featuring Ez Bake Organs, Emily Herring, Ricki Comeaux, Fair Verona, 5 Days Late, and Girlush Figure
Howlin’ Wolf, New Orleans, LA • September 2, 2000
The idea of a music festival of all girl bands is hardly new. It has been done on a huge commercial scale with Lilith Fair, and on a less commercial yet decidedly more political angle with Ladyfest in Olympia, Washington. The first Girls Rock fest in New Orleans was held on Labor Day weekend, promising about ten hours of mostly new bands showcasing their talents. I have to admit a certain amount of trepidation, as many events like this collapse under their own weight and pretensions. Too many egos get involved and all the joy is sucked out, or the whole thing is run so loose that nothing gets done. The reality of Girls Rock is that at every point that things could have gone wrong, things went right. Although there were no big names, the bands that played were quite good and represented music styles, from quiet folk to teeth-rattling punk.
Ez Bake Organs
What can one say about a band that features three women playing organs and singing songs about long-dead midgets? How about amazing. This New Orleans trio — which includes Myshkin, who is best known for her folk music and collaborations with Mike West — is fun, funny, endearing, and totally addictive. They sing songs that are sarcastic, sentimental, and political, and some like “I Miss December” are all three at the same time. Ez Bake Organs could carve a nice niche playing with They Might Be Giants.
The first third of Girls Rock was a bit heavy with solo acoustic folk acts. It was quite difficult to choose one of those artists to single out. Denton, Texas’ Emily Herring, with her slightly off-kilter delivery and unique style, wins out. Bucking the current trend, which is basically trying to sound as much like Ani DiFranco as possible, Emily Herring weaves songs out of a bluesy country fabric that is so much a part of Central Texas. In a sea of sound-alike singer/songwriters, Herring demands to be heard.
By early evening, the crowd at the Howlin’ Wolf was looking for something a tad more upbeat. One more sad folk song might have sent people scurrying. But then it was time for Ricki Comeaux. The leggy girl with the blonde buzzcut flat tore it up with a half-hour set that proved you can rock out with acoustic guitars. She and her band ripped through a number of hard-driving originals and a smattering of inspired covers. Comeaux leads a solid band with her potent voice and commanding stage presence, as she struts, preens, and shakes it on stage like Mick Jagger in a mini dress.
I remember Fair Verona from this year’s South By Southwest. They were one of the bands on my list to try to catch. I didn’t get to see them in Austin, and whoever it was I saw instead was a mistake, because Fair Verona is one fantastic band. With their driving, impassioned alternarock sounds, they were captivating. The band is fronted by three women, all of whom play and sing. Fair Verona may have a name that sounds like some sweet girlie band, but take notice these ladies can rock. Luckily for them, they played late enough in the evening that there was a good-sized crowd looking for music to really get into, and they found it from these ladies from Nashville. The drummer from 5 Days Late called them better than Sleater-Kinney. I may not go that far, but they’re awfully damn good.
5 Days Late
5 Days Late, a trio of girls from Baltimore, sheepishly took the stage following the performance of Fair Verona. They may have had a tough act to follow, but once they plugged in, they more than held their own. Armed with more attitude and power than finely honed musical chops these girls were kicking it old school riot grrrl. There is nothing quite like a roughly hewn, in your face girl punk band, and 5 Days Late certainly fit that description.
Decked in vintage formals with combat boots and body glitter, these glam princesses are not to be taken lightly. Their theatrics only augment a decidedly potent brand of punk. Although they’re from Richmond, Virginia, their sound is far more influenced by bands from the Pacific Northwest. They even did a song about Mia Zapata of the Gits, who was murdered leaving a show. Despite their West Coast influences, Girlush Figure is not riot grrrl, they have taken more cues from Mudhoney than Bikini Kill. They have a big sound and lots of flash, charisma, and attitude. Even though comparison to Hole or Babes in Toyland are almost inevitable, Girlush Figure is certainly their own band. Despite hearing nearly twenty bands in one day, Girlush Figure is the band that stands out most strongly. I can’t think of much better praise than that.