Space, Genre, Body and Audience in the delivery of Aggressive Punk Performances: An Analysis of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever

Delighted to share a guest paper from Lily O’Donnell. She wrote it for a class; I thought it was so good I wanted to share.

Space, Genre, Body and Audience in the delivery of Aggressive Punk Performances: An Analysis of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever

Maggie Werner argues in her piece, “Deploying Delivery as a Critical Method: Neo- Burlesque’s Embodied Rhetoric” that delivery can be applied as an effective analytical framework for embodied rhetorical performances. She shows this by evaluating the interplay of the delivery elements of space, body/persona, audience and genre on the performances of neo- burlesque. Through her analysis, she proves that delivery can be used to provide a full contextual perspective of the purposes of the performances of neo-burlesque often overlooked in other evaluations of the embodied performance. I will be using her argument for the genre, space, body/persona and audience in the delivery of embodied performances to compare the purposes and context for punk performances with a focus on the early 2000s aggressive performances of the late Jay Reatard compared with the 2015 performances of the feminist all girl punk trio, Kitten Forever.

Through my analysis, I will also further Werner’s conclusions on why delivery works as an effective critical method in the study of embodied performances particularly performances that are somewhat counter culture, or not quite mainstream. I will also be using Naomi Griffin’s article “Gendered Performance: Performing Gender in the DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene” and her conclusions on the DIY punk music scene as being a male dominated space to argue how Jay Reatard’s often aggressive and antagonistic performances worked because he was performing in male dominated spaces and represented a masculine delivery style often celebrated within the genre of punk. I will be discussing how his performances compare next to Kitten Forever, whose presence in the male dominated genre and spaces of punk are inherently political. Through this comparison I will be illuminating the conclusions made by Griffin on how gender affects delivery.

Overview of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever

Jay Reatard was an Indie Punk/Garage Rock superstar in the early 2000s. He was described as an “Elvis type figure but angrier” (Hammond 2011). His real name was Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. but he was known mostly by his stage name “Jay Reatard” (Sisario 2010). He was a driving force in the music scene of his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee for years before breaking out in the national scene in 2006 with his critically acclaimed solo album, “Blood Visions” (Phillips 2010). He passed away on January 13th, 2010 from “cocaine toxicity”. Alcohol was also a contributing factor in his death at the age of 29 (Sisario, 2010).

Jay Reatard was a prolific songwriter, by the end of his life his massive discography was comprised of hundreds of home recordings and 22 full length albums (Sisario 2010). He played with many bands beginning at 17, with his first band The Reatards, as well as starting bands like The Lost Sounds, The Bad Times and Angry Angels before launching his solo career (Sisario 2010).  Jay had a reputation for his tornado-esque creative process as well as his belligerent stage manner. He sometimes smashed equipment on the audience mid set, or on a band member; he was known to randomly storm off stage, scream at audience members and provoke fights with band members while performing. He often put the entire microphone into his mouth, plugging it into the amp and simply screaming his lyrics, deafening the audience. The stage represented the release of internalized angst and an outpouring of dreary emotions as well as a purpose for staying alive.

Kitten Forever is a staunchly different group. Kitten Forever is a Minneapolis, Minnesota based band comprised of three women: Corrie Harrigan, Liz Elton and Laura Larson (Harris 2018). The group is unique in terms of their delivery style as well as musical dynamic as they don’t follow the typical formula for bands; they are made up of a bass player, a drummer and then a singer. They use a telephone microphone not a typical microphone so their singing sounds more distorted and like the chants from a phone left off the hook (The Lowertown Line 2015). The group also rotates instruments mid set without stopping the noise (Harris 2018). Their music is often a mockinging Christine De Pisan-esque chanting of exaggerated rules for women or femininity in mainstream society. For example their song “Temple” repeats: “Trust no one, eat your tears, swallow your pride, kill your fears (“Kitten Forever- Temple”).”

The group is proudly feminist and use their platform to sing about their politics as well as infuse some self deprecating humor into their lyrics (Harris 2018). In an interview with the Lowertown Line in 2015, they said they wanted their shows to have “a community feel” and connect the performer with the audience. Their performances are very energetic and often celebrate feminism and intersectionality in the terms of their lyrics as well as the representation their existence adds to the music scene. Harrigan discussed the struggles of being a woman in a male punk dominated scene and how she adopted her own delivery style: “You’ve got to be tough and you’ve got to be screaming into the mic and you’ve got to be… you know, a dude. Now that it’s like, well, it doesn’t have to look that way, it doesn’t have to sound that way either (Harris 2018).” The band worked to create and celebrate more diversity and inclusivity in the Minneapolis punk scene as well as adopting their own unique delivery style that would create a fun and exciting environment.

ANALYSIS OF DELIVERY

Genre. Werner describes genre in delivery as “comprised [of ] bodies that perform, the spaces in which they perform, and the audiences to whom they perform (291).” Genre works based on the interplay of all the other elements of delivery. In the performances of Jay Reatard, genre can explain the rowdiness of the audience, the body/persona of Jay and the spaces where he performed. The genre of punk has always been more open to all genders as performances were based mostly on extreme self expression (O’Meara, 300). As well as that, the tradition of punk rock has always been based on a staunchly DIY attitude as well as a complete ideological opposition to mainstream music (O’Meara, 300). These standards within the genre of punk music are the defining connections between Jay Reatard’s brash and offensive performances and the loud chantings of Kitten Forever. Aggression in one way or another has always been a pillar of punk rock. For Jay Reatard, this is manifested in an aggression towards himself, life and the audience. For Kitten Forever, this aggression is taken out more on the oppressive nature of society, it’s targeted towards sexism, racism, homophobia and other systems of hate within society. Therefore, the crowd in  a Kitten Forever is working in unity to celebrate a sense of anger against the exclusionary systems of oppression that affect their everyday. The anger or aggression promoted at a Kitten Forever is empowering.

 Aggression has always been an essential part of punk performers, in the identification of punk as a genre, the separation of real punks and non-punks within audiences and as a way to redefine the traditional power structures within commercial rock performances. Punk performances became, in a way, a celebration of violence and antagonism. Some other results of the aggression in early punk performances was it worked to create punk as a genre and alienate the other, or the non-punk from audiences (Laing 106). From the audience-performer aggression came an equalized relationship and a new power dynamic within punk rock performances that was completely different than the commercial rock performer speaking to audience dynamic that had been traditionally seen (Laing 106). That was one of the key parts of the movement, to drastically change mainstream music, and this shift in dynamics led to the formed identity of punk- the performer was just as much a part of the movement as the rowdy audience throwing chairs (Laing 106). From this unity came a sense of community that inspired audience members to become more active participants by starting bands themselves. From this we can see the beginnings of the DIY attitudes and desire to radically change conventional performance styles in rock music that led to the formation of Kitten Forever. We can see how punk as a genre provides some context for all other elements of the delivery of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever. Both artists are dependent on punk as a context and point of exploration for their style.

Body/Persona. Body in delivery for Werner is both physical, as in the voice, clothes and movements of a performer as well as political as the race, gender and ethnicity of the performer is put into consideration (Werner 292). Body in the performances of punk had physically been used traditionally to reinstate dominance and express masculinity. Performers would stand or posture in a macho way, displaying their violent or sexual fantasies on the guitar, thrusting it against themselves while playing it and smashing it with the instrument often dubbed the “cock of rock” (Laing 109-110). Punk rock had traditionally been an obvious display for blatant machismo (O’Meara 303).

We can see by watching the performances of Jay Reatard, that his performance style was heavily cemented by the tradition of masculinity within punk music. In his 2007 Memphis, Tennessee Goner record store performance, we see his  stance is slightly slouched over his guitar, he’s heavily sweating over the microphone and rocking back and forth while performing and completely avoiding eye contact with the audience while he hollers out his lyrics (Goner records). Jay Reatard seems to exemplify the traditional representations of masculinity within punk performances, with an added touch of humiliation and self deprecation. His aggression towards the audience can also be seen as fueling an energy of aggregation and internalized masculinity that becomes almost a rtualistical sort of release during his performances.

Another aspect of the body to consider for Jay Reatard is that he is a white male, and as the study of DIY Punk and Hardcore spaces by Naomi Griffin tells us, punk spaces are usually dominated by white men. White men usually organize the shows, dominate the dancefloor and are most likely the performers (Griffin 70). As Griffin theorizes, this means men have a monopoly over the local music scenes, they can decide who is given literally a voice (71). From this, we can see how the literal body identity of Jay Reatard in a male dominated and male created space and genre is less politicized as it represents the hegemonic culture of punk/DIY punk as a scene as well as representing mainstream hegemonic culture.

    The body/persona for Kitten Forever is much different. Fashion and clothes have been theorized often for their rhetorical impact (Griffin 69). The fashion and bodies of women within the punk scene have become “sites of resistance (Preston et al, 220)”, meaning sites to portray displays of nonconformity through dress, tattoos and body modifications (Preston et al, 220). This can be seen in the fashion choices of Kitten Forever in their performances: the women are seen sometimes with brightly dyed green hair, piercings, tattoos, unconventional makeup and colorful, unconventional clothing. Kitten Forever continues the punk rock tradition of using body as a place to state one’s rejection of society’s norms. They also physically perform in a style similar to Jay Reatard, in that they often rock with the guitar and seem to often avoid direct eye contact with the audience. They also hop around the stage and shake their hips – they are more obviously dancing to the rhythm than anything Jay Reatard might do in a performance. They dance and move around the stage constantly, whereas Jay Reatard simply stands in one place for most of his set, maybe moving around slightly and violently banging his head to the music while he aggressively forces the strings on his guitar.

Audiences. Audience participation is a crucial part of the performances of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever. The energy from the crowd is an essentialist part of the genre of punk (Griffin 71). For Jay Reatard in particular, aggression was a huge part of his audience interactions.  David Laing discusses in his novel, “One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock”, how punk bands were aggressive and provocative towards audiences from the beginning. Bands had the power in performances because of the literal stage spatial placement as well as having the electrical power, meaning they had the microphones and the ability to be louder (Laing 105). Audience members responded physically with “gobbing” or spitting on performers, throwing cans and chairs at the stage and invading the stage (Laing 105). These actions became in a way ritualistic for the audience, and an essential part of the band’s identity (Laing 106). For example, The Damned always got all the furniture in the room thrown at them by audiences (Laing 106). However, these dramatic responses were out of appreciation or admiration for the band, a bored or disinterested audience would symbolize a boring band. That was one of the results of the aggressive relationship between punk performer and audience; it inverted cultural norms of aggression to become expressions of appreciation (Laing 106).

    The punk antagonism is very present in the performances of Jay Reatard. In his 2007 New York City performance at a venue called,  Cake Shop, Jay Reatard begins screaming at an audience member, “You motherfucker, get the fuck off my shit!” and continues yelling at him throughout in between songs (Pitchfork, 2016). We can see that punk was the ideal genre for Jay Reatard’s provocative performance style and outlandish antics as a way of self expression and an outpouring of internalized aggression. We can also see in his 2007 Cake Shop performance that the crowd is very rowdy, they are seen “moshing” which is a style of dancing where people congregate near the front of the stage and jump up and down, toss people on the ground and violently collide into each other. This passionate and violent dancing style can be seen as a performance of masculinity (Griffin 71).

    For Kitten Forever, their audiences are not as actively rowdy as Jay Reatard’s audiences. We can see the audience in their May 2018 Kansas City performance in a venue called Kum n Go. The audience is not as violent or aggressive. Kitten Forever doesn’t yell at them or insult them and the crowd is not violently moshing against each other (Rhoades). Kitten Forever does not display the same kind of aggressive masculine performance style seen traditionally in punk music and in Jay Reatard’s performances. Kitten Forever creates their own unique performance style that celebrates their femininity while upholding a sense of aggression that is a pillar of punk rock. Therefore, the audiences don’t respond by performing in the typical masculine impassioned ways, but instead they mirror Kitten Forever’s delivery style. They shake their hips and dance along. The audience-performer relationship is one more rooted in unity and an us versus the oppressive powers outside this space. Due to this, the audience doesn’t have a violent or aggressive performance but more of a happy and celebratory positive performance that they emulate in their dancing.

Spaces. According to the piece “Gendered Performance Performing Gender in the

DIY Punk and Hardcore Music Scene” by Naomi Griffin, the spaces where DIY punk and hardcore music are performed are monopolized by men. Masculine performance styles are more celebrated, men usually dominate the spaces, whether that be in the crowd, on stage and in organizing the shows (Griffin 70). Griffin discusses how in patriarchal societies, men are seen as the reference point and women are seen as the other (Griffin 70). Therefore, masculine displays of passion and power are celebrated and normalized (Griffin 70). In Griffin’s analysis of Hardcore and DIY punk shows, she concluded that women aren’t very often involved in these performances. This shows how the performances of Jay Reatard as representing the attitude and values of the spaces he mostly performed. His masculine performance style was more obviously celebrated as it expressed the values, perhaps subconsciously, as the venues he played at and the audiences who showed up. However, this makes the performances of Kitten Forever more politicized as they express their own unique feminine delivery style.

    An example of how the male dominated spaces affect the performances of Kitten Forever is in the way they almost create their own feminized space on stage within a more masculine space. It is also very reflective of the DIY nature of punk . In their Lowertown Line performance,  Kitten Forever has the stage covered in balloons, with chains of fake flowers covering all their equipment (The Lowertown Line, 2015). They use eccentric self expression to create an almost ironically feminine, innocent or imaginative oasis on stage that contrasts starkly with their brass vocals and heavy bass and drum beats. This can symbolize how Kitten Forever creates their own unique feminine delivery stye within a male dominated space that celebrates intersectionality and feminism within a scene that often ignores the topic or doesn’t practice what it preaches.

CONCLUSION

Based on the analysis of Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever and their delivery styles we can see that masculinity and femininity are expressed in different ways within punk performances. Jay Reatard expresses the more normalized, hegemonic expression of masculinity and aggression, whereas Kitten Forever has created their own unique delivery style based on unifying an audience and simple dancing. For both performers, the traditions of punk as a genre are important for their deliveries as they provide a context for their audiences and provide a framework of DIY ethics, anti-conformity and aggression to create and perform their music within. The genre of punk may unite Jay Reatard and Kitten Forever, however their delivery styles are expressed completely differently in terms of how their audiences react, their bodies and the rhetoric that comes from their physical presence on stage and the spaces where they perform and how they create, change or express themselves within those spaces. This analysis also expands the argument made by Wener for delivery as an analytical framework as through the study of delivery we are illuminated to the power structures within the genre and the spaces they are performing. Delivery provides a fuller perspective for the artists and their purposes for performing.

Works Cited

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http://www.pitchfork.com/news/37575-rip-jay-reatard/.  

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Feminist Geography, Oxford: Blackwell, p.211-227

Rhodes, Aaron. “Kitten Forever at Kum-N-Go.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 May 2018,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IJz-dQasXo.

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York Times, 14 Jan. 2010, www.nytimes.com/2010/01/15/arts/music/15reatard.html.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozbgfq9B4Hw&t=226s.

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Rhetoric” The Fifth Canon of Rhetoric: The Art of Delivery. Edited by Tracey Whalen,

University of Winnipeg, 2018, pp. 285-300. Originally published in Rhetoric Review, pp. 44-59. Course Pack.

 

Lynn O’Brien Leads the Audience to Rise at the CD release of Rising

Who starts a concert with a minute of joyful silence? A genius like Lynn O’Brien, that’s who.

After the silence she started in with an a cappella world beat piece like an acoustic tUnE-yArDs number but more accessible.  Lynn led the sold out crowd at the Hook and Ladder into her space so comfortably she turned it into a shared space. She wordlessly brought the audience in to clap and sing with a call and repeat gesture.We were hooked.

Lynn is also a music therapist; I know that work is distinctly separate from her work as a musician but there’s a positive influence on how she interacts with the audience and brings them along on a magical ride. Her music is about triumphing – as a person or as a community.

How Can I Give my Love Away? is an uplifting, personal song with a country guitar, a brushing drum and strong, almost bold gospel voice with the balance of the backup vocals. There’s an easy swing to the song. It’s the kind you think you can sing in the shower, but most of us can’t. What’s lovely is that often such a song is about heartbreak and this song is about sharing your heart, not necessarily with one other person just with the world.

And she has some anthems. Whoa. Letting You Know is about settling boundaries – with the refrain of – she’s letting you know. It should be required listening on college campuses, high schools, workplaces all over the world. It’s sassy. More like jazz with the keyboard and a more playful side of Lynn’s voice. But my favorite of the night. The song I think they should choice for the Women’s March Minnesota theme for 2019 is Rising. It starts as a softer song with a 70s easy beat for storytelling that builds into a rap of spoken poetry. It’s not a charge to act, it’s a soundtrack to what’s already happening. It’s a celebration and recognition. Where Lynn’s voice is bold and ebullient in How Can I Give My Love, it is controlled and in command for Rising.

She has such a good feel for when to be loud, when to be soft and when to sing nothing at all.

Amanda Grace and Katy Vernon proving that “female singer” isn’t a genre

I love to see a music show that features talented women. So I really enjoyed Amanda Grace’s CD release last weekend at the Amsterdam with Kay Vernon. Hearing them together is a reminder that “female singer” is not a genre.

Amanda has a gritty, almost guttural sound that feels raw and powerful. Strong American is a favorite song from the CD and the show. She starts with a breathy, aspirated, eerie lead up to a powerful full-force finish. The building and the range are compelling. Yet that wasn’t even the best showcase for her voice. Amanda played a song that she plays with her folk band Wildflower – it featured a long held note that would make you hold onto your hat!

Some of her music is quite dark. It’s part folk part (ballad) rocker but there’s an uplifting message – especially with Rayne Angel, written for a young woman she met on tour. She wanted to help Rayne see that even when you feel like you don’t have anything, you still have something to give.

Katy was a fun compliment to Amanda with her sad songs on a happy instrument – the ukulele. She had her full band (with one substitute); the ukulele, keyboard, horn and the rest give a nostalgic old time charm to the music. We heard some of my favorites: Lily and 5:00 Somewhere. We also got a sneak preview of Undertow, a new song from the upcoming release. It has the trademark upbeat demeanor but Katy’s voice takes on a sultry tone – a new dimension.

It feels too easy to compare Katy to fellow Londoner Lily Allen, but they both have a sardonic wit where the happy sounds and humor are like sugar that helps the medicine go down. Very clever.

Double CD release with Mother Banjo and Vicky Emerson at the Hook & Ladder – generosity and great sounds

There is something inherently uplifting about an all-female lineup, especially when it’s a double CD release show. And it’s not just because I’m a big believer in girl power, which I am, but it’s the generosity in the room. It is seeing talented women lift each other up, be genuinely over the moon for each other’s success and helping out in any way possible from harmonizing to selling t-shirts. It’s watching women take over a field that has been traditionally male leaning and making it their own, understanding that we all do better when we all do better.

That being said – generosity doesn’t necessarily make for a good show – so I was happy to hear that generosity aside, the show rocked.

Mother Banjo (Ellen Stanley) started out the night with a song from her last album – the Devil Hasn’t Won. It’s a gospel song with an up beat. A nice drum roll of sort to herald in Ellen’s first album in six years, Eyes on the Sky. She explained that the song is about the days we’re living or maybe her place in that world or maybe both. A sentiment many of us are feeling but few can express in song. Ellen’s voice is measured and calm, a nice complement to the plucking of the strings in the song. Sarah Morris joined her on stage and their voices meld so beautifully. The song also showcases Ben Cook Feltz on the keyboard.

Ellen also does a great version of Linda and Robin William’s Together All Alone. It almost makes you wish for winter weather to be cozied up with someone special and not worried about the weather. Then there’s the counter to Together All Alone, a song called Water that harkens back to Goodnight Irene. It’s a slow summery song and Ellen’s voice is sultry and warm.

There was a musical interlude with Haley E, Rydell. I think we’ll be hearing more from her. Tough spot to be playing between two CDs releases but she held her own. I had recently seen her play in a “go vote toilet tunes” video (No explanation would capture it; but you can find it online.) and was glad to see her play live.

Vicky Emerson opened with Good Enough. She has a gentle voice that commands and demands full attention and it’s so worth the effort. It’s not a soft voice – just a voice that going to call you to where it is. It suits the honesty of her lyrics, which are unapologetically female.

The Boat Song reminds me of the old country music I used to listen to with my dad. OK, I still listen to with my dad. It’s pared down and shows the sweetest side of Vicky’s voice. With a traditional feel for the music.

But my favorite song, maybe of the night, was a slow, torchy version of Don’t It Make my Brown Eyes Blue, originally from Crystal Gayle. Vicky told the same story about the song that I would about remembering that song as a kid. There’s something so evocative to a kid’s ear; the colors I’m sure. But then listening to it as an adult, you really ask, is that all there is? Well, Vicky has put the musical punch into the song that you thought was there as a kid and you want to be there as an adult. It touched me.

The grand finale was The Reckoning, which brought up all of the musicians to the stage. They sounded great together and brings us back to the appreciation and generosity in the room. It’s nice to leave a show feeling good about everyone.

JOUR – new name, new look, new CD all released at the Cedar Cultural Center

It is fun to watch the metamorphosis of an artist, especially a young artist like JOUR (formerly known as Jourdan Meyers) with such a strong voice. I remember saying years ago that Jourdan had the voice of the sweetest torch singer in town. That’s not what I would say now. Her presence, her voice they feel more full force than sweet. Today she owns herself, owns her voice and is unafraid to use both to their fullest capacity.

Black Hole is a song that exemplifies the dichotomy of JOUR’s new sound. There’s a hint of Americana in the world of Electronica. JOUR’s voice is so powerful it propels a narration but on the side is a very interesting guitar meander. It’s like watching a play that features two conversations at once. Done poorly, it’s confusing. Done right, as JOUR has done it, it’s layered and interesting.

There are several songs like Black Hole that support multiple tunes or storylines that work in part because of the strong vocals that are generous enough to allow the other musicians to take the stage. It’s complex but again JOUR’s crystalline voice controls the chaos so much that it doesn’t feel like confusion it just feels like multiple simultaneous stories coming together.

My favorite song was Revolution; maybe because I appreciate anyone who highlights current events, especially in a time that is so divisive. And it does it with such finesse. Great art comes of troubled times. And the message isn’t overt but it’s purposeful.

Also worth noting, JOUR’s music brings the men on the dance floor. I love to see that support!

Bye Bye Banshee sings out Deathfolks Magic

Bye Bye Banshee is a new project by Minneapolis songwriter Jezebel Jones. It’s a modern ballad of our final trip through death’s door with nod to ancient themes and characters that have preceded us. It explores death with curiosity and embraces the eventuality with coquettish spirit.

Jones’ ethereal presence sets the stage. The full band around her brings the celebratory feel of a New Orleans funeral march. Her sultry tone in If I Die in my Dreams has a swampy torch singer feel that makes the invitation to her dream equally sexy and scary. You can’t say no.

If the album is a voyage, Pschyopomps is sound of the footsteps into the abyss or dusty trail. There’s room for the instruments to take on their own winds in different directions that pull in different directions.

Skull Rattles reminds me of the Bare Bone’s Halloween show in St Paul. Similar to Deathfolk Magic it is the story of death and life and life after death – but at a community level. Skull Rattles has the unraveling feel of dénouement – of finale but freedom. The narration between songs alludes to previously being under the spell of religion but moving to an understanding that life is a dream – punctuated in the performance with a rendition or rift on Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Women holding strong at Kari Arnett’s CD release at the Cedar Cultural Center

I am a sucker for a strong voice belting out a twangy-angry anthem, especially on women’s rights. So hearing Kari Arnett sing Only a Woman at the Cedar on Thursday was a highlight. She wrote the song in reaction to how some men talk to women in the music industry – and get away with it. It’s unfortunately both a timely and timeless theme. I loved the music as well – especially toward the end of the song, there was a melee of tunes and sounds coming from each corner of the stage, filled with seven musicians. It was like listening to an interesting conversation – disassociated but complimentary and compelling.

Arnett’s music is country but there’s a range of country in it. She opened with Dark Water, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac – in the best way. It has the same slow beat of The Chain. (Funny enough, the only cover Arnett played was another Fleetwood Mac song.) You can hear the influence of the band and the era when there was a cross over between country and rock, especially the rock ballad. Then The Americana Life has a very Western feel. Starting with sounds of languor from the steel pedal, the horse’s gallop in the drums, the plaintive violin and then the voice. The big, bold voice that carries the song from a hot summer day to some musical victory. There’s a sense of accomplishment just listening. Tired of This Town has a completely different sound; remorse and reverence turns to church choral with the harmony of vocals. It’s a twist to have a lovelorn song have such a sweet sound.

It will be fun to watch Arnett’s move forward. The new CD, When the Dust Settles is a terrific start. Unfortunately we’ll be watching it from a distance as she is soon moving to Nashville. Before she left she gave a gracious nod to the Minnesota Music Coalition for helping her get connected when she first moved to the Cities a few years ago.

Bonus of the night was having three women take center stage. Mary Bue started off the night. She played a new song, All the Things Broken. The power of the keyboard, her honest lyrics of heartbreak and the seemingly easy comfort of her voice can bring tears every time. Next was Becky Kapell with Paul Bergen, playing country music like I’ve heard on road trips with my dad my whole life. She can hit and hold a high note and bend it into any shape she wants.

Taking back the power through punk – Genital Panic CD release at 7th Street

The silver lining of the current state of affairs in American politics is the wave of women raising their voices (to use the vernacular of the Women’s Mach) to effect change. We just don’t all sound as good as Tina Schlieske and Genital Panic doing it.

Genital Panic is taking punk back to politics in the spirit of Dead Kennedy’s using sardonic and simple observation to point out the obvious – something’s broken. Locker Room Talk isn’t just Locker Room Talk – if it takes hard core passion and a bubble gum chorus to make the point, so be it.

The sound is fun. Watching with a friend we warred about whether it was like X, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles or Patti Smith. Schlieske’s voice is strong and powerful, awesome yell when you need it and not afraid to go high when it’s appropriate. The band was also awesome. Some members were drafted in late when originally scheduled guests couldn’t be there but they nailed it with the cow bell on Donnie Talks to Russia along with the keyboard suspense rift, the tight bass on Menopause or the dark string interlude on Action Pants.

As much as I loved the music, what I really loved was the message. Schlieske told the story behind the new project. She had seen the work of Valerie Export, a feminist artist who, in 1968, wore crotchless pants into an art house cinema. She walked around with her genitals exposed at face-level to make a statement about the historical portrayal of women in cinema. (Action Pants: Genital Panic is the name of a poster series created to commemorate that famous viewing.)

For better or for worse, it’s time for women to take back our power by raising our voices, by reclaiming terms, by calling out what’s happening around us – through the #MeToo movement or a song such as Pussygrabber.  It’s happening with more women running for office, with more people voting (even in midterm primaries!) and daily protests. And it’s great to see a local hometown music hero joining the soundtrack for change with a bold change in her sound. It’s time for us to be heard!

Also every punk show should start out with a song about menopause.

Doug Collins & the Receptionists CD release – retro and fun

It can be concerning when the lead singer hits the stage with a vintage, brown polyester suit on. It sets a high bar. You better have the chops to back it up – and I am pleased to report that Doug Collins looked awesome in the brown suit and had the chops. There’s something retro, yet timeless in his music. It dates back to the early days when country and rock really did blur. I enjoyed seeing Doug Collins & the Receptionists at the Turf Club for the release of Good, Sad News.

My favorite song of the night was Conversation with my Heart. It opens his CD. It’s one of those super happy, snappy sounding songs with words that don’t necessarily match. It’s maybe just a little bit of what we need given the world today. A vacation from the gloom, without forgetting. It was great to have Katy Vernon take to the stage to sing it with him at the Turf Club. It just does a heart good to see so much joy in playing.

Halfway Through is another toe tapper. It has a more Americana sound but still upbeat. Ironically I had spent my day driving home from Winnipeg with my dad, listening to Willie’s Roadhouse the whole way. Hearing Collins sing Halfway Through fit the soundtrack of my day. But even after 8 hours (long time at the border) it’s music I enjoy, especially when it’s done well.

A bonus was Collin’s cover of Babba O’Reilly. I’m a sucker for The Who at the best and worst of times. It’s was a different rendition and I liked it.

Another super bonus was catching Katy Vernon before Doug Collins. Another musician with happier beat and sound than lyrics but it’s really hard not to enjoy a thoughtful ukulele!

You can see how Collins looks and sounds in his brown suit on his new record. We appears to be sporting it on the cover.

John David and the Jerks album release at Seventh Street Entry – I Love You Means I’m Lucky!

It’s going to be a strange comparison, but John David reminds me of JJ Grey. There’s a swampy sound to this Northern band. But also they both share a joy on stage that is infectious.

It was fun to see John David & the Jerks play with the Collapsing Stars and Monica LaPLante at the Seventh Street Entry. David started by playing a dozen (or so) old songs and followed up with a rendition of the latest album in its entirety. The crowd clearly loved it. It’s always smart to go from the known to the new.

I found the newer material to be more reflective, especially with Swedish Dreams. It’s a pretty song. It’s mellow but melancholy is a positive way. But then there’s still danceability and toe tapping to be found in a song such as Friend Like You. David’s voice has a slight Dylanesque lilt. The band is awesome and really go full tilt.