Beer and Pavement

Kim Deal Solo Series

Posted in GenderBender, Records, Review by SM on October 3, 2014



I realize that I’m probably late to this party, but I just acquired the first four installments of Kim Deal’s solo series and had to write about them. In the post below, I’ll wax poetically about Kim Deal’s importance to music, the songs in this series, and the 45.

Kim Deal is no fool. She doesn’t make (or at least release) a bad record. The Pixies, The Breeders, (Tammy and) the Amps, The Pixies again, The Breeders again, and now this solo work is all joyous noise. She crosses the basement tape his of Guided by Voices with the percussive drive of Tom Waits mixed with loopy Pavement guitar solos and that voice. Kim Deal’s voice is unmistakable. Yes, it’s a bit more raspy from years of smoking, but it’s still Kim Deal’s delivery that sets her music apart. It’s approachable without being easy. I want Kim Deal to sing at my kids’ wedding and my 40th birthday bash. She could sing Nickleback and it would sound wholesome, warm, and somehow a bit sexy at the same time.

I have always hated the idea of “women in rock” as if the music women play is somehow a subset of the real stuff spewed by men. However, that label is rarely placed on Kim Deal. She transcends the gender divide in rock music. Her songs for the Pixies are as important to their oeuvre as any Frank Black-penned anthem. The Breeders broke through this divide when everyone was listening to grunge bands hopped up on testosterone. The Amps out-GBV’d GBV (for only one album, but a fucking great record nonetheless). At every stop, Kim Deal has defied the limitations of gender in rock and she hasn’t stopped.

The eight songs in this series of 7″ records are more of what you would expect from a Kim Deal-fronted project. It’s a bit more subdued than the typical Breeders’ record, but a songwriter and vocalist like Kim Deal can pull it off. “Walking With a Killer” has a slow, deadly bass line. I don’t know if it’s a metaphor for drugs or an abusive mate, but the lyrics sting and romanticize a dance with death. The B-side is “Dirty Hessians” which picks up the pace utilizing another sick bass line but now there’s some organ action picking up the intensity. This track is surfer rock instrumental written in a garage in Dayton.

“Hot Shot” has plenty of attitude and would have fit nicely on Pacer had it been written in the mid-nineties. Deal’s vocals are upfront with the bass taking a back seat this time around. “Likkle More” is a sweet, acoustic, lament-filled goodbye. Deal’s vocals are a whisper and more intimate than I think I’ve ever heard.

“Are Mine” continues the soft, whispery vocals in the previous track. the track is a cross between the aesthetic of “Drivin’ on 9” and the sentiment of “Do You Love Me No?” wrapped in a lullaby. Another instrumental makes an appearance with “Wish I Was.” It has a modern Amps groove as if Deal is writing soundtracks for movies now. The guitar work is pleasant and subtly complex.

“The Root” is her most Tom Waits bit to date and would have fit nicely on the last Breeders record. It’s about that moment when you see a former flame after your life has gone downhill and his/her life is just peachy. “I’m happy for you, but I feel like crying.” The eighth track is about Kim waiting for you at the “Range on Castle” which I believe is in Huber Heights. In true “Tipp City” fashion, Kim captures life growing up in SW Ohio better than anyone. It feels like home.

The best aspect of this series is the format. While we could have waited two years for a Kim Deal to fit this all on a single album, what we would have received would have been a somewhat disjointed effort. That’s not a knock on the music. I love these songs, but I don’t think they fit well on one album. However, pairing them on opposite sides of 7″ records as played at 45 rpm, they’re perfect. Format is everything. This is where the CD and now the MP3 miss out. A record (7″, 10″, or 12″) groups tracks on a side or on another disc entirely. The sequence and grouping is so important to the story or message an artist or band is trying to convey. (This, however, is a topic I should explore further in a future post.)

That said, I have never been much of a 7″ guy. I have a mild fascination with 10″ records, but 12″ is where it’s at. However, I’ve had a small change of heart this year. My wife bought me the Merge 25 subscription series where they send me two split 7″ records every other month on colored vinyl. The songs have been great and a lot of fun to get in the mail. Kim Deal’s solo series is just building on this rediscovered (or really discovered) appreciation for 45’s. It’s a fun format that usually offers a taste of your favorite music along with some extra, unreleased tracks. I will write eventually about the Merge 25 once I have them all and maybe some other prized or new 7″ records in the future.

For more information and ordering options of the Kim Deal solo series, check out her website.

Thao and Mirah Kill Rock Stars

Posted in GenderBender, Records by SM on May 26, 2011

Women in rock rarely get their due, unless it’s for a special issue of Rolling Stone[1]. It’s perceived they’re in the band to provide an aesthetic, visual and/or musical. And when they’re the primary artist, they’re rarely taken seriously.

Just this past weekend, a show was put on in honor of some of the best bands of the 80’s underground. Despite the decidedly male-dominated nature of that scene, several women took center stage, playing the part of the 80’s underground punk rocker. Unfortunately, according to Brooklyn Vegan, even these accomplished, talented women were subjected to catcalls.

Still, underneath the ignorance and sexism, women create some of the most dynamic music there is, comparable to their male counterparts. We often just have to give it the time and attention the music deserves[2], especially when two prolific women in (indie) rock team up as Thao and Mirah have.

I’m not sure why this is the issue on which I’ve chosen to focus. It could be that I recently finished the Patti Smith memoir Just Kids and the idea that a dynamic, creative rock star is virtually ignored in the rock ‘n roll canon because she happens to be female. It probably didn’t help her legacy[3] that the love of her life was a gay S&M artist. Still, Patti Smith doesn’t get the respect she deserves. She was/is uncompromising, hard to define. Much of the same can be said of Thao and Mirah[4].

Thao & Mirah is one those rare records that’s ambitious without being sprawling. It’s textured without being overdone. There’s some pretty thoughtful and creative work in there musically. Lyrically, it’s aggressive and witty. Thao and Mirah are two of the more unique voices in indie rock and those voices meld together perfectly.

This is not your typical rock record and – fair or not – these are not the typical rock stars. Will this be recognized as a rock record or something folkier? Well, it’s a rock record, almost avant garde at times. It’s percussion forward, demonstrating some real balls-to-the-walls attitude. It’s not the stereotypical female duo record by any means. And the album should be judged on these merits.

The songs are varied throughout. The first six or seven tracks move between styles, vocalists, effects, dynamics. “Eleven” is as much an attention-grabber as any opening track should be with its organically electronic beats a la tUnE-YarDS[5]. “Folks,” “Little Cup,” and “Teeth” are speedy, folky tracks that are more thanks to inventive vocal performances by both singers and some interesting and varied percussion. Mirah’s minimalist soul comes through in “Rubies and Rocks.”

The album’s best shot at a pop anthem exists in “Spaced Out Orbit” Ironically, this track’s poetic style most reminds me of Patti Smith’s writing. This suggests that mainstream pop stardom probably won’t happen with here…that is, until Lady Gaga decides to cover it[6].”How Dare You” is the duet for which baby dykes everywhere will scream. “Likeable Man” comes off hot with its driving rhythm and directives, but it’s certainly a feminist rant[7].

After the Frente!-like[8] “Hallelujah,” the record closes with the stomp “Squareneck.” What’s interesting is that this last song leaves the listener with the an impression this is more of a rock act than previously thought. However, Thao and Mirah are killing rock star myths with each track. I guess it makes sense the record came out on Kill Rock Stars[9].

Thao & Mirah is one of the more interesting collabs I’ve heard in a while. It’s been on repeat over the past few days and that’s saying something with the last couple of records I’ve received and reviewed. For this record, the women in (indie) rock should get their due. And it’s not just because it’s a good record by women; it’s just a good record.

1And even after that, they follow it up with a scantily-clad singer on the next cover.
2I recognize that by calling attention to the gender issue that I’m no better than those who ignore women in rock by making gender a part of the appeal for the record I’m about to review. That said, I find it interesting the attention this record has received compared to some all-male projects with musicians of similar status.
3OK. She is in the hall of fame and generally those who really understand rock history recognize Smith’s importance and her influence on music and art. However, the general public doesn’t recognize Smith for anything, really.
4This is where I probably should just tell you about the music.
5WTF? Right? This ridiculousness might be the biggest reason I’ll never completely succumb to tUn…ah, fuck it…Tune-Yards’ wiles.
6I’m serious. I say Gaga as she seems like the most willing pop star to take on something like this. Maybe Beyonce’s sister who pretends to be alt, but probably not.
7“Rant” is not meant to be derogatory. Both artists seem to have some feminist threads throughout. This was the track that sorta got me hot, then I read the lyrics.
8Yes, I made a Frente! reference. It felt cheap and lazy, but it was exactly what I thought as soon as I played this track. I liked Frente! back in the day, but the song is strikingly out of place on this album. Luckily, the final track salvages the album.
9See what I did there? Honestly, I’ve had no time to finish this post with single-parenting and all that. So, this is what you get. The next paragraph is even worse. I just ran out of ideas.

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Men and Beer

Posted in Beer, GenderBender by SM on November 4, 2010

This is one of those posts I started a long time ago but never got around to finishing. In the meantime, some urgency is lost, not to mention the many other post ideas I’ve had to let go. Anyway, this one feels unfinished. Footnotes would help immensley, but I just want to post it and move on. So, here you go…

There was this story not too long ago in the Times. It seems Lost Abbey made the unfortunate choice to feature the artwork you see to the left on their labels for their Witch’s Wit. Bloggers debated. Some came up with solutions.

The debate was whether this image was offensive and should Lost Abbey change it before they release the beer again.

Who was offended?

Well, according to blog posts and the Times article, Pagans and witches were the most cited offendees. However, what was missing was that this label is offensive to women as well.

Women were persecuted, drowned, and burned because they wouldn’t conform. In fact, in some areas today, women are still suffering from such atrocities over accusations of witchcraft and generally not giving in to men’s wishes.

In other words, women can be held in check, kept quiet with the knowledge that they will be tortured or killed for stepping out of line. It’s not much different from what a battered woman suffers in an abusive relationship. It’s abuse at best and systematic oppression at worst.

Now, I doubt Lost Abbey intended for this to be the message on their beer label. They make some great beers and don’t appear to be the sexist rabble-rousers some might assume from the production of this label. It’s just insensitive. The right thing to do would be to apologize and make a reasonable change. The blogger-provided solution I linked to above would be ideal, but any change to either create a less offensive image or provide some education on the issue would be the right thing to do.

I don’t intend to pile onto Lost Abbey with this post. I’m just trying to provide some context. The issue I really want to hit upon is the sexism prevalent in the beer community.

Superficially, the worst offenders are the macro-brew side of the community. InBEV, Coors, etc. promote their “beers” through some of the most sexist, exploitive tactics possible. It’s obvious to point them out, but I thought I’d mention them first as they are by far the worst perpetrators of the objectification of women. I think we can all agree on that.

More subtly, the craft beer community has it’s share of sexism. Sure, I think the more refined community of brewers, bloggers, and enthusiasts of the craft beer scene are light-years ahead of the macros, but that might be the problem. Never should craft brewers sink to the levels of the macros. Maybe that’s naive, but I want to believe that craft brewers are more principled than corporate rice-based beer manufacturers.

The Lost Abbey is but one instance of arguable sexism or objectification in craft beer. Honestly, it’s the only one I’ve seen on a label (sans a few vintage pin-up images). That might be why it seems like such a big deal. Craft brewers don’t have to sink to such levels (not that Lost Abbey did any sinking) to sell their beer. They rely on the quality of their product, as it should be.

No, the kind of sexism I see in craft beer is subtle. Go to any craft beer event and you’ll see that it’s overwhelmingly male. I know that’s changing and there are efforts to organize the women in the community in order to improve those numbers, but one cannot miss what a boys club craft beer is.

For the most part, I’m cool with that. I often want to hang out with people like myself, gender is part of that. And any dude who’s into craft beer tends to be thoughtful and opinionated, good for a chat at the bar.

However, when you have that many men in close proximity with few or no women around, things tend to get a bit sketchy. Jokes about wives or girlfriends start to happen. The locker room comes to the bar room. Let’s just say many conversations are not the most inviting for women, but that’s not really any different than anywhere else or in almost any other context. Guys say things that are not exactly sensitive to gender because the world is just set up that way. And there are even instances when women can get in on the act. So, in this way, craft beer isn’t significantly different than the rest of the world. Still, it’s no excuse.

What I do see is a lack of a “woman’s touch” in the scene. I don’t mean that there isn’t enough pink on beer labels or fancy fruit beers. And I don’t mean to ignore those women who support, promote, and brew in the scene. What I’m talking about is the pissing contest that inevitably happens at every beer event. Who has the most rare beers in his cellar? Who has the most reviews on BeerAdvocate? Who traveled the furthest for his beer?

Missing is the delicate, intellectual side of beer. Let’s discuss beer pairings. What specifically makes this kind of hoppy beer better than that hoppy beer? What does everyone think? Let’s discuss each beer instead of frantically passing each bottle around the table in an effort to squeeze in as many beers as possible in one sitting. It goes on and on.

Admittedly, this is nit-picking. Maybe that’s why I like the craft beer scene so much. There’s little to complain about. For the most part, it’s a pretty self-conscious scene. However, when there is a critique – like the Lost Abbey label debate – it falls onto to deaf ears at best or defensive ones at worst.

Go back to the post I referred to above. I think the comments were generally polite and respectful, but there was an underlying tone that suggested craft beer had no room for descension. There’s a tone that anyone who’s offended is a whiner. The term “P.C.” is thrown around so that no one has to think about an idea that might call into question one’s privilege. It’s dismissive and condescending instead of engaging in debate. Sure, some commenters, particularly the blog’s authors, who tried to stay above the fray, but to little or no avail. It was clear that to question craft beer and to point out instances of sexism was pure blasphemy.

This attitude concerns me. To deny that inequality exists or to pretend as if it’s no big deal is a dangerous road down which to travel. There’s a reason beer clubs and homebrew communities are predominantly male. Some reasons are inane, but some factors are problematic.

Anyway, in order to combat the sexism in craft beer (real or imagined), we should support those in the scene who put forth a good image for women. There’s fellow Ohio State alum The Beer Wench and her blog, Drink with the Wench. You can also follow her on Twitter. There’s also Laurie Delk at the 100 Beers 30 Days Blog. And don’t forget to support The Ladies of Craft Beer whenever they come around.

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Pavement and Girls

Posted in GenderBender, Life, Pavement by SM on July 6, 2010

Somewhere, someone has decided that girls1 don’t like Pavement. It’s a boys only club to like Pavement. Their shows are glorified sausage fests.

I know for a fact that this is not true. Regular commenter Carrie has professed a desire for a Kansas City reunion stop and often includes a Pavement track or two on her blog’s playlist. My sister is a long-time Pavement fan2. She can talk livestock all night long with Bob Nastanovich if you give her a chance. My last girlfriend before my wife joined me for the final North American Pavement show and even asked for a compilation to coincide. Today, these two Tweets ran through my feed here and here. Finally, my partner once surprised me as she took over a verse of “Cut your Hair” as we sang our daughter to sleep. She likes Pavement but is no fan. For her to just know the words out of nowhere was pretty impressive3.

So, as you can see, Pavement knows no gender lines4. They appeal to men and women. From where does this misconception come that they are only for dudes, bros, guys, etc.? I have a few theories which could probably apply to many other indie bands5, but, you know, I mostly write about this one band.

Overtly Masculine Hardcore/Punk Scenes
Pavement, although not the most masculine, hardcore, or punk band you’ll ever see/hear, definitely has roots in the scene. They rose from the ashes of eighties hardcore that helped break down barriers for 90’s indie rock. Some of that mentality bled into the newer scene. Mosh pits were tamer, but they were still there. I remember getting beat up pretty badly at a ’95 show6. Such a scene at any concert suggests overt masculinity on stage, but Pavement wasn’t the most aggressive band of their time by any means. This idea that hardcore and punk were for boys only was partially true, but with the advent of the Riot Grrrl movement and less manly groups like Pavement, it sort of died out and the audiences grew to be gender neutral, or at least gender friendly.

Boys and their Toys
I still remember the Pavement listserve7 I was on in the mid-90’s. There was a rather long debate about whether the subject of “Silence Kit” was about a guy or a girl. They went back and forth for days on this one topic. I don’t remember many of the arguments8, but one stuck out as particularly asinine. This one listserve member, obviously very proud of himself, pointed to the closing lyrics of the song:

till five hours later i’m…chewin’…screwin’ myself with my hands

The other dudes flooded the list with praise for the argument that only boys could screw themselves with their hands. Therefore, “Silence Kit/d” was a boy. Ten or so congratulatory messages later, a single female poster responded that she too could masturbate with just her hand. Crickets. Then, someone started up the topic of Pavement’s favorite word with “special” cited as the early leader9.

Lilith Fair
With the aforementioned Riot Grrrl movement, came the watered-down and rather tame Lilith Fair. This, we were told, was what women and girls liked to hear. I won’t use space to bash Lilith, except that the music generally put me and anyone else who loves music to sleep. Any self-respecting music lover – man or woman – didn’t go to Lilith for the music10. If anything, folks flocked to amphitheaters to see Sarah Mclaughlin and the Indigo Girls tear it up because it provided the only real opportunity for such a female-centric bill. Lilith had more to do with gender politics than it did good music. However, this was what we were told women and girls liked and it was nothing evenly remotely like Pavement.

They’re all in love with Stephen Malkmus. Secretly.
By “they” I mean the boys11. Never have fanboys felt this way about another man not throwing a ball or themselves into the air via large ramps. The boys want SM Jenkins for themselves. They feel girls are just lukewarm to his charm, but boys are totally gay for Malk, especially the gay ones. How can they compete with women when SM has demonstrated a preference for them? Well, they can shut the girls out. Keep them away from Pavement by any means necessary. This assures the sausage fest described above and means that one of these boys may have a chance with the man of his dreams…or at least a chance to hold hands with Mark Ibold.

Everything is about boys/men.
We do live in a patriarchy. Feminism has brought us a long way, but it’s still a man’s world. I’m not advocating for this. I want my daughter to have a fair shot in this world, but I’m a realist. Pavement is about boys and men because, well, everything is about them, us.

Regardless of whether these theories hold any truth12, Pavement is for all of us. There are messages and nuances we all can appreciate, regardless of our genitalia.

1Lower case “g” means actual girls, not the band.
2She once entered a poetry contest for the band and lost. When she confronted a couple of band members behind the venue, they claimed ignorance. I don’t know. I think they were hiding something. It was a pretty good poem.
3And reminded me that she is pretty cool despite all that professorin’ she’s always doing…No, that’s cool too.
4Aside for the fact that they are an all-male group. Stay with me here.
5Seriously, boys think they have the indie market covered, but I know plenty of women who could easily name every member of Chavez, recite the lyrics to “Conduit for Sale”, and name every Guided By Voices’ release, pre-Cobre Verde.
6Some bros even took off their shirts. Really.
7Dumbest internet tool ever. Ranks up there with discussion boards, Friendster, and blogs.
8Because it was pointless. Of course, this was a listserve (see #7).
9“Special ones, made of gold”
10OK, maybe there were some. My point is not to rip Lilith. She’s a nice lady. I just want to point out that women’s tastes in music should not have been limited to this certain aesthetic, just as I’d like you to know that not all boys grow up loving Limp Biscuit.
11And probably me a little bit. He is a pretty man.
12They almost certainly don’t.

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Womyn’s History Month

Posted in Activism, GenderBender by SM on March 9, 2010

OK. So, I don’t know that this piece is post-worthy or not. I’ve had no time to work on it and really don’t care anymore. There were to be pictures and videos and possibly more footnotes than you could shake a stick at, but I’ve done as much with this as I can. It’s time to move on. Be nice in the comments. I have things to say in the coming days and weeks. Don’t unsubscribe just yet.

I used to teach fourth grade1. Every year, I’d make my students study up on Black history in February and women’s history in March. One student asked why they had to study about women for a whole month. I explained that every other month was men’s history month. The boys in the class thought this was great, but I squelched their celebration with the revelation that this isn’t fair to only recognize the contributions of women for one month a year, something they understood as poor African-Americans in the inner-city2. I earned a lot of respect from my girls that day.

So, it’s March again and it’s still Women’s Womyn’s History Month whether I’m teaching or not. It’s sad that we have to set aside a whole month for such topics just to insure that kids are presented with a balanced perspective on history3, but that’s how it is.

If I wanted my daughter to follow in the footsteps of any female rocker of the past century, I’d choose Katleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre fame4. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, even the underground rock scene was terribly sexist5. Hanna and her merry band of grrrls stuck it to the hardcore boys in the most punk way possible: They made uncompromising, vag-to-the-wall punk rock. Bikini Kill and the like stood up to the boys and put them in their place6.

It wasn’t just about the music. Hanna and others lead a revolution within feminist ranks, calling attention to the racism, homophobia, and classism that once plagued the movement7. Some refer to this era as the onslaught of third wave feminism. Whatever it’s called, Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement broke down a lot of barriers. Suddenly, it was kewl8 to be feministy and not so hippie-dippy9. Hanna’s brand of feminism spoke to those not totally sure about its causes10.

For a taste of what I’m talking about, check this interview she recently did for GritTV here. Also, one can peruse Bikini Kill memories as told by their fans in the ultimate demonstration of community building over at the Bikini Kill Archive.

Of course, Hanna is just one of many feminists/female-rockers-who-may-or-may-not-be-feminist I’d love for my daughter to look to for inspiration. A top-10 list is below…

1. Kathleen Hanna (Read above.)

2. PJ Harvey – No one rocks or takes more control of their sexuality than Polly Jean Harvey. She is so ridiculously bad-ass that she the same effect on her listeners as a  Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop. She’s not classically beautiful, but she gets your attention and tells you how it’s going to be.

3. Kim Gordon – She married a younger man in band mate Thurston Moore. She doesn’t stand out just because she’s the only w0man in the band, but because she’s friggin’ awesome. All that and she invented the baby-t.

4. Beth Ditto – I have never seen more of a punk rock moment than the night six or seven years ago when I witnessed Ditto take it off for the crowd, flaunting her voluptuous body for all the dykes11 in the house. The best moment of that show was when she called out the kid in the “Feminist Chicks Dig Me” t-shirt and informed him that they didn’t.

5. Kim Deal – I know she’s had a rough go of it with the drugs and alcohol, but she is arguably the most successful of all the former Pixies…in terms of record sales. That and she’s from Dayton.

6. Liz Phair – My early exposure to feminism happened when I first listened to Exile in Guyville. It’s been downhill from there.

7. Bjork – Unapologetically weird but not in that creepy, Tori Amos sort of way. No one sings like Bjork or attacks paparazzi like her either.

8. Thao Nguyen – Cool and self-assured, I don’t think any other musician I follow on Facebook sends me more political messages than Thao.

9. All of Sleater-Kinney – They should probably be higher on this list, but it’s not a contest. One member is maybe the best two or three drummers in indie. One member writes the best music blog on NPR’s site and makes a good viral video now and again. The third just belts shit out. When is their reunion tour?

10. Herself – Lucia, my daughter already has demonstrated a love and proficiency in music.I only hope that I will do enough to encourage her growth. Either way, she should always look to herself for inspiration in both her feminism and musicianship.

I know I’m missing someone. Who are you honoring this Womyn’s History Month?

Bonus Non-Rocker: Angela Davis – How many folks have ever had a former Black Panther as their professor? Davis talked the talk and walked the walk way before the Riot Grrrls. She is still one bad mother.

It’s a long story, but I may find myself back in a classroom yet.
2I mean, Black History is not only given a month itself, but it’s been relegated to the year’s shortest month. What kind of racist shit is that?
3Of course, I realize even these special months do not insure a balanced approach to history. For that, we must depend on Texas to make the right decisions and we know how fruitless that will be.
4Actually, I’d choose her mama, but in the interest of keeping this blog universal and devoid of too much personal information, I’ll leave her out of it. I’ll just say that my partner is the smartest and most thoughtful person I know, a perfect role-model for our daughter.
5Sans a more-enlightened rocker like, say, Ian MacKaye. Either way, there was not a lot of room at hardcore shows for girls and women. Hell, there wasn’t even a lot of room for those of us guys who don’t need to thump our chests and tear off our shirts.
6I could insert some emasculating idiom here, but it would defeat the point. The idea is to turn shit around on the boys. It’s always about sticking women back in the kitchen and all that, but why don’t we make the boys fix our sandwiches??
7OK. It still plagues the movement and many other movements. However, what Hanna and the Riot Grrrl movement did do was teach us to critically look at all perspectives, especially those that have been so embraced by our communities for a certain length of time.
8Sorry for the Carles slip there. I have been reading too much Hipster Runoff lately. Lucky for you, I am usually able to avoid such a miscue.
9FYI, I really don’t care for hippies, but I now just find them harmless, useless.
10By this, I mean boys like myself who were pulled in by the rock rawk.
11I mean this only in a loving way. I am reclaiming the term for my lesbian sisters and brothers.

Boys Only

Posted in GenderBender, Manifesto by SM on January 25, 2010

“Boys Only” is not the most accurate title for this post. I mostly wanted to address the idea that certain things are for only the manliest of men. It’s the idea that rock ‘n roll and beer (among many other things) can only be properly appreciated by the most testosterone-riddled individuals is what I want to refute.

I remember seeing Pavement in the spring of 1995 as they supported Wowee Zowee. My sister and I were able to almost reach the stage for Pavement’s set. Directly in front of us were these bros and their little girlfriends1. Besides their drunken slurring and spitting, these “fellow” Pavement revelers were shirtless and ready to kick some ass. Already sweaty from openers Fuck and Dirty Three, my sister and knew that we were in for a long show.

Pavement came out and the ruckus began2. The bros moshed like there was no tomorrow, high-fiving at the start and stop of every song. God3 only knows what they were screaming throughout the set. I don’t think they were making any requests as I’m pretty sure they barely knew who Pavement was.

Why were these two mooks even at this show and why did they feel the need to not let anyone else enjoy the music? I see these same guys4 at every show, particularly outdoors. For whatever reason, someone5 has played for them a Pavement, Sonic Youth, or Dinosaur Jr song that they thought rawked. This emboldens them to not only attend indie rock shows but to then “show these indie fags how we throw down at an ICP show, bitches!” Really? Do we need this element at indie rock shows, too? They already took over grunge6 and emo7; now they want slow-core, shoegaze, and math rock to complete their dominance of the summer music festival circuit. Why does rock music have to be so masculine? I don’t care what a guitar represents. This is why moshing didn’t last. No one wants that shit at their Iron and Wine shows!

While I think indie rock’s separation from a testosterone-fueled mindset is pretty straightforward8, beer is another story. Beer, whether it’s swill9 or good craft beer, has been claimed by the manliest of men. For Bud Light drinkers, it’s the quantity of beer you down in a sitting. You’re only a man if you finish this case on your own. With beer geeks, it’s about quality. “Don’t bring that silly New Belgium Fat Tire10 to my party. We drinking nothing but the Stone Vertical series in order! Boo-ya!”

Well, maybe it isn’t that bad, but I am let down time and time again at beer tastings. The beer arms race is out of control. It used to be about discovering a brew you’d never had before at the grocery or beer shop, but now it’s all about getting every beer from out-of-market locales. 12% ABV, fermented in bourbon barrels, Brettanomyces, 100 IBU’s, blends, collaborations, etc. The escalation to try every beer or at least have one in your cellar is intense.11

I sometimes complain to my beer geek friends that I have more beer than I know what to do with between searching local stores daily, having my mom bring me out-of-market brews12, and brewing my own. They all look at me like there’s fish coming out of my forehead. “You can never have too much beer!” they exclaim. Silly me. My liver and self-respect be damned. No drink up.

Of course, the overtly masculine male takes over everything. Football. Darts. Sheep herding. Gardening. Cross-stitching. Everything. It’s in their nature. There’s no room for vulnerability or a feminine sensibility. Join in or be the fag they knock to the floor.

I don’t love things like music and craft beer because I am male. I love them because they make me happy. There is no reason why these things have to be bastardized by tired gender stereotypes.

As much as anyone, I like to let off a ton of steam dancing at a rock show or playing air drums whenever possible. This is a expression of pure emotion. It isn’t an opportunity to assert my masculinity.

I don’t have to down a bottle of beer in one long gulp or hunt down every rare beer just to prove myself a worthy beer geek. Beer should be about enjoying a quality beverage, pairing it with good food, and sharing it over good conversation.

I submit that not only are these pastimes (as well as many others) not for boys only, but they don’t have to be hyper-masculine hobbies either.

As a programming note, I want to apologize for the excessive footnoting. I was influenced by the author John Sellers and blogger doublewordscore13. It will happen again. It’s like old-school hyperlinks, but I have those too.14

So, have a beer for me and drop the needle on your favorite record. I’ll see you next time.

1What I mean by “little” is that they were rather short and petite. This in no way was meant as a demeaning comment toward the young ladies. Rather, it addresses these bros’ preference for petite girlfriends. It also addresses their unrealistic expectations for the female (as well as male) body to stay tiny and fit throughout life. I’m sure these same bros had a rough time once they knocked up their girlfriends (possibly on that very night) and watched their flat bellies turn round. I feel sorry for their spouses, children, and mistresses.
2My most vivid memory of this moment also involved a shirt as Spiral Stairs/Scott Kannberg came out in this homemade t-shirt which read something like “I ♥ PAVEMENT” in red letters on a white shirt with red 3/4 sleeves. That part was pretty sweet.
3Stephen Malkmus
4Not actually the same, exact bros. That’s an exaggeration to demonstrate how similar every concert situation I have includes dudes with backwards hats and too much to drink. Mooks. Douches. Frat boys. Whatever.
5This would be their roommate from freshman year, that smart girl they think is cool but would never admit it to their bros, or the VJ on 120 Minutes they happen to catch after passing out from a night of binge-drinking and date-raping.
7pre-New Found Glory
8I haven’t even mentioned the constant one-upsmanship of indie geeks and record store clerks who have everything The White Stripes ever did on vinyl for Sympathy for the Record Industry or were at the last North American Pavement show and the final Afghan Whigs gig. This issue is addressed more in the beer section of my argument.
9Why do people drink yellow fizzy beer? It’s more rice than anything and you have to drink a shit-ton to get even a little tipsy. Why not have three good beers and enjoy the buzz and the flavor?
10Of course, I call it “Flat Tire” which isn’t OK. New Belgium is maybe the greenest brewery in the world. That and they do make some good beers. I love me some La Folie.
11I fall for all these things. My cellar is overflowing as I write this. I think I have a problem.
12That’s Ohio. Best recognize!
13Whom I once got fired, but he is as loyal a friend as there can be. I am indebted to him forever. You should totally click through to his blog so that his stats are completely skewed towards my site. He’ll begin to think that all of his readers have come from me.
14Now, I’m just getting lazy with these things. Maybe next time I will utilize the footnotes more efficiently/effectively. And if you’re reading this, you have to be reconsidering adding me to your RSS reader.

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