with Backyard Babies and the El Caminoes

The Masquerade, Atlanta, GA • November 19, 1999

L7 wrapped up the tour for their latest release, Slap Happy , in Atlanta. The band had undergone some major changes, including the loss of their bassist Gayle Greenwood and the formation of their own label. Touring with these angry LA ladies were Sweden’s Backyard Babies. Atlanta’s El Caminoes got the show off with their raunchy rock songs.

Stockholm’s Backyard Babies entered the stage brandishing tattoos and leather, swinging their guitars around their ankles, and played a hard rock set that involved a lot of kicking and screaming. They doused themselves in water between songs and sprayed the audience with their beer. Towards the end of their set, a man in an ape suit danced on stage, apparently keeping with some sort of Swedish metal tradition. With songs like “Sick and Tired of You” and “Shut Up,” these guys knew how this crowd wanted to be entertained.

Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, and Dee Platkas came on stage and quickly took command of the audience, showing that years of touring and performing have not mellowed these ladies at all. They spat at the audience, gave everyone the finger, and used vulgar language, but at the same time made it a point to thank all the “sweet Georgia peaches” for coming out. Playing songs from Slap Happy , I thought I would see a little more action from the audience. There was a little obligatory moshing going on and someone threw a cup of beer at Donita Sparks that missed, but there was no stage diving or body surfing. During “Lackey,” one girl jumped up on stage and waved to her friends. Is this what punk has become? I wondered if the security guard copped a feel as he dragged her offstage.

Before the fourth song, Donita introduced the band’s new bass player, Janice Tanaka, and then played a little song they wrote for her. “Janice Tanaka, she likes to Rock-a!” Then it was back to being to the ruthless and angry hardcore with “Bad Things” and “Drama.” They followed with “Living Large,” which Donita announced as “our slow number, so we prefer you jack-off in your hands and swallow it yourself,” and kicked back in with “Shitlist.”

L7 performed before a predominantly female audience. I saw a lot of young girls in pasty white make-up with heavy black eyeliner to emulate Donita Sparks. L7 are tough angry women singing to tough, angry girls. Or at least girls who think they are. L7 remains a force today because they are music for today’s troubled youth. And now that L7 are in more control over the business end of their music with their Wax Tadpole label, there’s no slowing them down.

For their last song, the boys of Backyard Babies returned to stage wearing bras over their shirts. They sang backup and lay on the floor as Donita and Janice wiggled their hips over the boys’ mouths. When they returned for the encore, Janice wasn’t wearing any top. Donita said she didn’t want to be outdone by boys in bras. They performed another fifteen minutes closing their last tour for the millennium with “Pretend We’re Dead.” They left the stage littered with beer bottles, spit, beer puddles and litter.

Backstage, I asked Donita if owning the label changed how they controlled their music. She told me, “We’re enjoying our lives of independent mogul status with hookers, cocaine, and cigars.” I guess that says it all, then.

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