Categories
Music Education

Egg Punk – A Genre Field Guide

Sometimes when I talk about genres, I’m accused of making them up. I think this is fair, especially when it comes to egg punk.

I’ve been listening to egg punk since 2019, though I never knew that there was a name for the “weird punk stuff” I’d play while filing through backstock at my old retail job.

Anti-Genre

Egg punk is, for all intents and purposes, a satirical genre born from internet chatrooms.

Apparently inspired by the works and aesthetic of DEVO, egg punk is mild, colorful and imbued with a new wave influence that sets it apart from other punk genres.

Cover for “DOG” by Snooper

While some sources claim the genre got its start in 2013 as a response to the abject overseriousness of “chain punks,” there isn’t anything scholarly (that I could find, at least) to support this.

This distinction isn’t to be taken too seriously, either. The egg-chain dichotomy is, at its core, mere meme fuel.

The Sound and Style

All the same, it’s pretty easy to identify.

Egg punk music is inherently unserious, energetic and ironic. With firm roots in punk’s DIY style, egg punk bands use minimal recording and mixing and cheap synths.

Cover for “Grass” by Powerplant

The result is music that sounds transfused by static, but in a strangely good way.

The genre can also be distinguished by its art style, which draws from both DIY and experimentalism. Egg punk band album covers often appear hand-drawn or collaged.

Egg Punk Artists

Notable egg punk groups that served to bolster the genre’s hold include Uranium Club, Lumpy and The Dumpers, The Coneheads and many others.

Other egg punk bands include:

Categories
Blog Music Education

Short Dip into Japanese Hardcore Punk

Okay, hello, hi. How are we doin’? I’ve been doing a little digging around in my free time this past week to find some cool bands and sounds for my future DJ sets here at WKNC, and I stumbled upon a little bit of treasure for myself. 

I’ve taken a dive into the Japanese Hardcore punk scene. With a little bit of background research “sponsored” by Google translate, Wikipedia and Discogs, we can explore some of the limited (on my end) originations of this genre and see some of the directions it has spread until today’s time.

History Time:

Wikipedia says Japanese Hardcore started in the 1980’s to protest social reforms that were occuring at the time in Japan. With these musical protests came what is regarded as the first band on the Japanese Hardcore scene: SS.

Unfortunately, SS does not have any of their music released onto streaming services like Spotify or Bandcamp, but you can take a listen to this YouTube recording to get a taste of their sound. They have a similar style to renowned punk bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag’s earlier vibes.

SS’s sound was a perfect platform for the explosion of noises that have taken off from this point on in Japan. 

Recent Times:

One of my favorite websites I like to use for exploring genres is Every Noise at Once (shoutout to the previous GM of WKNC for teaching me about it). I was able to find tons of new, classic and stale sounds from Japanese Hardcore music here.

One of the drawbacks is that it only lists artists and bands that can be found on Spotify, so I had to do a little more research through Bandcamp (great article covering neat bands from this genre) and YouTube to discover the unique sounds that I knew were out there. 

Here a few of my favorites and links to their work:

Sicilian Blood – I loved their flashy play style, the quick vocals, rapid-fire drums and the noise level. They’ve got a mix of English curse words and Japanese lyrics, so anyone listening can have a fun time thrashing.

Sekiri – This band’s name translated to English is “dysentery”; they’re an all female group who formed in 1983 and disbanded in 1995 by 14 to 15 year olds according to Discogs. Who has more punk spirit than the youth? Sekiri’s got mellow, husky vocals, loud drums and a quiet but efficient guitar. I love listening to their track “4649, but I’m excited to explore their limited discography in depth. 

One more band I got for y’all is THE CONTINENTAL KIDS. I’ve really only listened to a few of their tracks (because I haven’t been able to find more of their content) and it’s got the energy that I was looking for. In “BANZAI ATTACK” the band unleashes a barrage of noise with some classic metal influenced guitar riffs, throaty and evil vocals and some fast paced drums which add to the nostalgic feel THE CONTINENTAL KIDS produces. 

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed perusing this genre of music and I can’t wait to create a future set out of the artists and bands I’ve taken a liking to. I hope some of this has been informative or even an interesting perspective on this genre. There’s tons more of these sounds and variations out there.

As a treat, if you made it this far, here’s a cool “Holy Diver” cover of Dio’s legendary track.

Categories
Music Education

What is Ska? A Genre Field Guide

When I finally sat down to watch the 2023 Universal Pictures film “Renfield,” I did so with an open mind.

It may not be surprising, but I tend to be the kind of person who takes films too seriously.

I think the fact that I refer to movies as “films” is evidence enough that I need to spend more time outdoors and less time analyzing the microexpressions of dewy-eyed male actors.

So going into “Renfield,” I tried to manage my expectations. I’d already heard that the film wasn’t anything groundbreaking — I mean, how could it be? — but that it was, at face value, an extremely fun watch.

And it was.

The shlocky cartoon violence and Mortal Kombat-style body horror was beautifully camp when paired with the MCR-sad-kitten-guyliner realness of Nicholas Hoult.

But what I couldn’t have possibly prepared myself for was the integration of ska — a genre I barely understood — into the film’s plotline.

So, What’s Ska?

Ska’s origins can be traced back to the 1950s in Jamaica, born of an early form of American-inspired rhythm and blues.

Jamaica’s first indigenous urban pop style, ska developed from the “shuffling rhythm” of American blues singer Rosco Gordon and different aspects of Caribbean folk music.

Due to Jamaica’s largely orally-transferred musical history, the identity of the so-called “author” of the ska genre remains contested.

Photo by Juan Di Nella on Unsplash

However, Jamaican guitarist and composer Ernest Ranglin is often named as the “godfather of ska” and a major player in the development of reggae.

The Skatalites

Following Jamaica’s 1962 indepencence from British rule, ska enjoyed a sort of renaissance.

Photo by Bill Fairs on Unsplash

Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Dizzy Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevette, Jah Jerry and Lloyd Knibbs joined together to become the Skatalites in 1963, strengthening the foundation of the genre by making several seminal recordings for leading producers and offering support to prominent singers.

Among these individuals, Don Drummond distinguished himself as a prominent pioneer of the genre until his confinement in 1966.

What Does it Sound Like?

Unlike other genres, ska’s sound comes from very specific characteristics.

Ska music typically has a fast tempo, a 4/4 timescale, prominent horns and strongly accented offbeat guitar chords (also known as a “skank”).

Photo by Ana Grave on Unsplash

Typical ska bands feature guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and vocals with melodic tradeoffs between singers and the horn section.

As ska developed further as a genre and pervaded into the musical conciousnesses of other worldly regions, it underwent several “waves” and branched off into fusion genres, such as ska punk.

Final Thoughts

Though often the subject of comedic derision (and normal derision), ska is a deeply influential and important genre, especially in relation to the punk subculture.

However, its influence remains largely obfuscated in discourse. While this article specifically offers a (very brief) overview of the ska genre’s origins and aspects of its style, I encourage anyone interested to delve deeper into the complex relationship between ska and its ethos and the punk rock subculture.

Understanding the intersectionality of these two spheres (which, perhaps, are not as distinct from one another as one may think) adds important context to the racial, social and cultural dynamics that shape, and have shaped, music subculture as we understand it today.

Additional Reading

  • Kauppila, Paul. “‘FROM MEMPHIS TO KINGSTON’: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE ORIGIN OF JAMAICAN SKA.” Social and Economic Studies, vol. 55, no. 1/2, 2006, pp. 75–91. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/27866458. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.
  • Hutton, Clinton, and Garth White. “The Social and Aesthetic Roots and Identity Of Ska.” Caribbean Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, 2007, pp. 81–95. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40655000. Accessed 22 Sept. 2023.
Categories
Music Education

Sniffin’ Glue: The Origins and Influence of the First Punk Fanzine

Perhaps the title of this post is a rhetorical question.

If you’re interested enough in WKNC to peruse our website, then you probably know what a zine is.

If you don’t, that’s fine.

A lot of people, including those who make zines, find them difficult to define.

It’s part of what makes them cool.

Selection of British and American punk zines, 1994-2004, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Burn_the_asylum, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0

Zines are essentially handmade publications — zine is short for fanzine — created and disseminated by members of an underground subculture.

Despite their lack of official publication, zines were — and still are — vital tools within subcultural spaces.

Expressions of creativity, ethos and ideology, zines strengthen the foundations of resistance and community amid broader sociopolitical contexts.

The History

Zines can be traced to the early ’60s, where their subject matter centered on social and political activism.

By the ’70s, however, zines took on a starkly punk slant.

Zines from the Colorado College Tutt Library, licensed CC BY 2.0

“Sniffin’ Glue”

Mark Perry’s zine, “Sniffin’ Glue,” was released July 1976.

Inspired by the Ramones song “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” Perry devised and released the zine just days after seeing the band live in London.

Created with simple on-hand tools, “Sniffin’ Glue” embodied punk’s D.I.Y. ethos.

The zine’s cut-and-paste graphics, rugged handwriting and unpolished doodles left every page imbued with youthful vigor and punk-rock passion.

Perry’s achievement was to unite for a brief time all the tensions — between art and commerce, between avant-garde aesthetics and social realist politics — that eventually tore punk apart, and write them out in a sharp mix of emotion and intention that still makes his words fresh

J. Savage, “Sniffin’ Glue: The Essential Punk Accessory,” Mojo No. 81 August, 2000, p. 129.

Soon after the zine’s release, droves of inspired punks took to their photocopiers to take advantage of an exciting new mode of self-expression.

The resulting metamorphosis of the fanzine medium facilitated a massive creative movement.

Chainsaw” zine, produced by Charlie Chainsaw, arose from his personal desire to distinguish his work from the “‘Sniffin’ Glue’ ‘look-a-likes’.”

Other creatives followed suit, experimenting with different materials and styles.

Zine-making as a practice transformed.

Final Thoughts

Zines are still an important part of subculture today.

Walk into any record store or trendy downtown shop and you’ll likely see zines for sale in a multitude of colors and styles.

“Zine guys,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by college.library, licensed CC BY 2.0

The best thing about zines, and perhaps what zine-makers find most rewarding about the practice, is its freedom from stricture.

Essentially, the only rule is that there aren’t any rules.

If you’re interested in exploring some contemporary zines, consider browsing WKNC’s collection here.

Additional Reading

Categories
Music Education

What is Psychobilly? A Genre Field Guide

At this point, I’m sure most people who use the internet on a regular basis are familiar with the song “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps.

The song, featured in the 2022 Netflix adaptation “Wednesday,” gained something of internet (specifically TikTok) virality in the months following the show’s release.

Photo by Nate Isaac on Unsplash

With jilting vocals and a twangy guitar, “Goo Goo Muck” was perfectly strange (some may say kooky) and prime fuel for a littany of TikTok dances.

But while The Cramps may distinguish themselves in the contemporary sphere for their feature in the series, they’re also musical pioneers.

Lurid Fusion

Psychobilly, a rock fusion genre blending elements of rockabilly with punk rock, often with a horror-themed twist, is largely attributed to The Cramps.

Originating in the punk underground of New York City in the 1970s, psychobilly defines itself lyrically with references to sci-fi, horror, exploitation films and often taboo subjects.

Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

The music is campy, shlocky and typically apolitical, often presenting themes satirically and in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

The genre’s style draws from a wide pool of influences, with some groups presenting a distinct rockabilly slant while others experiment with elements related to new wave, heavy metal, hardcore punk and others.

The Cramps

According to a staff writer for the Washington Post, the (now defunct) official website for The Cramps described frontman Lux Interior as “the psycho-sexual Elvis/Werewolf hybrid from hell.”

The Cramps formed in 1976 and are largely credited as the founders of the psychobilly genre, their widespread popularity heavily influencing the work of other bands.

The band remained together for nearly four decades, touring until 2006 when Interior passed away at the age of 62.

Interior’s seemingly unending zeal for performance, subversion and stimulation largely underscores the energy of the psychobilly genre, with his work still casting a broad light upon contemporary artists.

Recommendations

Categories
Music Education Playlists

A Brief Guide to the Y2K Trance Revival

At the risk of making some readers of this article feel old: Gen Z has nostalgia for the early 2000s now. People are posting images of clunky technology and tagging it #aesthetic. Artists are selling CDs and cassettes as physical merchandise again. And, yes, this includes music genres too: Trance is back.

Many of these new releases are mostly confined to small corners of the internet, so to start on this journey into geometric fonts and really wishing they still made transparent video game consoles, I’ve selected a few landmarks in the development of the scene.

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Band/Artist Profile Blog Music Education

Dead Kennedys and Archetypal Punk Ethos

It was sometime in the winter when I heard Dead Kennedys for the first time. I was living in the passionless coastal town I’ve mentioned in posts before, friendless and freshly eighteen and so bored it hurt.

I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom with the screen door open, letting the cold winter air spill in.

My phone lay on the floor beside me, playing music from some strange YouTube ripoff app, the kind that you can’t find for free anymore after YouTube started its own subscription service.

I hadn’t yet surrendered myself to the trendy green music subscription that all the other cool teens had, so this was my only option. The app operated similarly to the company it was spoofing, only on a smaller scale that allowed for simultaneous watching and browsing.

I can’t remember what exactly I was doing at the time, only that I was letting the app cycle through random songs, not really listening, until a certain turn of phrase caught my attention:

We’re sorry, we hate to interrupt
But it’s against the law to jump off this bridge
You’ll just have to k– yourself somewhere else
A tourist might see you and we wouldn’t want that

Dead Kennedys, “Soup is Good Food”

Maybe it was the irreverence of the statement, but something about it struck me particularly hard. I immediately paused the song and restarted it, this time listening intently.

Up until that point, I didn’t know music could be that way: unabashed, unapologetic and unrestrained.

You Made a Good Meal

“Soup is Good Food” was not the first Dead Kennedys song I heard, but it was the first I really paid attention to.

“Jello Biafra – Dead Kennedys” uploaded by catharine_anderson to Wikimedia Commons, licensed CC-BY-SA 2.0

Released as part of the band’s 1985 album “Frankenchrist,” the song describes (quite blatantly) the plight of the working man in a post-industrial society.

Not only is the working man disposable, but society punishes him for resenting his condition, all the while remaining cheerily apathetic to his misery.

Depression, exhaustion and poor working conditions are socially acceptable in this dystopian society. In fact, this corrupt “system” is fueled by other disenfranchised and disposable workers.

We know how much you’d like to die
We joke about it on our coffee breaks
But we’re paid to force you to have a nice day
In the wonderful world we made just for you

Dead Kennedys, “Soup is Good Food”

This situation isn’t foreign to us. It’s a reality, perhaps even made worse by the innovations of the internet and artificial intelligence.

Killing the Industry

In my opinion, Dead Kennedys is one of the most archetypally punk bands to exist.

Formed in 1978 in San Francisco, Dead Kennedys debuted with their first recorded single, “California Über Alles,” the following year.

The song, a sardonic attack on California Gov. Jerry Brown, was succeeded by the release of “We’ve Got A Bigger Problem Now” about President Ronald Reagan.

Both songs likened the two politicans — one a liberal, the other a staunch conservative — to fascist dictators, highlighting the invariable corruption of power when married to a politican’s ideals.

Cover for “Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death” by Dead Kennedys

While Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra eventually conceded that he was “off-base” with Gov. Brown, he levied criticisms regarding Brown’s apparent hesitance to “stand up to the rich people and the land owners who don’t think they should have to pay taxes for the public good.”

Biafra’s readiness to disparage any politican or public figure he felt deserved it, regardless of their political affiliation, colored the work of Dead Kennedys for the remainder of his career.

With the influence of Biafra, Dead Kennedys became a vital cultural force against the social and political climate of the 70s and 80s.

The band was also brazen in its condemnation of the music industry, illustrated with their track “MTV – Get Off the Air” in 1985.

How far will you go, how low will you stoop
To tranquilize our minds with your sugar-coated swill
You’ve turned rock and roll rebellion into Pat Boone sedation
Making sure nothing’s left to the imagination

Dead Kennedys, “MTV – Get Off the Air”

Biafra took great issue with MTV and other similar companies, which he saw as merely the extra limbs of a larger, hegemonic entity.

For Biafra, music was a tool of insurrection. Fame and wealth were unimportant; what Biafra really wanted was to rile the masses, radicalize the youth and make the people in power uncomfortable.

“Riling the masses” is not a new concept for punk, but Dead Kennedys did it arguably better than many others.

*cough cough* Sex Pistols *cough cough*

Final Thoughts

Listening to Dead Kennedys and reading transcripts of Jello Biafra’s spoken word poetry leads me to beg a very age-old question:

Is punk dead?

Counterculture eventually manifests its own type of conformity and stricture. Fashion becomes a uniform and community becomes exclusivity.

Looking at how self-proclaimed “punks” navigate online spaces (Machine Gun Kelly), it can be fairly easy to lose faith in the grassroots core of “punk.”

Photo by Evgeniy Smersh on Unsplash

But when I go to a punk show, I feel a lot different. There’s energy there, barely-restrained fervor that gives way to complete abandon as soon as the music starts.

There are people in studded battle jackets and crust pants, sure, but there are also kids in graphic tees and girls in dresses and fishnets. There are people standing at the edge of the pit and waving lost hats, glasses and wallets.

That’s what punk is to me: people who love wild music and hate the government crashing into each other in a whirlwind of cathartic kinesis.

So, punk isn’t dead. Not really. It just isn’t living on Instagram or Tiktok.

Categories
Blog Music Education

What is Breakcore? A Genre Field Guide

It’s undeniable that social media has heavily influenced music.

From the recontextualization of the industry through new marketing opportunities to the pervasion of the infamous “tiktok song” phenomenon, the way we consume music — and the way certain artists rise to mainstream popularity — owes itself largely in part to social media.

Such can be seen especially in the realm of alternative music, with once underground genres permeating into the broader subcultural consciousness.

“Atari Teenage Riot 2010”
This image was originally posted to Flickr by Libertinus, licensed CC-BY-SA 2.0

Of these genres, breakcore in particular stands out.

What is Breakcore?

A “normie” friend of mine once described breakcore as “electronic music for anime fans,” which is somewhat true in describing the genre’s contemporary sphere.

However, the “electronic anime” style many consider to be breakcore is actually far removed from the genre’s original sound.

Cover for “My So-Called Life” by Venetian Snares

Breakcore emerged in the 1990s as the “bastard hate child” of jungle, happy hardcore, gabba, speedcore, drum ‘n’ bass, techno, IDM, acid, ragga, electro, dub, country, industrial, noise, grindcore, classical music, hardcore, metal and punk.

This auditory hodgepodge arose in response to the rise of fascism — both figurative and literal — in mainstream society. The choppy, experimental and erratic styles of breakcore spat in the face of hegemonic consumerism, capitalism and white supremacy.

With no specific melodic style, the breakcore sound derives from a mixed bag of styles “cut and pasted” from different genres to produce elaborate beats.

Major players in the early breakcore scene included Sickboy, UndaCova and Venetian Snares.

2020s Revival

Since its inception, breakcore exists as a plastic organism. Constantly in metamorphosis, breakcore is directly influenced by the time in which it’s produced.

In sociologist Andrew Whelan’s article “Breakcore: Identity and Interaction on Peer-to-Peer,” he asserts that the breakcore genre’s development is fueled by online and peer-to-peer distribution.

Thus, contemporary breakcore possesses a distinctly “internetcore” style with influences from anime, video games and pop culture.

Modern breakcore engages with a distinctly online space, often mingling with aspects of glitchcore, vaporwave and other internet-born genres.

Cover for “WLFGRL” by Machine Girl

Growing from the digital hardcore scene of the 2010s, contemporary breakcore is not only built on sound but aesthetic.

With the rise of online “aesthetic culture” and the dissemination of the “alt” label in subcultural spaces, artists like Machine Girl and goreshit capitalize on the duality of sound and presentation.

Some critics argue that this quality undermines the genre’s originally anticonsumerist convictions, with breakcore songs reaching internet virality through apps like Tiktok and Instagram Reels.

Perhaps I will cover the “tiktok song” phenomenon in a future article.

Final Thoughts

While I don’t think it’s necessarily vital to understand the history of breakcore, I do think it’s sociologically valuable.

Much like language changes over time, so does music. And for a genre as malleable as breakcore, it can serve as a sort of time capsule for the era in which it’s made.

Something about that is extremely cool to me, even if it means the genre is moving farther away from its original purpose.

Additional Reading

Categories
Music Education

What is Darkwave? A Genre Field Guide

Goth music isn’t just one thing.

It’s a common misconception, especially for those ill-acquainted with alternative music. People like to slap the label “goth” on anything even tangentially dark or edgy, even when it’s far from what goth actually is.

And while I don’t consider myself a purist by any means, nor find myself particularly bothered by the misattribution of “goth” by subcultural outsiders, I do think it’s interesting to explore what separates “goth” from “non goth” in terms of music.

Goth, like many others, is a music-based subculture. While the distinctive stylistics of goths are widely-known — all-black clothing, dramatic eye makeup, back-combed hair and intricate accessories — the music that inspired these looks is not.

Photo by Nate Isaac on Unsplash

“Goth” actually encompasses multiple genres of music. Several major genres are goth rock, death rock, post-punk and darkwave.

This week, I’ll be focusing on defining darkwave and recommending some excellent darkwave artists.

The Sound

Darkwave music is melancholic and gloomy.

With heavily synth-based sounds and a slow to moderate tempo, darkwave tracks put a depressive spin on the ebullient tones of mainstream new wave while maintaining the high energy of post-punk music.

It’s quite literally a “dark” wave.

The Source

Darkwave emerged in the 1980s.

At the time of its development, “goth” referred exclusively to the realm of gothic rock. While contemporary circles generally accept darkwave as “goth,” the subculture of the 80s necessitated a distinction.

Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

Thus, while darkwave artists drew inspiration from the same realm as gothic rock, their use of synths and strong new wave influence set them apart.

Darkwave rose as new wave’s shadowy counterpart, with lower pitches, slower tempos and a brooding atmosphere.

The Bands

The so-called “first generation” of darkwave consisted of artists who simply put a darker slant on new wave.

Siouxsie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode and Soft Cell are some examples of this “first generation.”

Cover for “A Kiss in the Dreamhouse” by Siouxsie and the Banshees

As darkwave spread across the globe, it disseminated into various substyles such as ethereal wave, neoclassical darkwave and dark cabaret.

In the 90s, a second wave of darkwave artists emerged.

Artists from this period include Corpus Delicti, Lycia, Black Tape for a Blue Girl and The Frozen Autumn. Some of these bands drew inspiration from the otherworldly style of Cocteau Twins while others delved further into cultivating cold, deeply atmospheric sensations.

In the 2010s, bands like Drab Majesty, Boy Harsher, Void Vision and Kontravoid spearheaded another darkwave revival, building their respective sounds around the many substyles living under the darkwave umbrella.

Recommendations

Categories
Music Education

The Rise of the Riot Grrrl Movement

I’ve discussed the exclusivity of alternative scenes before.

It seems an inevitability that a subculture hinging on nonconformity and countercultural stylistics and beliefs would eventually grow into something of a monolith itself. We’ve seen this in most alternative scenes, and I’ve specifically discussed its manifestation in the realms of the metal and goth scenes.

Punk is no exception. Though it constitutes one of my all-time favorite genres, I can’t ignore that both historical and contemporary punk spaces tend to be something of a “boy’s club.”

“The punk/riot grrrl band Bratmobile at The Charlotte in Leicester, England in 1994,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Greg Neate, licensed CC BY 2.0

Especially in the scene’s earliest iterations, misogynistic convictions abounded. The unhinged vigor and brazenly bellicose slant of the punk subculture seemed to preclude female involvement. Male anger was “cool” and “hardcore,” but female anger was rarely taken seriously.

Female-fronted punk bands, such as The Slits, faced significant difficulty in garnering the critial acclaim of their male-fronted counterparts during the 70s and 80s.

As frontwoman Ari Up said in an interview with Rolling Stone, being punk was “hard enough for the boys, but for the girls it was a witch hunt.”

It was becoming increasingly clear that the prospect of solidifying women-safe spaces in the punk scene was a punishing task. For groups like The Slits, existing in the punk scene meant existing in a constant battle against misogyny and patriarchy.

A Girl Riot

In the early 90s, a group of women from Olympia, Washington assembled to discuss the pervasion of sexism within their local punk scene.

The idea of the “Riot Girl” blossomed from these talks, with “girl” used to invoke the freedom of a child’s self-expression and “riot” to encompass the movement’s goal of lashing out against a patriarchal society.

While the original punk movement existed in opposition to the oppressive institutions of contemporary society, Riot Grrrl picked up the slack with staunch pro-trans, anti-racist and feminist credo.

“Bikini Kill performing live at Sylvester Park in Olympia, Washington on May 1, 1991,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by johnathancharles, licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The Foundations

Riot Girls carved out their own subculture, producing original music and fanzines to disseminate and network their ideas within a distinct cultural space.

These zines discussed domestic violence, incest and rape and covered themes relating to sexuality and the exploration of identity in relation to femininity.

“Sleater Kinney,” uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Pat Castaldo, licensed CC BY 2.0

Zines served to affirm women’s experiences, disseminate praxis and strengthen the unity of the movement.

Riot girl bands, such as Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney radicalized the masses with evocative and irreverent performances that both centered and destigmatized the female body. Clothing and bodies and language became tools for orchestrating the “girl riot.”

The Significance

Riot grrl’s combination of fashion and performance became an art form in of itself, both a subversion and solidifier of conventions of femininity.

Feminism, a concept previously localized to feminist circles, was projected outwards in a staggering display.

Not only were the women in riot grrrl bands projecting their innermost struggles, desires and beliefs, but they did so in a way that empowered other women and girls.

I can still remember going to my first hardcore show and feeling smaller than I’d ever felt before, walled in on all sides by towering men who hardly seemed to recognize that I was even there.

I hated feeling that way, like I was in a place I shouldn’t be.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Evidently, the women behind the riot grrrl subculture felt the same way. The feeling of alienation that often comes with one’s womanhood, both in the hardcore scene and in general society, is an agony that never dulls.

Riot girls responded to this agony with boldness. No longer content with waiting, they made their own spaces in the scene and defended them with animalistic fervor.

They took their bodies, perpetually objectified and minimized by the male gaze, and created something dynamic and frightening and decidedly hardcore.

“Girl power,” a phrase often derided in contemporary circles for its hollow nature, was once the clarion call of the riot girls. Before its co-opting by mainstream pop artists, “girl power” really meant something. It meant seizing — literally or figuratively — what was owed.

It’s not really called “girl power” anymore, but it still exists.

I’ve seen it when girls at shows huddle together, pulling their friends out of the path of crowdkillers. I’ve seen it when female vocalists wail into the mic, their voices frayed with lifetimes of rage. I’ve felt it within myself at shows when I would shove aside men who invaded my personal space.

While some may argue that the “girl riot” ended when “girl power” lost its kick, I don’t think that’s true. I think the “girl riot” is ongoing, and in the wake of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, soon apt to reach a new intensity.

Additional Reading

  • Zine-Making as Feminist Pedagogy
  • Just a Girl? Rock Music, Feminism, and the Cultural Construction of Female Youth
  • Revolution Girl-Style Now!