So all the talk of feminism made me think far too much yesterday, it was one of those days. You know, when you don’t want to do much and you spend way too long daydreaming. A look at Sarah Ditum’s blog brought up a recent post on Riot Grrrl – and while I wouldn’t stick my neck out and say I had been one, I was definitely there for a couple of the significant moments, so I figured I may as well waffle about them on here while they’re in my head.
I saw Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill live. But it’s not as simple as that. Both bands believed that women had a right to be down the front at the gigs – something I did anyway, so it made sense to support it. I wasn’t keen on all-female gigs with no men allowed but understood why they did it.
I saw Huggy Bear one night at Dingwalls in Camden. I went on my own, my friend didn’t want to come with me so I stood about waiting for them to come on stage and hoping I’d see someone I knew. As it was I spotted Tim & Laetitia from Stereolab so hung about with them that night. I knew Tim from his McCarthy days when we’d hung out with them at gigs prior to that. Just before Huggy Bear started I seem to remember someone coming on stage and ripping up Melody Maker, urging us to reject the music press, and ranting to us about sexism in there (it could have been NME, and was probably Liz Naylor who released their records). It was pretty powerful, and I don’t remember a thing about the live show. That bit stands out. Fighting back. We all clapped enthusiastically and Huggy Bear got on with what they did, marvellously. I walked out of the venue back into London, things were different. I was still a girl from a little City, but I’d seen something exciting that night.
A few months later and this time I’m on a work outing, either a minibus or a small coach to TJ’s in Newport where Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill are playing together. We’d just released a split album by both bands so we’re all on the guestlist. Oh, and it’s dubbed the ‘Newport Riot Gig’ as it really was quite mad. There’s a few of us from work there, and we’re ready for Huggy Bear – though I seem to remember the set being cut short – there’s some tall bulky men down the front and they’re heckling, giving grief to the band refusing to move. I wasn’t down the front, it was too packed – I stayed near the back. It looked intense. It WAS intense. Huggy Bear may have cut their set short and I remember a large chap at the front, he was the mouthy one. He might have stood at the front, arms folded refusing to move. Kathleen Hanna was on stage by then and I believe she refused to play until he moved back, until women could get down the front. Then it started – a few people sat at the front on the floor. I know Heather was sat there. Ian was at the side of the stage.
Rebel girl! Rebel Girl! Rebel Girl! You are the queen of my world!
It’s a few people, then slowly it’s everyone – men and women – but not the mouthy ones. I seem to remember them going to the back of the venue and further heckling, spilling beer and being annoying. I don’t know. Like a fight they refused to give up despite backing away, getting that last word. The gig wouldn’t start until the women were down the front. Kathleen Hanna won. We were all winners. The gig happened, it’d probably be a cliche to say that the crowd singing Rebel Girl turned into Bikini Kill joining in and singing it, but it was 1993 and that’s twenty years ago and it might have happened, in my head it did.
I don’t think I went down the front at all that night though. I seem to remember being a few people back once it felt ‘safe’ – both bands were amazing, powerful and loud. I came away knowing that as a woman and loving music I was in the right place. Then again, I didn’t fight to get where I was in my job, and I hadn’t had any bad treatment because of my gender. (yet)
That was all though. Just two moments of that time. Back then I was twenty three, a different me to now. Back then I was living in Bristol having made the big move from home to keep my job in music. The worst things I was dealing with back then were homesickness (I’d drive back to York most weekends) and a lack of friends. That all sorted itself out in time, fortunately.
And then I found this. It sounds even more exciting and slightly frightening. Maybe I just blocked it out? Imagine the memories if we’d all had mobile phones. The fact there is nothing out there. Then there was this:
I love that the top commenter says it’s her auntie playing drums.
Twenty years though. I still don’t feel like I’m a feminist, but I get the feeling that’s due to my lack of labels. We’re probably living in the same town.