Pretty On The Inside was released on September 17, 1991.
Hole is a force to be reckoned with and always have been. Love them or hate them —specifically Courtney Love— anyone can agree on that. Most rock fans know their breakthrough and widely acclaimed album, 1994’s Live Through This, as well as the uber slick follow up, 1998’s Celebrity Skin. And everyone knows all the trials, tribulations, and drama that has encircled Love for the majority of her career. But I find that for all the lore around Love, and the opinions people have on all the drama and the later work, even some very well versed alt heads often don’t know the band’s debut album, Pretty On the Inside, and the beautiful viciousness contained within. The album is now thirty years old, and to celebrate, I asked a few musicians I know for their thoughts on the influence of Hole as a band, their take on this album, as well as their thoughts on Courtney Love and her treatment by the media. A few of the participants I have also been lucky enough to play with in a Hole cover band, Teenage Whores, on and off since 2014.
Pretty On The Inside is a markedly different body of work from their later offerings; the songs come across in an aggressive sounding feminine rage—messy, crass, chock full of discomfort and chaotic screams that really make the album feel as though it might careen violently off a cliff at any moment. The production of the album perfectly reflects the uncomfortable turmoil of the material; the words “slick” or “polished” could never be used to describe it. I also don’t believe the album would have come across so strongly had it been produced in a more glossy way, the songs needed to be heard in this way for the full impact to be felt.
“The rhythm is brutal, the guitars a slash of sonic meanness,” said Teenage Whores lead singer, Chantal Wright.
Pretty On The Inside is absolutely a more primitive and raw punk record than what was to come, but if you really listen, the groundwork for the later more polished work is laid right there in those eleven songs. Current Teenage Whores drummer Rebecca DeRosa said the album “is just so raw and visceral. I loved hearing this female rage and if you listen to the lyrics, Love has a lot to say. I don’t know if she gets enough appreciation for her lyric writing.”
For many women and nonbinary people who play music today, who were teenagers in the 90s, or even later, we can trace our roots directly back to the band. For me it was seeing Patty Schemel drumming during the band’s Saturday Night Live performance in 1994 when I was thirteen. It was like I was struck by lightning. I was transfixed by what I was seeing on the screen and knew then that was what I was meant to do; I became a drummer for life in that moment.
It’s kinda wild to directly trace my musical path back to one moment
– Shawna Potter
For original Teenage Whores drummer, Deb Sanchez, she too was inspired by Schemel, and said when she saw her play “I thought women can hit drums too [for the first time]” continuing that “seeing women rock out captured me.” For myself, when I later decided to learn to play guitar in my early 30s, I returned once again to Hole; “Doll Parts” was one of the first songs I was able to play all the way through.
War On Women frontwoman Shawna Potter had a similar “aha!” moment and can also link back her musical journey directly to Hole and specifically seeing Courtney Love on TV playing guitar. “The first time I became aware of Hole was watching the ‘Doll Parts’ video on MTV. I was around twelve years old. For some reason, it was only then that it registered with me that girls could play guitar, too. I wanted to play guitar —now. I begged my mom for a guitar and while waiting for Christmas to come, I convinced my mom to go buy me both the Live Through This and Pretty On The Inside CDs at the mall on her way home from work. I’ve been playing music, performing, and touring in bands ever since. It’s kinda wild to directly trace my musical path back to one moment.”
When asked specifically about Pretty On The Inside, Potter said “I loved that they were feminine and angry. I loved how dirty and raw [it] was. I didn’t have the language to describe music well (I still don’t), but I remember feeling that when I pressed play, I felt like the music was surrounding me. I was in the thick of it.”
It’s impossible to overstate the influence “Pretty On The Inside” had on me as a musician
– Chantal Wright
As for myself, I can recall a feeling of what the hell is happening right now? the first time I heard that album and just being absolutely pummeled with the ferocity barreling towards me from the speakers on my little childhood stereo; I had never heard anything so explosive up until that point. The album and the band absolutely clearly affected many younger women at the time and in the years to follow. For me personally, the songs from Pretty On The Inside are always my favorite to play when the cover band performs.
Wright echoed this, saying specifically about the song “Mrs Jones” (which also is a pretty blatant rip off of “Dark Entries,” by Bauhaus), “who doesn’t want to shred those four descending chords while growling ‘cry me a river baby, just take me home’?”
Wright also added very succinctly “It’s impossible to overstate the influence Pretty On The Inside had on me as a musician.” (See her full remarks and anecdotes on the album and band here.)
“Mrs Jones” live in Paris 1991
Wright and Sanchez also remarked on the double standards applied to people who are not cis men who make music, Wright saying “Courtney’s lyrics involve milk, disease, being gross, being in a weird body. I’ve heard people wonder (cruelly) what Kurt ever saw in Courtney. Have you looked at their lyrics against each other? These are two deeply weird people. Of course, when a man does it, it’s artistic and poetic.”
Hole’s early lineup featuring Jill Emery (bass) and Caroline Rue (drums) along with Eric Erlandson and Courtney Love.
Sanchez was blunt when speaking about the false assumptions about Cobain actually writing Hole’s music, baseless and snide comments of the mansplainy variety which permeated in the 90s and still unfortunately persist to this day, mincing no words she said, “What a load of crap.” You would think in 2021 that there wouldn’t still be people who think things like this, but not all that surprisingly, there are plenty who do, always waiting to emerge from under their dude bro rocks to make digs and jabs. “That’s just people who think women aren’t capable of making something that rocks,” said Sanchez. Again, the groundwork for all of Hole’s later work is laid in the first album and if you really sit and listen to it, it becomes immediately very obvious in the rhythmic patterns of the guitars and in Love’s wrenching lyrics and daring howls.
As for more of those double standards, I would be remiss not to comment on how the media has treated Courtney herself, which has oftentimes been extremely harsh and vastly unfair. Her musical accomplishments were always compared to her husband’s no matter what she did. Outside of music, everything she and Cobain did was picked apart and analyzed up to the point of them temporarily losing custody of their daughter Frances in reaction to erroneous facts about her drug use infamously reported in a September 1992 Vanity Fair article. When Cobain died, the media got 100 times worse and descended like vultures to pick her clean. Never mind the fact that she was widowed and left alone to raise a toddler who was not yet even two years old.
The death of a partner is a pain no one can imagine until you have to go through it yourself. Yet Courtney Love was expected to just carry on as if nothing was wrong, go back to work, get back on the road. All the while existing in the public eye with horrific barbs and insults being slung at her from the press and Nirvana fans the world over. Despicable jabs that somehow she had caused Kurt’s death or even worse, killed him herself via a hitman (yes, this is an actual theory). Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff also died in 1994 not long after Cobain, and still Love was expected to just “get on with it,” and go out to promote the new record (Live Through This was released on April 12, 1994, four days after the discovery of Cobain’s body).
When she did show signs of the intense pain she was surely feeling at the time, she was labeled as “crazy,” and “insane,” a wild unhinged lunatic who might snap at any moment. Any time she did act out, it was tabloid fodder and she was excoriated by the press. She was never given the benefit of being recognized as someone who was pushing their way through an unimaginable nightmare, losing the father of her child and husband along with a bandmate/friend in rapid succession, while also dealing with substance abuse and being a huge celebrity. She was also never given the option to step away from the public eye to heal and take care of her child in peace. Who would be able to get through any of those things singularly without acting out at times, never mind all of that at once?
And yes, Love has also said her fair share of things that have raised eyebrows over the years. No one ever said she was perfect and I certainly am not here to imply that either. On this Potter elaborated, saying “She is human, flawed, but no matter how imperfect she did not deserve being vilified and torn apart by the media—no one does. I get tired of people hating on her and just wish people would keep their mouths shut. I guess it’s like siblings or something? Let the actual Hole fans critique Courtney Love today, why say anything if you never listened to her in the first place?”
The Live Through This lineup of Hole circa 1993 with Kristen Pfaff and Patty Schemel (photo unknown).
Wright added, “In the days before the internet was everywhere, and we were trading bootlegs through the mail, I didn’t have every little thing she had ever said or done laid out in front of me. I had the music of a woman who had obviously Seen Some Shit and was absolutely not afraid to tell you about it, and she wasn’t going to get her point across in weeping acoustic confessionals.”
Pretty On The Inside arrived in the world at a time when women were absolutely NOT allowed to be anything but graceful and demure, clean and pure specimens for consumption by the male gaze and if they were not those things…just look at how that played out for Courtney Love. Thirty years later, sure things have improved somewhat, but by how much? The incremental improvements that have been made can be traced back to albums like this and brash and bold women like Love who gave absolutely no fucks and took complete control of her own image no matter the stakes. She was going to say and do what she wanted to express the “unclean” and “dirty” thoughts and emotions inside of her and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. That was and still is a radical act as someone who is not a cis man in the public eye or even just existing in the world. Wright summed it up best saying “In 1991, Pretty On The Inside was a revelation, and it remains so to this day.”
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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):
“Don’t piss on the donut!” Lou Barlow said, to laughter from the people assembled in lawn chairs in front of him. I don’t know what prompted that comment as I had myself gone inside to take a piss (in a proper toilet, not on a pastry), but I am happy to report that during Barlow’s two-hour long set, no one pissed on the donut.
Barlow, the prolific bassist, guitarist, and singer/songwriter known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and The Folk Implosion, is currently on a mini solo tour around the Northeast. In addition to some traditional spots, he will be playing in some decidedly very DIY locations as well. I was lucky to catch him in New Paltz for a sold out show in the parking lot of Ritualist, a store that sells “tools for healing and magic making.”
With the memory of an elephant, he played songs from his new album Reason to Live, mixed with songs going back through his decades-long career with suggestions shouted out from the audience. He even threw in a cover of Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice.”
“Foreigner were masters of tension,” he told us during soundcheck when he tested out the song.
My music really comes from my friendships. Musicians are my only friends. My life is too fucked up otherwise to hang out with, you know, normal people
Lou Barlow performing at Ritualist (photo by Rebecca DeRosa)
Throughout the set he switched it up between different guitars, including a ukulele and a twelve-string guitar with half the strings deliberately removed. One guitar had a sticker on it from a trolley museum that said “Get your jolly on the trolley.” An audience member asked “Do you get your jolly on the trolley?”
“No,” Barlow replied. “The trolley is the jolly.”That seemed to satisfy everyone.
This mini tour is a warm up for a huge, months-long tour with grunge trio Dinosaur Jr. When I asked him about how he planned to keep his shit together on this tour, he admitted he wasn’t sure yet. Being at home with his family during the pandemic had kept him grounded and he was able to immerse himself in playing and recording music.
“That’s where I’m most comfortable. That’s where my true spirit comes out. I go back through all the recordings and things I’ve done and like 90 percent of the stuff I did at home is better. It feels better, it sounds better. Even if it’s raw or fucked up sounding, it’s still the best,” Barlow said.
When it came to recording Reason to Live he embraced his old DIY methods such as recording to tape.
“I wanted to take a more casual, impulsive approach to recording that reflects more where—I think my best recordings are made in that kind of mindset,” he said.
Recently, Barlow announced that he’s collaborating with John Davis again, his partner in Folk Implosion. When I commented that he always seemed to find the best people to make music with, he explained how and why that is the case.
“It’s the history of my life. It’s the story of my friendships with these people. My music really comes from my friendships. Musicians are my only friends. My life is too fucked up otherwise to hang out with, you know, normal people…I only hang out with people I make music with, other than my family. These are the relationships that define my life. Having the chance to go back and revisit my friendship with John Davis is a gift.” I think many Folk Implosion fans would agree.
As the sun set in New Paltz and the fireflies came out, he talked to fans, sold some merch, and then got back into his “family van” headed to the next town.
Tickets to the remaining tour dates are available via Eventbrite.
The Lunachicks performing at Vans Warped Tour, July 1999 (photo by Kate Hoos)
The Lunachicks recently released a book, Fallopian Rhapsody, which recounts the story of the band from its inception in the mid 1980s, through the wild times of the 90s, up to their long term hiatus beginning in the early 2000s, and their recent rebirth for the 2020s. As soon as it was announced, I placed a pre-order and immediately dove in the moment it arrived, polishing it off in a day and a half. Riotously funny, endearing, and yes even absolutely gross at times, the book tells the story of the three main members of the band- singer Theo Kogan, guitarist Gina Volpe, and bassist Sydney “Squid” Silver– meeting in their youth, forming the band as teens along with rhythm guitarist Sindi B, the shows and exploits they got up to all along the way, and how multiple drummers- Becky Wreck, Chip English, and Gus “Destroy” Morgan– moved through the band over the years. Impressively, all members who were involved in the band over the years offer insight on their time in the Lunachicks (though some significantly more than others) but the story is largely told through the eyes of Kogan, Silver, and Volpe.
The book includes chapters on each member’s childhood as well as how they came to meet one another and later start the band together. It follows through the timeline with each of the members describing- often together and in interview form- the many events that shaped the course of the band. How they broke through to play at CBGB for the first time, the irritation of working with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore on their first album, being in Japan to record the “Sushi Ala Mode” EP (“the worst thing we ever recorded” according to Silver on the night of the book launch), misadventures on European tours, the costumes/outfits, personal struggles and personality clashes that happened throughout, and the disappointment and frustration of playing/traveling in the hyper masculine world of Warped Tour in 1999 that was the final straw leading to English’s departure and the increasingly strained band to re-consider what was next. All of these and many, many other tales craft a compelling narrative of a punk rock band on the go, moving through a world and industry that wasn’t always friendly, but that nonetheless established a strong and devoted fanbase that endures to this day.
Some of these stories I already knew from being a fan for so many years, but many I did not so it was very eye opening and often times insanely funny to think about them getting up to a lot of these hijinx on the road. I also couldn’t help but cheer for them when reading a lot of their accounts of pushing through and confronting misogyny head on, most memorably how they went ballistic on a sleazy promoter in the UK shortly after English came into the picture as a fill-in drummer for a European tour and how this incident- with them trashing the dressing room and smashing the venue’s lighting rig after catching said promoter peeping on the band changing in the dressing room via a two way mirror- cemented them as a permanent member of the band for the next several years.
In the waning pages of the book the band briefly talks about the burnout they felt at the end and the need to move on but also that they never really had a discussion about officially ending things, they just stopped booking tours and writing songs. Adjusting to life afterwards is also quickly addressed along with some of what they got up to in the intervening years. So while not as much space is devoted to the aftermath of the band ending, some of what is included- the story of Silver surviving cancer being the most heart wrenching- shows how much they truly love each other and that they were way more than just some friends who were in a band for a while together.
As for celebrating the release of the book, the pandemic put a damper on things at first so there was initially a virtual book launch that was held on June 1st, the day the book was released. As things have begun to improve since then, they were able to hold an in person event on Friday July 23rd with the three main Lunachicks on hand and joined by co-author Jeanne Fury at Powerhouse Books in Dumbo. The group answered questions and talked to a small crowd of devoted fans about the book and were delightfully engaging with everyone who wanted to talk to them during the course of the event. While I had been expecting more of a traditional book reading with anecdotes, this was the Lunachicks after all, so it instead took on a game show vibe (reminiscent of their video for “Don’t Want You”) and the band played “Lunachicks Jeopardy”- complete with the sound tech providing the classic “thinking music,” much to the amusement of both the band and the crowd. Fury quizzed the members on their adventures along the way which led to many hilarious answers and more ridiculous re-countings and further details on some of the best stories contained within the pages of the book.
The band also answered direct questions from fans, the one I think most everyone wanted to know is “what next?” They initially announced reunion shows for 2020 at Webster Hall that were pushed back several times and which are now scheduled for November 26th and 27th, 2021 (they will also appear at Punk Rock Bowling in September 2021). But what comes after that? They so far had not made mention of any future plans beyond these shows on their website or social media, but when asked if this was it or if “they would keep playing until they were the Golden Girls.” Kogan quipped “aren’t we already the Golden Girls?” before Silver elaborated on what may happen next: “So we’re just moving through a phase and who knows what other phases we might move through together? But I’m sure that it will be one phase after the other til we all drop dead, because we really like each other a lot” (this also being said in a wonderfully sassy affected voice). Volpe chimed in and added “We’ve been busy rehearsing and doing the book and doing all this stuff so it just seems weird that we would stop. The future is unwritten but I would imagine that yeah, we have lots of shit we still have to do.” Kogan followed up her bandmates to say “I mean someday we could all walk out with walkers for all we know” before saying she hoped they would one day be sponsored by Depends and Metamucil which garnered much laughter from the audience.
While the answers were a bit coy and guarded, and delivered with the special brand of Lunachicks snark, it seems clear that the band is not done yet by any means and do plan to keep things going in some form. They were also asked about if there are any plans to record new music, a question I’m sure many fans want to know. Volpe immediately answered, excitedly addressing Silver and saying “I actually was going to send you the riff last night!” alluding to songs in the works or at least beginning of foundations and ideas for new songs, with Silver adding that it’s so easy now to say “send it right over and I’ll see what I can do with it” with the use of cell phones, concluding with “so you never know.” Again not a direct confirmation and another coy answer, but definitely something to give the fans hope that more music could be coming in the future.
Lunachicks poster featuring art by guitarist Gina Volpe hanging in FTA headquarters.
I can sit here and write for a VERY long time about the Lunachicks and tell many stories of making hand made merch and mix tapes for friends, gushing about them in my high school zine, or bashing through a crappy cover of their song “Drop Dead,” with my very first band (yes audio of that still exists, no I won’t share it here!) but suffice it to say that they were such an important band to me in my teenage into early adult years and still are today; I would not be exaggerating to use the term “life saving,” or at the very least “life affirming,” to describe their impact on me.
They came into my life at a time when I didn’t have many role models to look towards that were flying the “freak flag” without reservation; it gave me great strength to have their music to turn to at that age, particularly with just being able to be comfortable with myself at a time when most of the adults around me didn’t want me to be what I wanted to be, but rather to be in a box of what they wanted me to be- a familiar story for many weird, lonely, or queer teenagers. I was so happy to fan girl for a moment and relay that to them now, at 40 years old, just how important they were and still are to me. Theo graciously talked to me for a few moments and chuckled delightedly when I also told her that she and Squid were the very first heavily tattooed women I ever saw and I knew immediately that “I want to look like that!” Some 25 years later, I have still have some catching up to do to their work, but I’m well on my way. And more importantly than that, I’m comfortable in my own skin in a way I could have only dreamed about when I first discovered their music and I can say that in part because of them.
Reading Fallopian Rhapsody was not only a delight as a long time fan but as a musician myself. I found great joy in laughing and groaning along to the many memories and tales of the trials and tribulations of being in a band and it was nice to realize “wow everyone in a band deals with drama and bullshit too, not just me/my bands.” While there are many, many stories told in the book about the often wacky life of being in a band, it is absolutely a book about a wonderful and enduring friendship, a nearly four decade bond between women who went through their youth and early adulthood doing everything together. It is also about how those bonds were tested along the way by life on the road, drugs, relationships, stress, creative tensions and any of the other myriad issues that can and do affect working musicians. But the story also addresses how those bonds were ultimately strengthened by life changing events after the end of the band, things such as Silver’s cancer diagnosis and when she and Kogan later became mothers. In the end, those are not only the most poignant moments but the strongest part of the Lunachicks’ story.
Oppressed, erased, ignored, vilified. The plight of Palestinians is one of the greatest injustices in human history, a seemingly intractable situation between an oppressed people and a colonial power backed by the full force and wealth of United States and Europe. For at least a century, Palestinian voices have been stifled by the Zionist state of Israel and, at best, ignored by the rest of the Western world. This is beginning to change, however. More people in the West are starting to question and critique the long-accepted, yet false, media narrative of Israel as perpetual victim and Palestinians as “bloodthirsty terrorists.” And more Palestinian voices are being heard in the United States and Europe, via social media and also within government—including in the United States, where congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (a Palestinian-American) and Ilhan Omar have been unyielding in their rebukes of Israel and their centering and humanizing of Palestinian people. A simple yet revolutionary act.
Increasingly, Palestinian voices are breaking through the Western media barriers. Part of that breakthrough is through music. There is a vibrant creativity coming from Palestinians both within the occupied territories and in the diaspora around the world. The music crosses genres as well as emotions—it’s not just angry or sad (though there is that too); it is joyful, funny, romantic, meditative- as varied and disparate as you’d expect any music to be.
Muqata’a Kamil Manqus
Some artists have been able to enter the Western musical consciousness. One of the more popular and highly regarded Palestinian artists is Muqata’a, which is Arabic for “to disrupt” or “boycott.” He sees himself as a glitch in the system, a literal disrupter. Described in this The Guardian piece as the “godfather” of underground hip-hop in Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine, his latest record, Kamil Manqus, is a relentless exploration into the more glitchy realm of electronic music. Sound snippets pop in and out at a breakneck pace. Beats groove, then sputter and change direction. He uses samples of old Arabic records that he first heard from his grandparents’ record collection, as well as sounds of an Israeli checkpoint. These samples help preserve Palestinian culture and demonstrate the daily oppression Palestinians live under. There are layers of brilliance to discover with each listen.
Preservation of Palestinian culture, stories, and family histories is essential to upholding the humanity of Palestinians and to archive a history that Israel works tirelessly to eradicate. This preservation and amplification is at the heart of Seamstress, a beautiful and affecting documentary song-cycle from Phonodelica, the experimental sound project from composer, producer, and performer Donia Jarrar. With Seamstress, she compiled interviews with Palestinian women of all ages, both from Palestine and within the diaspora, some in Arabic, some in English. Interspersed between the interviews are stark musical interludes, incorporating operatic elements, chamber music, and the avant garde. It is a multimedia project that includes videos of choreographed performances, archival photos of Palestinian women, and interview footage. Per Jarrar on her Bandcamp page:
“Song texts are adapted from the interviews, weaving together their different voices, perspectives and experiences in a way that challenges current existing media stereotypes of Palestinian culture and womanhood, providing a global context for Palestinian women’s narratives by focusing on shared universal themes of memory, identity, exile, displacement, femininity, and love”
In the oppressive, but also ludicrous, reality that is life under Israeli occupation, non-Palestinian musicians often become part of the Palestinian music scene by virtue of being rendered stateless. A prime example is the brilliant duo of brothers, TootArd. The Nakhleh brothers are from the Golan Heights, a part of Syria that was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in the 1980s. They are stateless; their nationality is officially determined as “undefined,” so they have no passports. They can only move and play within Israel and the occupied West Bank. Hence, they are considered part of the “Palestinian scene” since they have a similar lack of rights.
TooArd Laissez Passer
TootArd’s music encompasses a wide range of influences and sounds. The band first gained notice with their 2017 record Lassiez Passer, which translates to “Let him pass” but also is the name of the document that stateless people carry. The album is rich with Tuareg influence, the African tribe and style of music (currently achieving international prominence via the genius of Mdou Moctar) as well as the Arab classical music the brothers listened to growing up. For their follow-up Migrant Birds released last year, TootArd proved to be a band of boundless creativity and endless musical curiosity. The album is a stunning musical shift in direction to disco, reflecting the brothers’ love of the Middle Eastern disco music they heard in the 80s. Their knack for fusing irresistible rhythms with relentless melodic hooks is on full display on Migrant Birds. It is an infectious party record for tearing up a dancefloor or driving too fast on a highway.
Palestinian musicians living and creating under occupation face significant and distinct hardships. In this BBC News article, some musicians talk about how their status as literal second-class citizens prohibits their free movement. Musicians in Gaza face an additional obstacle of being hassled by Hamas, the Palestinian ruling authority elected in 2006 (In the West, we tend to only hear about their armed wing and the rockets they fire into Israel). Hamas is one of the most visible organizations waging armed resistance to occupation, but they are also Islamic hard-liners and Gazan musicians have had their shows canceled or broken up by officials within Hamas, whose stringent religious rules prohibit some forms of music.
Zalaam- Nocturnal Luster
Clarissa Bitar- “Nada” single
The creativity and diversity of Palestinian music is truly a marvel. Nothing can stomp out the human need to create and to share art. From the relentless and delectable disco rhythms of TootArd; the spacious sound journeys of Akram Abdulfattah; Drink Sage’s insightful and incisive commentary on living and loving; Clarissa Bitar and her beautiful and expressive Oud playing; or the harrowing black metal of Zalaam— Palestinian musicians cannot and will not be silenced. It’s heartbreaking that Palestinians must make their art with their lives, land, and history in daily peril. But it is also life affirming that there remains a capacity for joy and exuberance amid all the pain and despair.
Palestinians are speaking—have been speaking. We must listen.
My partner Lysa and I do a radio show every Wednesday on Radio Nope called Radiant Point. We devoted our May 19, 2021 episode to showcasing Palestinian artists, featuring the musicians mentioned in this article and many more.
Verso Books currently have several books with more in depth history of Palestine, Zionism, and the Israeli state available at a discount.
As the sound of motorcycles revving and the mighty pounding drums of Fogo Azul echoed through the streets at 5pm sharp on Saturday June 26th, it was the signal that the 29th annual NYC Dyke March was kicking off. Returning this year to an in person march after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the 2020 march to be cancelled, the march once again took over 5th Avenue in Manhattan heading south from Bryant Park to Washington Square Park.
The theme of the 2021 march was Black Dyke Power, and even as a joyous event, it remains a political protest march where corporations and cops are not invited or welcomed. While the NYPD does show up on the edges of the march, security and crowd management is and has always been handled by groups of dedicated marshals and volunteers who keep the participants safe along the way.
Marchers laughed and embraced along the route- couples, friends, and families all participating with radical rebellion evident in every smile and cheer. Even as Pride becomes more mainstream (read “marketable”), hundreds of signs and shirts emblazoned with political slogans left no doubt to passersby that this wasn’t just a party for the sake of fun and donning some rainbow swag, but a protest- a massive force of dykes declaring a taking back of space with bold and uncompromising queerness.
When the march reached 23rd St, things slowed to a halt as several moments of silence were observed in a powerful tribute to Black trans lives lost. As the motorcycles revved up once more to signal that the march was starting up again, this was unfortunately the point where I had to head out of the march to go to Brooklyn to shoot another Pride event. While I was disappointed to miss out on the fun of splashing in the fountain at Washington Square Park, I relished every single moment I got to be at the march amongst so many other dykes celebrating our queerness as we see fit, without the interference of corporations or cops, truly joy as an act of resistance.
Scroll down to see pics from the march (warning, some NSFW)