“This song’s for all the people who have been f—ing assholes to us, cause we’re young, cause we’re girls. Well…he’s a boy but people are d—ks to him for that too. Everyone’s sexist man, it’s not just boys…but they suck & they’re stupid & you should never listen to them.” –The Regrettes
Last Thursday was inspiring and powerful at Echoplex, proving that women can rock just as hard (if not harder) than their male counterparts. In an era where a rock festival can still get away with having only five acts with women out of thirty-five (we’re looking at you, When We Were Young festival), this all-female lineup made an important statement. Bleached headlined the “Can you Deal? Riot” show, which was also stacked with killer openers – the Side Eyes, Upset, & The Regrettes. In honor of Women’s History Month, these badass women came together to shred and pay homage to punk’s Riot Grrl foremothers.
I arrived just in time for the last few songs performed by Upset. Boasting some serious 90’s punk pedigree, Upset features the former drummer of Hole, Patty Schemel, and the former drummer of punk-inspired Best Coast, Ali Koehler, on guitar & lead vocals. They are joined by Lauren Freeman as lead guitarist and Rachel Galiardi on bass & vocals. Essentially, Upset makes the garage band cool again. Upset’s brand of retro nostalgia pines for their own formative adolescent years, retroactively attempting to mentor their younger selves through the insecurity and angst of growing up. Although their stage presence fell short of the rowdiness I expected to accompany such riotous songs, their snarky comments between songs more than made up for it. “How many of us are in therapy? …well it should be 100%”. They were even able to inspire a few of the hardcore fans near me to mosh, including an older gentleman clad in spike bracelets and leather, whom I dubbed “Pit Grandpa”. Koehler’s t-shirt pretty much summed up Upset’s message, that they are still “YOUNG ANGRY WOMEN” at heart.
Continuing Upset’s youthful narrative, actual teenagers The Regrettes also had quite a lot to say. For high-school-aged kids, their touring experience (playing SXSW, opening for Sleigh Bells, Peaches, etc.) is impressive. Fresh off their month-long tour, their L.A. homecoming stage was set with red roses and haze for a mystical romance. The retro, old Hollywood glamour was further augmented by their artsy outfits: frontwoman and guitarist Lydia Night stunned in a white fur coat with her black bob pinned back with small roses, guitarist Genessa Gariano channeled ‘60s mod in red plaid cigarette pants, bassist Sage Nicole was goth glam in a burgundy velvet dress and choker, and drummer Maxx Morando’s James Dean-esque mop of tousled hair just peeked out from behind the drum set. Their bright pop-punk angst cuts through the initial façade of roses and romance – candid and raw against the contrived setting, about the trials of growing up as women, as feminists, and as humans.
Starting out with “Juicebox Baby”, The Regrettes used the sentimentalities of childhood to describe a whirlwind first love. However, the playground theme only tricked the audience into thinking that The Regrettes play along with their youthful appearance. “Seashore” proved that no matter how Moonrise Kingdom-esque they may look, they are fed-up with being treated as kids. Tired of being talked down to and disrespected, The Regrettes told their naysayers to “just go f*** yourselves”. Feminist ideals are also a foundational theme in their songs: “Ladylike / WHATTA B****” starts with Lydia singing a cappella– rattling off in quick succession the list of strict behaviors that society dictates for women. Then it turned explosive, to directly contrast the effects that those standards have on peer relations. With a snarl, Lydia’s lyrics address common school rumors that plague young girls: that she’s “a feminist so she must not shave her pits” or that she turned down a cute boy because “she is just a lesbian”, not that “she was just not into him”. She doesn’t give a clarifying answer, however, because that’s none of anyone’s business. “A Living Human Girl” details perceived flaws and imperfections like acne, greasy hair, unshaven legs, and moodiness. Invoking Heart’s famous anthem, The Regrettes challenged their haters to “take [their] best shot” if they don’t accept those facts of life, and especially puberty. While Night growled out the description of an aloof, it-girl over deep minor chords on “Picture Perfect”, she climbed down from the stage into the crowd. We danced with her and sang the “ooh baby baby” hook (sampled from the historic hit “Push It” that made Salt n’ Pepa the first female rap group to go platinum) directly into her mic. Only at an intimate venue could that special, direct connection with fans happen.
Bleached capped off the night with a different aesthetic: bunches of daisies taped to the mics, acid-washed denim, and black-and-white, distressed-style text art projected behind them. Comprised of sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin on vocals and guitar, along with bassist Macyla Grace and drummer Nick Pillot, Bleached represented the late-twenties demograhic on this multi-generational, feminist night. Defiant of rock music as an exclusive “boys-club”, Clavin steadily intoned “I’m a girl and I play in a band…I listen to Sabbath, with all of my friends” on the title track of the concert’s namesake album. “Wednesday Night Melody” makes good use of amp feedback to give grit and edge to the melodic song. Like The Regrettes, the frontwoman also voyaged into the crowd for this rebellious anthem, to the crowd’s raucous enjoyment. Standing tall in the crowd next to me, in a ripped leopard dress and messy platinum blonde hair, Jennifer was a modern day incarnation of female punk pioneers such as Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Hole’s Courtney Love.
The “Can You Deal? Riot” show brought ‘90s feminist punk back in full force– reminding the rock genre that women of all ages can rock, will rock, and will fight to cement their place. Can You Deal with that??