This past Friday, I broke my months-long Ear Farm hiatus and reviewed Visqueen, who were playing at Union Hall. It was a tremendous show! You can read my (somewhat silly, somewhat gushing) review and see a lot more pictures over at Ear Farm.
I find music reviews super hard to write. I really hate judging other people’s art outside the confines of my skull, so maybe it’s not the right genre for me. But mostly I think it’s that I am always conflicted about whether to just stick to describing the show or write about what I am really thinking. I go to a lot of shows, which I really enjoy, but music, like any other art, moves us because it touches on various parts of our brains, not just the sensory aspect. And I never know, do people give a shit about the thoughts that this show engendered in my brain? Or do they just want to read about the show? And usually I just write about the show, because it’ll probably appeal to the most people and because I am not a well-known person whose opinions are sought out by others.
But then most of my reviews end up reading like this: “AWESOME! They totally rocked! You should see them!” Because if I don’t feel that way, chances are I won’t waste my time (and Ear Farm’s server space) by writing a negative review of a band I don’t really care about.
Anyway, suffice it to say that I really DO care about Visqueen. And seeing this show was a way different experience for me than most other shows. I don’t know about you, but at most of the shows I go to, female concertgoers are strongly outnumbered by men, for some reason. This was not the case at the Visqueen show. Now, this is not a “girly” band (whatever that means); they are a high-energy power pop band. But 75 percent of the musicians in the band are female. This led me to think about how certain types of music are thought of as being masculine or feminine and how arbitrary that is. If a piece of art is “good” (by which I mean, technically skilled, authentic, original and possessing the je ne sais quois that makes art art), then it shouldn’t matter if the artist is a man or a woman, or what that person’s age, religion, nationality or sexuality are. It shouldn’t matter, but for most people, it obviously does. (This is why my parents don’t listen to the Wu Tang Clan and why I don’t see a lot of African Americans at screenings of Coen Brothers movies.) So somehow the music that Rush, for example, plays has gotten the reputation of being masculine and appealing mainly to (super nerdy) men. So men go to Rush concerts and little boys who are really into music and want to play the guitar think, “Man, some day I want to be that good.” And then they are and the next thing you know, really smart, well-educated men are telling me that no woman can play the guitar as well as the dudes in Rush.
No woman in the whole world? How do you know?
I’m not saying that Rachel Flotard can play the guitar as well as Alex Lifeson. But seeing her (and her bass player, Cristina) rock so much and seeing so many other women (about 50 percent) in the audience made me think that Visqueen and other really innovative female-led rock bands (St. Vincent, the Screaming Females, Micachu and the Shapes) are creating a space for women rockers and women listeners that hasn’t really existed before. I don’t want to ghetto-ize any type of music, but in a way, rock music has been one big ghetto for a really long time. A ghetto (with a few notable exceptions) for white men. Musicians and listeners.
I would bet any amount of money that Rachel Flotard grew up listening to Blondie, Joan Jett and Patti Smith. And those three divine ladies created a space in Flotard’s brain that said, “Yep, I could go do that.” And she has.
And now musically untalented ladies (me) can go to shows and clap and yaaaayyy, even as we are screaming deep within our souls:
FUUUUUUUCK YEAH, SISTAH!!!!