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)
Welcome! Wow another music blog in the world, I know right?! In my defense, I have been blogging and making zines on and off for the last ~25 years and have been contributing to other music outlets such as Brooklyn Vegan and Tom Tom Magazine for a while too, so I’m definitely not new to this or writing about music and photographing live shows. I’ve had another blog Hoosatron! for the last several years too but I was never fully satisfied with it and long talked about “revamping it”. While I wanted to improve it, I also absolutely lacked the know how on building a website which is why that site looked like it was a relic from circa 2008, so I partnered with a friend to get this site built.
I admittedly was also not very consistent with updates on the old blog and only did so sporadically with mostly posts about DIY shows and things that didn’t fit in with the larger sites I was contributing to. It absolutely served its purpose, but I wanted to try something else that looked and felt more professional, that I am able to work on more consistently while also having more of my work collected in one place, as well as have it be a place I can invite friends and respected colleagues to contribute to as well- all while getting to take a go at donning the “editor in chief” cap for the first time. And since I wanted something that could be a place for other folks to get involved, I knew I needed to not have it named directly after me as well.
So here it is! After some months of secret planning and figuring out the direction I wanted to go in, Full Time Aesthetic is here! While just a tiny baby in the world of music blogs right now, I really plan for it to grow as time goes on and hope that it will. Music is a very important and significant part of my life- I’ve been drumming or playing guitar in bands, booking shows, shooting/writing about bands, and going to shows regularly for more than half my life- I also finally wised up a few years ago and started working in venues too; suffice it to say I’m almost never not thinking about music in some capacity.
I certainly have my specific tastes of what I like, which definitely leans on the noisier, louder, and punker side of the rock spectrum, so you’ll see plenty of that here, but I like a lot of other stuff too and love things that are completely removed from the rock sphere too so you’ll probably see me gushing about some ambient electro music or something seemingly random here and there too. I really wanted to include parts of my archives of records and 35mm film as well so that will be an important feature mixed in with coverage of current music from both the DIY world in NYC (and wherever I may happen to travel) and artists that have moved beyond that sphere.
All that being said, I do plan to feature what I love, but I can’t cover it all myself (nor do I want to) so I very much encourage readers to get in touch if they want to contribute something or have suggestions on things they want to see- I’m very open to that! I am always on the hunt for more new/new to me sounds and I absolutely want more folks to get involved so don’t be shy. There will also be other things here from time to time like street art galleries, art shows, books, record store profiles, coverage of protests, and other things I find interesting along the travels of my life (and maybe my dream of regional soda reviews will happen here too- up the sober soda punx 4e!) I’m very excited to see where things go with it to say the least.
Know this on day one- this blog is 100% a labor of love made BY and FOR music nerds/lovers, thank you for being here!