Today's Houston Punk-Rock Women Still Rewriting the Rules
This photo by Lana McBride/Others courtesy of David Ensminger
As the mid-late 1990s bloomed in the much-hyped "alternative" era, a whole new crop of dual-gender-fueled bands arose in Houston, including the brazen New Wave leanings of Japanic and Modulator, arthouse traditionalists Vulgarians, guitar heroes Gun Crazy, Lucky Motors' limber indie-rock, the Oi! street mayhem of UTA, the taut pop clatter of London Girl, the boiling first-wave punk redux of the Suffragettes, and the manic garage-rock of Junior Varsity.
"No one was really helping me understand what it was like to be a girl like me," recalls Vicky Satterwhite, singer for both London Girl and the Gigi's. "We were all reduced to [being] pretty boring, docile, sex symbols. It's important to remember when it was truly a rarity to see a strong woman rocking the fuck out in front of you."
"Growing up, I was obsessed with finding a common language with the pop singers of the 1980s, like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Belinda Carlisle. They were fun," continues the Corpus Christi native. Such women could could project themselves "in such strong ways, which was my own personal breakthrough into feminism," Satterwhite says. "As the decade progressed, I finally started going to shows and was energized by all the women of all genres singing to me, playing for me."
Satterwhite moved to Houston in 1994, and vividly recalls gigs in both communities.
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"These ladies gave me confidence to make my own dent in music, and I felt a definite kinship," she says of regional acts like Black Milk, locals like Junior Varsity, and national tours by Bis, Discount, Tribe 8, the PeeChees and Sleater-Kinney.
In that light, preserving such history is also about preserving the lore and stories of conversion and rites of passage, as well as acknowledging those acts who paved a path, fostering subsequent new generations.
As the millennium unfolded, the reconfigured Jewws and Magnetic Four arrived; Gina Miller, singer for the latter, also soon helmed the mutant darkwave of the Kimonos. Then came the high priestess of rock-n-punk, growling Mel Hell of Zipperneck, a unit slathered in equal parts Avengers and Motorhead -- a band ready to grab beers with the boys, nod to the musical past, and stomp on the idea of girly timidity.
"Documenting women in punk rock must be recorded like any history," cautions Trish Herrera, singer and guitarist for MyDolls, who recently played at Numbers for the first time since opening for Siouxsie and the Banshees in the early 1980s. "Women were not as involved in rock as much as punk rock, and we changed it. It's important to include everyone because it levels, expands, and includes more types of ideas."
"Punk rock is anti-form," she continues, "different from blues or classical or any other form of music, but alike in that a form, a sound, was manifesting. We changed the balance, but not on purpose. We just did it. And it was fucking fun, and still is."
Story continues on the next page.
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That fervid sense of fun continues with the likes of Something Fierce, Omotai, the Bad Drugs, Jealous Creatures, Screech of Death, Talk Sick Brats and a long stretch of women waiting to take their place behind bent mike stands, battered and stickered guitars, and duct-taped drum kits in the local punk pantheon. But the present should always be tethered to a tactile sense of the past, the roots of the uprising.
Anna Garza of Girls Rock Camp Houston
"Music is a way to empower women," argues the MyDolls' Linda Younger. "Being recognized by the Houston Press [Music] Hall of Fame and MEOW.com helped us realize that we have a responsibility to continue this legacy. That is why I have been involved in Girls Rock Camp Houston since its inception."
Today the School of Rock-style organization's local chapter is headed up by the likes of Anna Garza, herself a member of brash, back-to-basics punk bands including the Busy Kids and Ex-Girlfriends. Additionally, Web-based archives, live shows, radio broadcasts and similar rock camps help spread such history and truths in the present tense, cutting through the flood of misinformation so every lady can discover the punk inside her.
"Paying it forward is part of the 'guerrilla warfare' needed to get the punk-rock message across," says Younger. "Recognizing the need to speak the truth and not be afraid of what others think is a core concept that has to be embraced."
Girls Rock Camp Houston 2014 is scheduled from July 28-August 3 at MECA, 1900 Kane St. See the GRCH Web site for further details.
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