Girlschool 2010 - Page 2

FALL ARTS: Fall is here, and women are ruling the Bay Area rock scene

Grass Widow dodges rock conventions while making the leap to Kill Rock Stars

The cover of Grass Widow's second, newly released album, Past Time (Kill Rock Stars), appears to sidestep the issue, until you look closely and notice Lew, guitarist-vocalist Raven Mahon, and drummer-vocalist Lillian Maring poking their heads out a car window in the background. "We're very blurry, but we could be really hot!" Lew jokes. "We probably are really hot!"

Some consider Grass Widow hot for altogether different reasons: the band is often brought up by other all-female local bands as a favorite, and Past Time stands to find a place beside such influential groups as the Raincoats for its blend of sweetness and dissonance, spare instrumentation and sing-out confidence, and interwoven vocals. In some ways, Grass Widow sounds as if it's starting from scratch in a post-punk universe and going forward from there, violating rockist convention.

Are they, as their name might suggest, mourning an indie rock that might or might not be dead? Well, when Lew, Mahon, and Maring started playing together in 2007 under the moniker Shit Storm ("It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, like the facial tattoo of band names!" says Lew), they probably couldn't predict how sadly apropos Grass Widow — a centuries-old phrase referring to a woman whose husband is away at sea or war or on duty — would become. Last year, among other events, Lew's father, noted SF Rabbi Alan Lew, passed away. "We took a six-month break during this intense grieving period, and it was strange to come out of it and think, we're in a band called Grass Widow," Lew says now. "And we were grass widows to each other! Then playing again, it felt right to be in a band like that — it took on this other meaning."

In a similar way, the group regularly works together to transform their experiences, thoughts, and dreams through allegory into song lyrics — and for its release party, it plans to incorporate a string section and a 35-lady choir. "We're not a girl group mourning the loss of our boyfriends and waiting for them to return," muses Mahon. "It's more like we're working together to create and we're functioning just fine that way."


"We're associated with a lot of bands that came along a few years later, but when I started writing songs three or four years ago, it was a wasteland," says Jess Scott, Brilliant Colors' vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. "It was really hard to find people who wanted to play pop, not hardcore. It seems like a given now, but it was hard to find people who were into Aislers Set."

Scott's tenacity and focus comes through — loud, clear, and as vivid as the brightest hues in your paint set, and the most resonant melodies of Aislers Set — on Brilliant Colors' 2009 debut, Introducing (Slumberland). Her breathy vocals and rhythm guitar — a crisp combination of post-punk spunk and drone — bound off drummer Diane Anastacio's frisky, skipping beats and bassist Michelle Hill's simple, straight-to-the-gut bass lines like the most natural thing in the world, recalling punk classics by early Buzzcocks and Wire as well as later successors Delta 5 and LiliPUT and riot grrrl-era kin Heavens to Betsy and Huggy Bear.

Scott has been writing songs since she was 15, which, full disclosure, was around the time I first met her, the daughter of two moms, one of whom I worked with. At the time, her sound was softer, more melodic, and at times weirder than the punk outfits that frequented 924 Gilman Street Project, her pals' preferred hangout. Nevertheless, Brilliant Colors has gone on to somehow fuse Gilman's political-punk commitment with Scott's obsession with perfecting pop songcraft.


C'mon....we've been waiting..what..thirty years for a real chick band that can actually play--er..invoke--real music. Not just some whiny garage band thrash pumping, And we're still waiting. Period.

Posted by Guest Nick Stuart on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 1:06 am

I am absolutely in awe of your ignorance, Nick.

Posted by Mike on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 10:48 am

Which I thought this article was going to be about.

The Headcoatees were good too.

But as 95% of bands suck, it's not a chick thing in that there is so much sucking in general.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 25, 2010 @ 11:00 am

"People are automatically, 'They're hot! Omigod, that one is hot!'"

Really? Ahem...

Anyway, if these bands are the best the Bay Area has to offer, no wonder the current music scene is at best a joke, and at worst non-existent to anyone outside of the Bay. Wow, guitar, drums, bass and singing- but wait- they're girls! OMG, how unique!

You know, there is a ton of music that isn't centered around the same old rock instrumentation, song structures, and clichés but I guess The Guardian couldn't be bothered to do a bit of research on that. Instead they focused on the same old boring stuff, the same types of groups who will have no lasting impact on anything because they are imitating a form of music that was perfected about 25 years ago. But, OMG, they're girls! In costumes! How unique!

How about an article on Bay Area musicians who are actually trying to do something interesting with their music instead of marketing themselves and their gimmicky music and image?

Posted by David on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

I'm very interested to know.

Keep in mind techno isn't music.

Another great band that happened to be women was Yellow Machine Gun.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 26, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

Barn Owl. Moon Duo. The Alps. Jonas Reinhardt. Other local artists on the Root Strata label. Check out the On Land Festival next weekend to see some of them. Or just stroll through Aquarius Records and ask for recommendations if you are really serious and don't have some built-in excuse not to consider them as "real" since they don't package their music into the verse/chorus/verse format.

Posted by David on Aug. 27, 2010 @ 10:42 am

extensively, David. Also, maybe you should actually listen to some of the bands Kim is writing about above, like Grass Widow, who go far beyond the lame stereotype of rock you say we're aping. And what's wrong with writing an article about the fact that there are a lot of female garage rock bands coming to prominence at the moment, anyway? You seem to want to read an article about bands you like. Obviously, this isn't that article. This is this article.

PS lol at "perfected 25 years ago" in your earlier comment -- what, do you mean like Bryan Adams and Huey Lewis & the News?

Posted by marke on Aug. 30, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

And how ignorant can you be?

Next you'll be telling us that the Kronos Quartet are "un-listenable"?

1960 called, it wants you to criticize "Jazz"

Posted by Frank McGee on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

smart drugs lost popularity, and the water & air bars closed up.

Too bad techno didn't die an equally 90's death.

Posted by matlock on Sep. 01, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

that's when your aesthetic sensibility and adventurous aural spirit did as well.

Posted by marke on Sep. 01, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

I love the Twinks and you guys suck a$$.

Posted by Guest Carebear on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 7:37 am


Posted by Guest Beth Loudmouth on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

your only good band

Posted by loudmouth? on Sep. 01, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

Given: the author likes her music and the specific bands she has on her IPOD, but GIRL don't go steppin' on the ladies toes that don't have a place on your IPOD. You caused a riff which I am sure you can relish in and slap on a hotdog and be like fuck yeah; or you'll be having a light bulb moment and redo the article. Alot of people have never heard of any of those bands you featured in your article seems like the title was not the right fit.. Cinderella moment. Yes eveyone, Kim had one.

Here's a thought why don't you redo the article and really break it down by genre. Dude you gotta get out more and go to more shows with girls in bands if you wanna do a girlschool article. And just because some bands practice in an old wannbe gentrified meat locker don't make them about burgers n' shakes.. I wanna job writing BS in the Guardian

Posted by Guest Scarlet on Sep. 01, 2010 @ 10:37 am

Where are my girls The Hot Toddies at?! They've been rocking SF with their original fun, all female indie garage pop since 2006... pretty similar to the bands you're describing. Seems to me like u left out the band that started the trend...


Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

Yeah, I agree with Robyn! The Hot Toddies were one of the only bands around doing an all-female garage indie pop band when they started around 5 years ago, and now it's kind of a thing and they get no mention? C'mon!

Posted by Ryan on Sep. 14, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

I love the Twinks! How could you not love surf-y garage pop?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2010 @ 10:22 am

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