My Blog__ A Response To Amy Andronicus
This was written in response to an article the guitar player Amy of Titus Andronicus wrote recently about gender, femininity and rock music.
I'm standing on stage in Brooklyn. The space is called Acheron. We've played here before. Tonight the venue is filled tight with sweaty boys in EyeHateGod shirts ready to make a mess. They want to see some punk.
Our friends are here. I can't see them because the lights are bright and the room is packed with people I don't know. I'm part of the out-of-town-band. I know most of these people have heard of us and that makes me nervous but I'm half drunk so nerves don't mean shit anymore. As each songs starts I forget about the crowd. I scream into the microphone and hide behind my hair. My hair is my bedroom. It's that easy to be heard and not seen when the walls are thin, dyed blonde strands. I'm boiling hot because I'm moving around wildly and my dress is made of wool. It's trapping my heat, but not my aggression. This is the one place my aggression is accepted and I don't forget that. Ever.
Suddenly, our guitar player Kenny breaks a string or his pedal fucks up. Something happens and the usual six second pause between our songs is prolonged to 60 seconds. I have no instrument to hide behind and I have the microphone. I'm the host of this party. My bedroom is now the living room and everyone is invited. I hate hosting parties.
"This is boring!" Screams a deep voice from somewhere in the crowd. Ungrateful guest.
"This is boring!" He tries again. It's now been 100 seconds.
Rage irrupts from me like vomit. I don't question it. "Oh, I'm sorry. Is this boring you?" I snap. "Am I boring you by not playing music for one fucking second? I am boring you with this technical error? You think it's easy? You think you can do this better? Well, come up here you dumb shit and let's see you try it." I'm ranting like a mother whose child refuses to eat his dinner. I'm irate. I've lost it and he knows it. I'm testing him and he knows it. He also knows all the other punk boys are watching. Fuck that loud mouth bitch singer who is trying to take away my integrity with her authority. He starts to walk to the front of the stage. I see my friend Erica lunge towards him with tiny fists in motion. He wiggles himself onto the stage.
"You want to sing for me, dip shit?" I ask. The crowd screams, cheers, laughs. It's just noise. I'm Joan mother-fucking Rivers. Everyone hates me. Everyone loves me.
He reaches for the mic. I don't even look at his face.
Kenny starts playing his guitar and Anne-Marie counts into the next song. I give the kid an awkward sideways hug as to pretend it was all a joke. I immediately regret doing it then I push him off the stage. We go on with our set. I get back into my bedroom. When it's over they make us play more. We do one more song then I disappear outside.
The next day while walking around wasted in Manhattan my Puerto Rican friends tell me what I did was "bad ass" and "ghetto". I think it was the only thing I could do.
In her article "This Is My Porno Face" Amy of the band Titus Andronicus says,
"I think we learn as teenagers that the way to fit in, to escape social criticism and competition among the other girls, is to deny our own abilities, to make ourselves un-threatening, to make ourselves stick out as little as possible. We become adept at the mode of self-control, often to the point of self-denial. We learn to value others above ourselves. We learn to believe that our own successes are not the result of innate talents or abilities, but rather the result of hard work, luck, or forces outside our control."
Most men in the punk and hardcore scene respect my band and what we do. I think the number one reason is because we are a good band. We play hard, fast, tight and smart. If we sucked we wouldn't be where we are and I am not afraid to say that. I think it's important to say that. It's not arrogance, it's confidence and I wouldn't be anywhere without my confidence. Like anyone who has inhibitions, I often doubt myself. I get scared when I look into a sea of men and I worry that they will judge me. I worry they will sexualize me. I worry that they won't respect what I do. I worry about these things because I have been taught that I don't belong here but after years of playing I am slowly being retaught that this simply is not true. I do belong here. I have a right to be here.
Of course I lose my confidence when shitty things happen. They are rare, but they happen. In Toronto last week, a friend of mine overheard a group of boys talking about how our band was "so hot" they were going to "masturbate while moshing". I can find the humor in this, I guess, but for the most part it makes me annoyed and angry.
"When I look out at the audience at a show, I usually see a swarm of dudes out front, fist pumping and wild, bedraggled and covered in sweat. Their euphoria is palpable. It is an incredible feeling to be in front of that kind of crowd, elevated above them by the stage, floating so high and out of reach. It feels like you are queen of a small country, leading a devoted band of soldiers into battle."
Being in a primarily female band in a still very male-dominated music scene is interesting. Historically, punk and hardcore or rock music in general is not for girls but that has been changing (slowly) for years. As with anything, there will always be idiots who are sexist and don't get it, but for the most part they are extinct. It's a powerful feeling to be on stage in front of hundreds of people and watch them be affected by it. It's a powerful feeling to have just one person tell you they like what you do. It's a powerful thing to have someone tell you that you made them feel good when you played. Respect is powerful and it's all I ever want out of a show. Period.