I think my dad secretly hoped I’d be the next Kim Deal when I was growing up.
Music was really the only way to get his attention. Some dads pressure their sons into winning state championships. Mine was adamant about music trivia--I had to know what was “good” and what was “lame,” who sang what, who wrote it, who produced it and what year it came out. Some parents make their kids sing songs from Annie when guests come over; mine showcased how much I knew about Talking Heads by asking questions like a drill sergeant.
Despite all this, a love of music is the best thing my dad has ever given me. There aren’t too many 6 year-olds who get to see The B-52’s. Music, live or otherwise, has always been a part of my life, and I’ve taken it for granted a time or two.
So when we talk, 90% of the time it’s about music. Sometimes baseball. But after plopping down in the outfield and picking daisies the entire game, we all knew I wasn’t destined to be a softball star. When my parents registered me for t-ball, things got botched somehow and I ended up on a boys team for a few weeks. That was okay with me. I was used to being one of the guys. Once I started playing for a girls league, my teammates would yell at my lack of athleticism.
Puberty passed, and I was no longer one of the guys. So in a misguided attempt to hang with bros and steal my daddy’s heart again, I played the stand-up bass for dorkestra. I loved the bellowing rumble it made when I ran a bow across the low E. I loved the vibrations against my chest. I loved helping my fellow stringers keep a beat.
When I started playing bass guitar, guys were all too eager to have me jam with them in their garage after school.
“You play bass? That’s hot.”
What IS that? Why do so many dudes salivate over a chick bass player? Is it because they are a part of the music without upstaging the guys? Is it because they’re thumbing inherently masculine low-pitched notes? I don’t get it.
Half the time I was looked at with undeserved dewey eyes because of this female bassist enigma, the rest of the time I was getting poo-pooed when I contributed anything. What could a girl possibly know about music, right? By that time I was writing songs on my guitar that I only felt comfortable playing in front of girls. It didn’t take long to realize I would never be one of the guys again; I was just an outsider in a boys club. And I haven’t played bass in 7 years.
I felt naked playing by myself and would irrationally start to cry. I liked being with a group. So I figured I’d start a girl band. The trouble, though, was no other girl I knew seemed as pumped about rocking out as I did. They didn’t know how to play such-and-such instrument and didn’t have any desire to learn. I know now it's not something I want to make a career out of, but it would be nice to find some ladies who want to rock out with me.
Last week, a lovely and talented female musician told me she wouldn’t put out any angry songs, because she didn’t want to be the next Alanis Morrissette. She’s folky. And while I like folk music, I often crave something I can shout and jump around to.
I might be the only one left who likes angry girl music. Maybe not Morrissette, but artists like Kim Deal and Kathleen Hannah and their byproducts, Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinney, The Donnas, Hole, PJ Harvey, and Lucinda Williams, to name a few, help me get out my angsty energy without turning into that scorned Carrie Underwood song.
You’re told a lot things as a girl. Things guys don’t feel guilty about. Don’t be too smart. Don’t be too stupid. Don’t be rude. Don’t be too proper. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t feel bad about your body. Don’t let people walk all over you. Don’t be too quiet. Don’t be too loud. Don’t be slutty. Don’t be a prude. Don’t date that guy. Don’t wear black with brown. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Just be yourself. Huh?
Getting angry is something you aren’t supposed to feel. Go cry about it in a bathroom stall and come out pretending it’s okay like a lady. I thought more women would relate to angry girl music. They scream about all the things you want to. What’s not to love?
I had tickets to see Sleater-Kinney once. They were opening for Pearl Jam. Instead, I ended up waiting around for my high school sweetheart’s friends, and we missed them. I pouted the whole time PJ played and to this day, as much as I love Pearl Jam, I tell people they aren’t that good live--not because they weren’t--they were great--but because I didn’t get to see a band I loved all due to boys who could care less about angry girl music.
What’s the appeal of male musicians then? A common stereotype is that men don’t talk about their feelings, so music is a way girls can know what they’re really feeling while guys can bond about how they feel under a guise of coolness.
I naively thought music made by women would have the same effect. It’s like FuBu--for us, by us. Lillith Fair fudged it up and stereotyped fans as lesbians who don’t shave their pits, when in fact all women could benefit from a place that actually allows you to feel what you feel. The Breeders’ The Last Splash was probably the last angry girl music guys were allowed to own. Thanks, Kim Deal, for leaving a legacy, as small as it may be.