The first time I set foot inside of ABC No Rio was in 1996. I was 15.
Notable memories from that fateful afternoon include standing in a packed basement crowd with my friend Pilar. Moshing chaos was ensuing all around us for a band that drew a lot of spikey hair.
Next I remember a drunken punk rock guy stumbling back towards us and realizing nearly too late that he was unzipping and pulling it out and whoops! He started peeing into the corner, basically over Pilar’s head as we fled the area.
This was long before the days of Willie Mae Rock Camp, but months later I would see God is My Co-Pilot in a low-key early show that warms my memory today. I would connect with independent media in the zine library, and be inspired to write my own.
Eventually my friends Robyn, Shannon, Jess and I started a punk band and played many Saturday afternoon matinees at ABC No Rio with other locals. We were called The Lizzies and we wrote, recorded and released all of our own music. I’m talking about myself a lot because that is my full disclosure in writing this story; truth is, I’ve been writing it for a long time.
I arrived at ABC last Saturday, sixteen years after that first matinee for a record release party celebrating the first full length release from the local girl band Claire’s Diary. The record will be released worldwide on iTunes today. It was the first time it really sunk in how far things had come.
Moms and Dads and sisters and classmates and teachers all packed into the gallery to cheer on all the bands. Unfortunately I missed the first act, Kelly Montoya, but I heard good things.
I pulled back the big cloth draped across the doorway – everything looks exactly the same, mics still shock singers unless draped in a sock – just in time to see the second act, Tiny Tusks.
Comprised of Sabrina (Bass), Natalie (Guitar, Vox), and Lauren (Drums, Vox) – who has previously contributed to this site and our Queerespondence party series – Tiny Tusks left it on the stage. These ladies shifted from obvious emo and hardcore roots to punky riot grrrl flavor and their sound was intense. They have been playing out for a year and are about to go into the studio to record their material. They have a demo up on bandcamp.
Next up was Tin Vulva who were quite impressive. Comprised of Kat Wong (Bass, Drums, Vox), Sarah Soller-Mihlek (Guitar, Bass, Vox) and Vanessa Rondon (Drums, Guitar, Vox), their record will also be officially released soon. These ladies have power and their stage presence was fierce. Through raucous lyrics addressing catcalls on city streets channeling angst through powerful riffs, their message hung heavy even in that room (for all you sound snobs). I bought their split 7” with No TV Tonight.
The event was curated by Fake French, whom I applaud for putting together this line up to build anticipation for the afternoon’s headliner.
Claire’s Diary hit the stage and the crowd surged to the front of the room. The bands presence and confidence feed their intricate sound and sharp cues. Singer and guitarist Sophie Kasakove is a star with an ease of technical skill that far surpasses any other star I’ve seen to date, and certainly anyone I’ve seen on their way to Brown next year. She’s also the editor of Grrrl Beat.
The spunk of drummer Isadora “Izzy” Schappell and charm of synth player Kiri Oliver remind me of my friend Allison Wolfe helming a Bratmobile show. The rhythm and keys add pop synth at times and darkness at others. The band’s token guy, Joey Koneko, has a style all his own and he doesn’t fall to the backdrop as some guys tend to in mostly lady bands.
From the first note of the live set Claire’s Diary blew me away. The maturity of their sound and the deepness of their message really hit home how even just a little bit of encouragement will go a long way towards motivating young women to own the stage like these young women do.
And ahead of this year’s SXSW 2013 premiere of Sini Anderson’s documentary The Punk Singer on the life of Kathleen Hanna, I relished seeing all of these young girls take to the stage without hesitation and do what it is that riot grrrls have always done, and turn it up to 11 for a new generation.