talent like those artists had and shame on any tech bro led company that could think something so downright blasphemous.
A rare image of Kurt Cobain playing a Telecaster, a guitar he was not known to use very often. (photo by unknown)
Alright, now that we’ve talked about a few absolute titans, let’s move onto some really rad people I know from my years in the music scene, a few bigger indie artists, and a few artists that are legends in their own right that I have not met personally but that I admire.
Sean Padilla of The Cocker Spaniels (photo by Erin Fox)
A masterfully funny wordsmith, a genre defying song writer, and the world’s best Dad, Padilla has just released the first new Cocker Spaniels album in several years, the wonderful The Cocker Spaniels Are Still Alive and So Are You (read our review) and in fact the album came out TODAY. What better way to celebrate International Lefthanders Day than by downloading this gem? Really hoping that they will play in NYC (or close by) sometime soon so I can finally get to see them live since sadly I have never been able to.
Tim Fogarty of El Ten Eleven (photo by Kate Hoos)
Drummers who play “full” lefty (as in the whole kit is set up “backwards” and not just open handed on a righty kit), we are a rare breed, so I always get very excited when I see another lefty out there. I have been a BIG fan of ETE for many years and try to always see them whenever they make it over to NYC to play and I took this photo in 2019 when they played at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Since then they’ve released a triple album Tautology, and are currently at work on a new double album. They will return to Brooklyn early next year and you can count on me being in the audience when they do.
Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker (photo by Kate Hoos)
I don’t have a cool story about how I got into Jawbreaker, I found them on MTV, that’s it. Not going to lie and say I magically saw them at Gilman in 92 when visiting a fake older cousin who snuck me in or anything, it was definitely on MTV. And while I never got to see them play during their first run and was aware of them for about five minutes before they broke up, I did discover them in the 90s at least. Back then, my world was smaller since I was a kid who didn’t have internet access (the web was also a much smaller place at that time anyway and there was no digital social media), and I had a limited amount of places I could go in the early to mid 90s; I couldn’t go to shows (and didn’t really know where any where happening anyway) but I did have a portal into the world and that was through music magazines and late night MTV.
It was watching 120 Minutes one night late in 1995 that I came across Jawbreaker and seeing a lefty guitarist on screen definitely made me perk up. I ended up really enjoying the song and wrote down the name of the band, song, and album as one did in those days. I had never heard anything quite like them at the time so I saved up my extra lunch money and made my way to a cd store (probably in the mall) and bought a copy of Dear You. I immediately loved the album and became obsessed with it for several years to come. I had no idea til much later that there was any drama surrounding the band or the album or them signing to DGC or opening for Nirvana, none of it really. I just knew I had a cool cd by a mysterious (at least they were to me) and awesome sounding band that none of my friends knew about that ended up breaking up not long after I got the album. I used to write a little piece about them in every issue of my high school zine too; I was in deep for a few years there!
Over the years I did get to see Blake play in both Jets To Brazil (need to dig out those 35mm negatives) and forgetters, but nothing was really going to do it for me until I saw Jawbreaker. I really never thought I’d get that chance until all of a sudden they re-united in 2017 and 2018. Those tickets sold out in a flash and I was really bummed to miss out, but figured I’d eventually get to a show at some point, I was definitely not ready to lose hope. And it worked out because a year later I did get to see them and I was able to much more easily get tickets. Honestly looking back now too, I’m glad I missed the insane rush for the initial shows because it was a lot less crowded and intense so more enjoyable overall because I could fully engage with the songs in my own way. I was able to see them twice on that 2019 tour and shot both shows which was an absolute dream come true for me as a fan and as a photographer. It has been unclear ever since if they will write and record new music, but here’s hoping that they do.
Kathy Foster of The Thermals (photo by unknown)
I admit I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with this band over the years as sometimes some of the music blurred together for me because honestly it could get a little repetitive, but it really was more down to singer/guitarist Hutch Harris being rude to me at a show once. That being said, not Kathy Foster’s fault she was in a band with someone who thought it was cool to be rude to fans, but hey maybe he was having an off night, I don’t know and it was at least ten years ago or more now. They did have a handful of really fun and catchy songs over the years so if I boil the band down to those strongest songs, and forget certain members personalities, they still hold up as solid to me now. Foster has played with several other bands, most notably All Girl Summer Fun Band, and gone on to do some really cool stuff after The Thermals too.
Dave Diem of LAPÊCHE (photo by Kate Hoos)
LAPÊCHE are seriously some of the nicest folks I know and I love their band, Dave especially always has such warmth and positivity whenever I talk to him (there is also a slight chance we may be very distant cousins on my mom’s side, though we aren’t sure, but decided to pretend it’s true). We initially connected over social media and then I first got to see them at the end of 2019 when they opened for J. Robbins at Saint Vitus (I covered that for Brooklyn Vegan which you can see here). I had a slight cold that night and remember walking in grumpy, but I definitely felt 1,000 times better after their set and getting to meet and talk to them, all grumpiness firmly faded away.
Right as the world was shutting down in 2020, one of their shows was the very last indoor show I saw, and if memory serves correctly, they were one of the very first indoor (or otherwise) shows I saw again as things started inching back earlier this year. I really love their sound and was so thrilled to be invited to work on their press photos with them for their wonderful new album Blood In The Water, which is one of my favorites of 2021. They’ve got some exciting touring plans coming up for later this year and I have all my fingers and toes crossed that things stay solid enough for all of that and more to come true for them. I’ll for sure be at whatever shows I’m able to.
Mark Worldsucks (photo by Kate Hoos)
Mark is one of the heaviest shredders I know and also one of the most passionate musicians in my personal sphere of friends. He is always so supportive of all of my projects and is constantly thinking of ways to get us involved on shows together and I know he is this way with many other folks too. WORLDSUCKS is one of the most unflinchingly political bands I know and absolutely live by the ethos of “loud fast and pissed,” making music that reflects that. A dedicated metal head, he also hosts Thrastherpiece Theater on RadioNope every Tuesday night. See more pics from a recent show they played that was one of the best I’ve been to in a long time.
Barbara Lynn performing in 2008 (photo by Masahiro Sumori via Wikipedia)
Unfortunately Barbara Lynn is someone who I was not aware of til more recently. A pioneering performer in the 1960s, a Black woman writing all her own music, leading her own band, and calling all the shots at a time when a lot of people really DID NOT want that to happen. She performed and recorded throughout the 60s and has some epic soul/blues/rock albums from that time period, with her best known song being the soulful “You’ll Lose A Good Thing.” Her song “I’m a Good Woman,” was sampled and interpolated by Moby in 2002 on his song “Another Woman.” She Shreds featured her in this 2018 article on lefty guitarists.
Elizabeth Cotten (photo by unknown)
Elizabeth Cotten is another guitarist I sadly did not know about until really the last ten years (she is also featured in the above She Shreds article). She has an interesting story in that she worked for many years outside of the music world and didn’t begin recording and performing to wider audiences until she was almost 60 years old when she was discovered by the Seeger Family. Her unique style- dubbed “Cotten pickin”- which came in part from playing an upside down right handed guitar, still continues to influence finger picking today.
Katy Otto of Trophy Wife (photo by Kate Hoos)
Trophy Wife was and still is one of my favorite bands, certainly of the last ten years, and definitely beyond. A powerful post hardcore duo, I wish I’d gotten to see them more; they didn’t get up to NYC all that much unfortunately, but I did always try to make it when they were in town. I also was VERY excited to get to play with them at Two Piece Fest in 2015, one of the coolest events I got to play in any band I’ve been in, and a show that impressively Otto played while several months pregnant.
She is the current label head of Exotic Fever Records, a staunchly DIY label that has put out records by The Shondes, War On Women, and many more. She recently wrote the foreword of Punk Women: 40 Years of Musicians Who Built Punk Rock (I also contributed photos to this book, stay tuned for our review). The band has been pretty much inactive the last few years, but Otto has two kids now so that’s totally understandable and as she just filled me in, guitarist Diane is up in Maine now and that’s why the band has gone on hiatus for the time being. Diane just had a baby of her own so that is very exciting news for both members outside of the realm of music! And if they ever do get active in the band again, you know I’ll be there for it.
The last time I saw Katy was in 2019 when we bumped into each other in the street outside of one of the Bikini Kill re-union shows. In fact, we both played in Bikini Kill cover bands at different points too, though sadly not together!
Jarad Rogers of Nerve Endings (photo by Kate Hoos)
In 2017, I was riding along with Sister Munch on their summer tour, helping out and taking pics along the way when we found ourselves in Johnson City, Tennessee. I’d never been to Tennessee before then, much less spent any real time in the South before so I was unsure what to expect. Me a visibly queer person in the south…I can’t lie that I wasn’t nervous at first and expecting to get “faggot” screamed at me from passing cars (because for some reason it’s always this word and I’m not sure why)…which has happened to me more than a few times in my life…or worse.
I’m sure some of that was fear over it being early in the Trump regime and also unfortunate stereotypes I’d been foolishly clinging to about life in the South.*** But then we got to town and to the show and any kind of doubt about being accepted or for my safety that I felt evaporated immediately. The scene in Johnson City welcomed us all with open arms and we found a community of really rad and like minded folks there who enthusiastically embraced me and the band; I still keep in touch with some of those folks today, Jarad being one of them.
He is one of the absolute best bassists I’ve ever heard or seen live, just on an entirely different plane of existence from many other bass players. Insanely intense intricate riffs and energy for daaaaays and nothing less is the best way to describe his playing. I know him from his work in Nerve Endings but know that he also plays in a few other projects in Johnson City and aside from that, he is a pretty incredible collage artist as well. Check out his work.
***We are all imperfect people and all have work to do to overcome the things we are taught or wrongly perceive about others. I’m so glad I’ve since gotten to spend more time in the South on that tour and others (though not yet an extended amount of time) meeting a lot of really wonderful folks who helped me shatter my earlier thoughts that everyone in the South was a right wing fanatic I should stay away from.
Kate Hoos aka me, myself, and I performing in 2017 (photo by Bruni Padilla). I got several comments (all from men) about my pedals being “backwards,” over the years.
My mom still gets me silly lefty centric gifts.
Honorable mentions (mainly because I didn’t have room to include this many people OR I’m not the biggest fan of their music but they are still a well known lefty):
Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Tony Iommi (yes I know all three of them are titans too but I only picked the top three so sorry guys, you get an honorable mention), Courtney Barnett, Hayley Kiyoko, Tim Armstrong, Dominic Howard, Georgia Hubley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Seal. Sorry to anyone else I forgot!
Editor’s Note: after sending this to a few of the lefties in the article, I’ve got a few more honorable mentions to add: Greg Barnett (of The Menzingers), Davey von Bohlen (of The Promise Ring, Cap’n Jazz, and Maritime), Eric Axelson (of The Dismemberment Plan and Martime), Joe Easley (The Dismemberment Plan- their rhythm section were both lefties which is definitely subconsciously why I love them).