Back in January, David Ensminger, local punk-rock archivist, Houston Press freelancer, professor and all-around cool guy, wrote a fine book called Punk Women. After an impressive Facebook countdown he called "120 Days of Women in Punk," every day featuring a different female contributor to the genre, Ensminger set his release party at one of Houston’s raddest record stores, Vinal Edge.
The party showcased punk-rock talent by local women and featured some bands that reunited just for the show. Whatever persuasive talents Ensminger possesses for getting bands back together is powerful magic, because he's done it again. Buckle up, punks, this is a banger.
Tonight at Vinal Edge, Ensminger will release Volume 2 of Punk Women and welcome a collection of bands that would rival any punk-rock fest on either coast. With guest appearances, covers, and voices not heard in Houston in years, it's no exaggeration to say this show is historic.
The all-ages show is free and starts at 7 p.m., with performances by Mish Bondage of Sado Nation, the debut performance of $50.00 Goat, Dallas' Lizzie Boredom and The Kimonos — all bands featured in the book. Lone Star punk legends the Texas Biscuit Bombs will play backup for Mish Bondage and beloved local rocker Allison Gibson (Supergrave, Baron Von Bomblast) will perform an L7 cover.
Mish Bondage is a very special guest in the lineup. Flying in from Portland, Oregon, Bondage knows this book is special and so is the live performance. “I've been in punk bands since 1980,” she says, noting she's known Ensminger for years and is excited about contributing to the book and show. “He had covered my band, Sado-Nation, in the book and asked if I wouldn't mind contributing.”
Bondage knows that her history matters just as much as men’s punk history, the reason Punk Women is so important — so young female performers can know the history they stand on. Punk wasn’t always nice to women, but neither was any music genre. Women have always had to fight harder for the spotlight. “We defiantly earned our scars,” Bondage adds.
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“When we started [punk] was very new and women generally weren't that prevalent in rock bands," she elaborates. "Punk gave us girls the opportunity to play and develop our skills as musicians.”
Punk rock has been a binding force for sure. “My relationships with my female friends in punk have lasted 35-plus years," Bondage says. "We banded together when we were mere teens and we continue to stand strong together to this day.
“From there it evolved into riot-grrl and by then women in rock were far more acceptable," she adds. "I would hope our struggles and progress have paved the way for young girls today to follow their own dreams as artists.”
Locals The Kimonos haven’t played together in years. “At least five…Valentine’s Day, 2012,” figures lead singer Gina Rodriguez Miller. “I am ecstatic to re-unite with drummer Josh Barry and even coerced my hubs, Major Miller [Western Standards] to play and have a good time. I am really over the moon to re-connect [with] them onstage and with the ladies!”
When approached by Ensminger to write an essay for the book, Miller felt humbled. “I am so honored to be able to share my experience about being a woman in Houston’s music scene," she says. "[Ensminger has] definitely been an ally to women in music.”
“He’s written about so many women punk....and so many pioneers in Houston who paved the way," she says, citing Mydolls, Pain Teens and Christi Workman of Stinkerbell and De Schmog. "It’s an honor to be a tiny part of the legacy.”
Barry agrees that women in music deserve more recognition. “I’ve always gravitated to female-fronted bands, whether it’s one I’m playing in or just listening," he says. Barry knows what he’s talking about, too; he’s involved in not just one female-fronted band but several, including Jealous Creatures, Zipperneck (also with Mel Hell) and Japanic.
“Having the writing perspective, voice, and balance of women in a band full of testosterone just creates a fuller picture and sound to me," he adds. "Debbie Harry and Blondie, Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, and Exene [Cervenka] with X were really important.”
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Perhaps that’s why it’s so important to write and record those narratives while they're still fresh. According to Ensminger, at 100 pages Volume 2 features essays by several women who will perform at the gig, including Lisa Fer of Screech of Death and Mel Hell of $50.00 Goat, Zipperneck and Texas Mod Crushers. Both volumes also feature tons of photos, flyers and album art.
“The books and gigs are glimpses into the often overlooked intelligence, power, and inventiveness of women, who for four decades have been a vital portion of the DNA of punk," explains Ensminger. "This is the real countercultural narrative, especially in the time of marauding males.”
Indeed, women seem to be gaining in strength and power as their voices grow symbolically louder. Looking at our current cultural climate, we need stong women more than ever. Since the #MeToo movement is still going strong, women have finally created a platform where they’re heard, believed and taken seriously. Punk rock is the perfect place to find women of strong character, perseverance and creativity. Come see it in person for yourself as Houston makes punk rock history.
The Punk Women 2 Book Party is 7-9 p.m. tonight at Vinal Edge, 239 West 19th. All ages, no cover.