Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Janis Joplin on Paper

You may have noticed a Janis Joplin documentary on Netflix currently called Little Girl Blue that includes Chan Marshall aka Cat Power  narrating.

Here is the trailer to that film:

Janis is best known for her unbridled vocal performances and wild child charisma however she first began expressing herself through drawing and painting in grade school. The film never goes into her interest in making art or her original desire to be a fashion designer so I took to the internet to seek out some of these sketches myself.

I love this snapshot (below) of her drawing the scarecrow from Oz. It is particularly wild to see Janis looking more like a cast member of Leave it to Beaver as a kid.

Her transition into life as an outcast began in grade school when she stood up against segregation in Texas when few in her community would. She was threatened for her belief in equality as well as mercilessly teased for bad skin, frizzy hair, and being slightly overweight all throughout her school years. Her response was to explore art, read beat writers, start dying her hair, and spend weekends hanging out drinking in Blues bars with a small circle of beatnik friends - all the opposite of what accepted ladylike behavior was by the mainstream. The peak of cruelty from others came when she was named "Ugliest Man on Campus" by Texas University frats in college. She left Texas and tried never looking back however the years of being tormenting had already taken their toll. Drinking and taking drugs were one coping mechanism but luckily for music fans, so was overcoming her haters to pursue her passion of making music.
"You are what you settle for"
                                   -Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin never settled. She was the child of a 1940s/1950s reserved family living in an equally conservative state yet she had the courage to push back against the masses no less allowed herself the freedom to reinvent herself. She defied her gender expectations by being among the first women to use screaming to enhance her vocal performances. She looked exactly as she pleased, including a tattoo which was nearly a half century before it was trendy no less acceptable for a women to have. She crossed color barriers by belting out her own raw take of the Blues. She was as a single, bi-sexual woman forging her way in a mostly male dominated music world. She had no mentor cutting the path for her. She led the way alone. The making and eventually breaking of this star had a lot to do with being a victim of bullying (eventually also leading to her body dysmorphia). For nearly a decade she carried a relentless drive to show the world that she was worthy of love and had something special by channeling that pain and self doubt into her art. The tragic irony of her life is the strife that helped fuel her talent would also be the same thing that helped extinguish her flame.

Friend of Joplin's Country Joe McDonald once stated that "Sexism killer her." and this quote haunts me. Janis refused to buy into conventional beauty or what a female front person should behave/sound like and she paid the price for it. She was finally earning the love and respect she craved from fans but for most of her short life, her trusted inner circle never delivered the kind of support system she needed desperately. Joplin also sadly lacked the self love to rise above the criticism. She found it difficult to escape feelings of loneliness and never learned to cope with the lows that followed the high of performing to large and enthusiastic audiences that wasn't in a bottle or drug.  

Joplin's life was over by the unbelievably young age of 27 in 1970. Her official cause of death was a heroin overdose but her heart had also been broken one too many times. We have had the opportunity to hear her bravely express herself unlike anyone who came before her through her voice but I appreciate seeing an added dimension to her character through her pictures.

The bulk of Janis Joplin's artwork below was created before music took over from approximately age 12 to 20.

As a final side note, in my search online I discovered that Joplin's niece Malyn Joplin has created a fashion line inspired by Janis called Made for Pearl.

Friday, September 16, 2016

News and Muse: September 16th, 2016

Before you post something about how the sky is falling because you skimmed a headline and believe Amoeba Records in Hollywood, CA is closing, read this. Read the full article before posting outrage people!

My ears are reminding me that this was the best thing it heard this week: Sampa the Great from Australia.

Aphex Twin and Bjork you say? Christmas comes early this year in Houston, TX.

Ladies, Yoko Ono wants you! Tell her about the trauma you have suffered for no other reason that being a woman. Her son Sean also made the news this week when he shared his unfortunate thoughts on mansplaining.

This is the most talked about music news story of the week; G.L.O.S.S turned down an Epitaph Records contract. To me the bigger story is that they might be the only band I know who talks about pressing 20k of a record out of the gate. Now that is the real story here.

Have you ever wondered why you hated the sound of your own voice? This article explains why. Science! 

England has two female revolutions happening; music (meet The Tuts, the newest in a seemingly endless crop of killer bands) and fashion.

The lesson here is one of determination and no apologies for being who you are. Publicist Michelle Kambasha shares her experiences as a black woman in the independent music world.

The New York Art Book fair is THE place to be this weekend. Somebody go and report back for me - please? You can get a Kim Gordon or Genesis Breyer P-Orridge tattoo! Oh, and in other Kim Gordon news, there is this short film made by Carrie Brownstein for the Kenzo fall/winter campaign. And wait! More KG news! She has a new single out too!

Amy McGrath of Denver, CO has written an essay about why women rock on and off the stage.

What does Marnie Stern have to do with Seth Meyers and his late night television show? Her enormous music talent is being put to good use.

These songwriters are fighting the Justice Department because of their recent music copyright ruling as it relates to digital streaming compensation.

Modular synth fans, don't miss this 25 minute non-tradional documentary on the making of the collaborative LP between Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Think of this as a visual companion to the music rather than your typical thing where artists talk about their project.

I have produced records with just about every vinyl pressing plant there is since the early '90s but my favorite experience remains with Erika Records. I first heard about them because they were partners with Sub Pop early on but I remain dedicated to them because they are owned by Liz Dunster. Oh the things this woman has put up with over the years because of her gender. I have so much respect for her and her dedication to producing top quality records in a professional manner. Check out this recent article on her and her company.

Nothing says objectifying and marginalizing women in a really stupid way quite like this very real recent music group comment. Tell me more about women in your creepy shoegaze fantasy world. Oh wait. Don't. Just don't. It is exhausting (not to mention insulting) to see comments like this about women in bands that treat us more like an accessory than a talented member of the band. We are real people who make art.

This article slipped through the posting cracks a few weeks ago. Why are more women freelancing?

Titwrench is raising the bar for music festivals according to this story.

Shirley Manson has some words for you about fetishizing the '90s, body image, and well, click here to see what else.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Music News and Muse: September 9th, 2016

The best thing I saw all week are these vintage suitcases turned into functional boomboxes.

I had the opportunity to interview Alice Bag for Le Sigh and if you don't know anything about her, this is a great place to start if I don't say so myself. If you want to know more about the birth of NY punk, this interview with three east coast legends is worth your time.

Holy crud - did you see the U+NFest 5 fest happening in Baltimore? ESG is the headliner and the line up of awesomeness explodes outward from there.

Paper wants you to know about 15 rising DJs and producers which also happens to = a whole lot of talented ladies.

What is better that one iconic punk singer? Two powerhouse vocalists! New band Sex Stains on Don Giovanni Records features Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Mecca Vazie Andrews.

Laura Marling is so curious about how equal women in music are, she has launched a new Podcast series dedicated to it.

Backyard Report! The Richmond Folk Festival is RVA's flagship annual music event and our friend/neighbor Katie McBride has designed the perfect poster for it this year.

Doe breaks down their new record track by track and I want to crawl inside of it and live there forever. Rawkus power Pop from the U.K. is what anyone with ears needs to hear on a Friday.

The feel good story of the month is this Mary Boyer, a 93 year old Prince fan from Cleveland. Thanks Drew Cary for making me instantly sing Cleveland Rocks.

Miranda Lambert has created a scholarship for female songwriters because she knows women in the industry could use the support. And while we are talking about scholarships. Bitch Media is currently accepting applications for their 2017 writing fellowships.

Learn more about the woman who helped shape the music of Britain's legendary series Doctor Who and has gone on to influence music decade after decade. Stranger Things included.

Wow busts some of the most common myths of being a woman in music.

Do you live in DC and dream of working for NPR? Look at this - they are currently hiring!

Pearl Jam's sound engineer for over two decades is Karrie Keyes and she has a group that supports and mentors women in in professional audio called SoundGirls. I now have a favorite new charity!

In my ears this week is Lithics from Portland, OR - brilliant post-punk. While we are on the subject of Portland, musician Joel Magid posted on Facebook a confession to sexually assaulting a woman in 2010.

Brix Smith-Start of The Fall was a guest on WFMU this week and you can listen to the full show here.

Prom Queen from Seattle nailed a mash up between the Stranger Things theme and Twin Peaks soundtrack song "Laura's Theme".

You might have been wondering what the singer/songwriter Jewel was up to and slaying Ann Coulter at the roast of Rob Lowe leads me to believe that comedy may be in her future.

The Black Girls Talking Bandcamp picks for August are worth your time.

Toxic masculinity is everywhere and I definitely have been literally punched out by it at shows, made the mistake of dating a few people who were fueled by it years ago, and watch the horror unfolding in the news each day and think to myself that there are a lot of angry men out there. There is now a zine about this and they are looking for submissions. And the dumbass of the week award goes to Cute is What We Aim for Singer for denying rape culture is a real thing. Idiot.

Living room tours are all the buzz and I am not just saying that because we recently sponsored one in our home. They are an offering a real way for touring artists to make money and reach fans in a sincerely intimate setting. Small and curated is the new making it. Shannon Curtis will fill you in.

T-Rextasy will make it all better.

And Bomba Estero too.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Music News: August 27th, 2016

The New Yorker reminds us that nostalgia is what really drives the music industry these days.

There is an all lady tribute to Devo called We Are Not Men. Thank you universe.

I spy a lot of old friends in this traveling photography exhibit curated by Mark Beener called Still Screaming. It also reminds me that the world of punk and hardcore through the '90s was a lot of dudes but glad to see Toko from The Van Pelt and Arabella from Jejune among the images.

Apple doesn't no jack. Industry talk says the new iPhone won't support the typical headphone jack. Music fans have yet another reason to be frustrated with a brand that feels less cutting edge and more like a dying cult these days. And if you don't believe me, here is reminder that iTunes turned 13 and "it is still awful".

Two bad ass ladies of color in punk from two different generations talk over tacos.This short film with Michelle from Spitboy and Christine of Try the Pie is tremendous.

Pitchfork schools us on the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

We continue to have a sexual assault problem at music festivals but what exactly are we doing about it?

We can always use a reminder that Pylon is one of the best bands to ever come out of Athens, GA. Don't worry, even R.E.M. and the B-52s agree.

Did you know there is a book that compiles every film that includes punks or new wavers? It exists and it is called Destroy All Movies. The celebration of the 40th anniversary of punk also carries on in London. While we are talking the U.K., hero status, Poly Styrene. Lastly the Amy Winehouse foundation opened up Amy's House, a 16- person home for women recovering from drugs and alcohol.

I know they are cute but you really, really should not buy a Crosley turntable if you care about fidelity or your records. Keep them away from your record collection at all cost!

Turn your favorite ticketstub into a swank doormat.

The great news is 29 private sector companies including Apple and Facebook have signed a pledge to commit themselves to helping close the gender pay gap for their employees. The bad news is that this is still an issue at all. Thanks guys?

Backyard report, my friend and favorite local DJ Sara Gossett talks Richmond in giving us the perfect "staycation"  via a wonderful Anna Goldfarb piece on Kitchn.

Our band recently played a benefit in Philly to help end rape culture. In between bands Kevin from Mercury Girls DJ'ed and at no point during the day was I ever disappointed. He has been kind enough to post his entire set (links for every song!) which is seriously a must check out for fans of girl groups spanning the past 60 years from all over the world.  

Inspired by the pages of fashion magazines, self taught artist Helen Rae who now at age 77 is both deaf and non verbal, had her fist solo art show. Not only did all of her detailed colored pencil pieces sell out immediately, she has become an outsider art sensation and with good reason. Up next, a show in Paris.

Hey! You! This is a reminder that you can be a mother and still be a successful artist.

Touring as a musician with a chronic disease is exhausting but it allow you to channel pain and frustration in important ways. Rachel Browne of Field Mouse shares her personal experience.

Folk music's answer to Billie Holiday; get to know Karen Dalton.

Australia's feminist music convention LISTEN returns in October.

UMG doesn't like Apple after another one of their artists (Frank Ocean) has worked out an exclusive deal that limits digital sales and marketing with a larger group of partners, the stuff that big businesses don't appreciate when they have heavily invested in them. UMG has decided to ban the practice of exclusive streaming which seems ironic since they were the ones who love giving major chains like Best Buy or Target exclusives in the physical world of CDs.

Beverly Watkins is a 77 year old Blues guitar player that says slowing down is not an option.

This is a half fast but well meaning collection of NYC venues/clubs that no longer exist in a photo form was a nice trip down memory lane regardless.

Speaking of Frank Ocean, could visual album releases be music's newest format?

Copyright violations are the flesh eating bacteria of the music industry with sites like YouTube (tech companies) acting as the filthy germ spreaders.

Ending with this beautiful Santigold video, a collab with Kara Walker.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Feminist Friday Music News: August 19th, 2016

There are a lot of disturbing yet fascinating perceived notions about women that simply are not true. These "truisms" are all wrong yet they are still setting us back in the world, from art to our careers. And no, Yoko did not break up The Beatles.

There is another brilliant record on Sister Polygon Records. Check out Post Pink from Baltimore.

Carol Kaye is among the most important American bass players. Discogs wrote a little piece on the most sought after records she plays on. And speaking of Discogs, they have a crowdfunding type idea for getting rare records repressed. It seems like a licensing nightmare to me so good luck with that.

Shaun White is best know for his snowboarding and skateboarding skills but he also plays in a band and is facing a lawsuit from an ex member for sexual harassment.

Light in the Attic is doing a series of reissues for the French painter/poet/post punker/painter Lizzy Mercier Descloux and Quietus wrote a really nice overview on all of her diverse and many talents.

Another long time record store closes down, this time Disc Exchange after 20 years of serving the Knoxville music community. What does it take for an indie record store to survive these days anyway? Weird, I would have guessed being independently wealthy was the answer.

Women are kicking ass in the Olympics this year so let's celebrate with a mix of brilliant feminist music from Brazil.

The band Fea is Latina punk at its finest.

I recently worked on an Alice Bag interview and spent a lot of time with her new album that is heavily inspired by '60s Girl Groups so this article about new bands influenced by this style couldn't be timed any better for me. I saw Midnight Snaxxx play a few years ago at Goner Fest and really loved them so while I don't know the other groups in this article, I stand by that band 100%.

So how do we stop sexual assault from happening at music festivals. It starts with education says David Huggins.

The problem with being a record nerd who is given a list like the story of feminist punk in 33 songs is I can't stop thinking about what I would change about it. In fairness though, this list is pretty darn great.

Oh boy! Another music industry race to the bottom. There are some important lessons to be learned in the demise of a sync music company in Chicago.

An old co-worker of mine Glenn Peoples wrote this piece about music marketing and the heart of the point really surprised me. Did you know that an artist's voice + new music = a serious click through rate?

Making music can be one of the most empowering and self confidence building tools in the world. A London engineering and design company is working on creating musical instruments for people with physical disabilities that may have otherwise been excluded from the gift of making music.

And in the name of a flashback Friday, check out Snatch, an obscure female punk duo from the late '70s.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Rise, The Fall, and the Rise : Brix Smith-Start : A Book and My Heart Rate


Fame. What's the point? It doesn't last. It doesn't guarantee money or respect. For every fan there is a reactionary hater. Being famous to some still means nothing to many others. It takes normal people and turns them into reclusive weirdos whose worlds are built around the machine that is trying to keep their fame alive for as long as possible. Their reality is ironically a false universe of people who mostly want to steal their light or ride their coattails. Strangers offer gifts that are actually disguised marketing schemes so businesses can align themselves with their aura of cool. When the fame bubble bursts (and it almost always does) these poor people are thrown back into the real world only to discover they are damaged goods with few real friends and zero real life skills. There is often no career plan B so next follows a depressing scramble to pay bills and rebuild a "normal" life. Fame. What a fucking terrible idea.

I would have said Brix Smith Start would agree but her story is an American marvel that has spread to other continents. She is a cat with 9 lives. She was born into a world of affluence, her rock and roll limelight timed out within a decade and yet she found her way back into the spotlight again in the most surprising of ways.

Some people don't seek fame, they are born with what I call shiny penny syndrome. People want to pick them up and stash them in their pocket. They glow from within like a jack o'lantern and people are naturally attracted to them. They stand out in a crowded room. People lean in when they speak just to be closer to their breath. They are catalysts to people's imaginations and desires. It is maddening to those who try to seek out that sort of magical existence because they discover it isn't something you can create or buy. Cool is a genetic freak accident only further fueled by money, style, and talent. Brix is one of those people. Like a moth to a flame, fame finds her.

Brix Smith-Start's story is the perfect balance of American dreams and nightmares. Her grandfather entered the country as an immigrant and amassed a fortune in California through hard work and innovation. A sun soaked and decadent life for his family was to follow. Financial privilege afforded her one of a kind opportunities (horses, Friar's club brunches, Beverly Hills shopping, housekeepers) but tied into that cost was also an abusive father eventually cut from her life, feeling like a causality of divorce with parents split between two states, and a revolving door of caregivers. An eating disorder complicated her already tense childhood. Huge things would be on the horizon for Brix but again good came along with the bad. Her teenage years brought drugs, sex, an introduction to the world of fashion, exotic travel, but also there was also brutal sexual assault. An elite college experience included a vampire bite that caused a serious infection (no really!) a bloody concussion, and an unwanted pregnancy. At this point we are only at the halfway through the book now and like a car crash you can't look away from, in walks Mark E Smith, the leader (AKA dictator) of The Fall. Here is a man that has dedicated most of his adult life to being a living, breathing, seething artist. One part drunk, one part poetic wrecking ball.

Each new chapter of The Rise, The Fall, and the Rise encourages me to curse. I have found myself wincing while muttering FUCK! or SHIT! The intensity and wildness of the first portion of the book is matched, no, surpassed by the second half. Her life gets stranger - something that seems nearly impossible. Overnight she goes from a fan of The Fall with minimal band experience to being not only a member of the band but living in England and married to Mark in a whirlwind that keeps swirling for much of the '80s.

Brix's entire story in wholly unbelievable and she articulates it in a manner that is like catnip to the curious. You will find yourself wondering how one person can fall (pun intended) into this many crazy situations. They seem to seek her out unlike the reality stars of today who fake drama and jump start headlines. There are endless run-ins and brushes with fame from fairytale royalty to the hard to pin down je ne sais quoi icons of hip usually associated with the likes of Lou Reed and Nico. From the ashes of a dead-end she rises time and time again. Her story is one of perseverance, survival, spirituality, and surreal luck.

Out of the hundreds of jaw dropping moments recreated in this book, one small paragraph still haunts me. Brix played on and helped write some of the most memorable and popular Fall albums yet she has never seen one cent of royalties from any of those records. When Mark E Smith walked out on her as a cheating husband, he also cheated her of rightful compensation. Yes, plenty of dirt dished in regards to their relationship in and out of the band but I think what is most surprisingly is her ability to forgive him and still see the good when most people in her shoes would have bludgeoned him to death with them.

A weaker individual would have come apart at the seams after the 10th bottoming out but Brix's star shine doesn't fade; she pops back to life like a trick candle whose flame can't be extinguished. She reappears in new bands, builds new career paths, becomes romantically entangled with a series of larger than life characters, and eventually ricochets back stronger than ever on UK television. I didn't know what to expect from this book but once I recovered from the shock of a world class roller coaster ride, I was left with hope and comfort. No life is perfect.We each cope in strange and wonderful ways to get by. It is reminder that around the corner isn't just more disaster or doom but occasionally things of true marvel, joy, and beauty. Just as easily as we can let others own us, we can take back our lives and make the impossible happen.

This books comes highly recommended and I have made you a playlist (18 plus hours!) of all the music she discusses in the book in chapter order.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Feminist Friday for the Week of July 25th, 2016

Jes Skolnik wrote a great guide to pitching publications in the digital/ social media world.

Hey New Zealand friends, here is your opportunity to own 300 boomboxes. Check out this ridiculously awesome slice of music history. The seller won't split up the collection so be prepared to make some room for them all.

Photos of DC's Girls Rock! showcase taken by Farrah Skeiky are heartwarming and inspirational.

Fader recently spotlighted 7 queer bands from the U.K. worthy of your attention. I already knew I LOVED Shopping but that Cruising video!

Say what you will about Kickstarter (haters gonna hate), these numbers tell us that they are making a positive impact on the creative community. With Molly Neuman Hernandez (Bratmobile, The Peechees) at the helm of their music division, I would expect nothing less.

Backyard report: local Richmond, VA record label Grave Mistake has a new Earth Girls (Chicago) release coming August 12th. The Le Sigh debuted a new track this week; prepare for some quality Pop on 11. In other local news, RVA Magazine featured Samantha Brodek, a pen and ink artist whose macabre work has appeared on many an album cover or band shirt.

Meet Sarah Robbins from Alright/Faye/ Self Aware Records. Charlotte, NC is my new favorite and this lady is one of the main reasons why.

I have worked at records stores on and off for more than two decades. You wouldn't believe the things customers say and do within the walls of the shop. Luckily a record store clerk has written them all down and is willing to share. Anyone who has worked retail will appreciate these tales.

Kelley Deal from The Breeders is making scarves. It looks like she already sold out so you better bookmark this page because winter is coming.

Did you know women are winning the symphony chair game? More than 50% of the chairs in the top American 250 orchestras are filled by women.

Imagine putting your heart and soul into making music only to have it hijacked by someone like Donald Trump for the Republican party. These musicians say enough is enough.

Could this be the end of  the vinyl boom? Duh.

Scotland has a music festival called Pandora where women were the primary focus.

This exhibition of Japanese portable record players appeals to me on every level.

Awe yeah! Another interview with the Latina DJ crew Chulita Vinyl Club.

The Indietracks festival is this weekend (Saint Etienne, The Aislers Set, The Spook School, Comet Gain) is also fundraising for Sarcoma UK, a charity Camera Obscura's Carey Lander was involved in before she passed of this cancer last year. If you aren't able to make it to the festival, you can still donate to the cause. 

This Chicago group of women in music are creating their own safe spaces. Los Angeles also has a version of this, meet PLAG (play like a girl). This is a growing trend and I love it.