riot grrrl

Jack off Jill, or One Night to Relive My Youth

Jack off Jill, or One Night to Relive My Youth

Alright ladies and gentlemen.

This is going to be a tough one.

Look at that hair. Of course I liked Jack off Jill

There’s no point talking about how it felt to see Jack off Jill live without a little context, which is why I am hesitantly going to discuss my least favourite subject…me (at least in regards to this band).

I was eleven when Jack off Jill broke up, and I became a fan a year or two later. I never knew much about them, other than that I was madly in love with Jessicka and they were contemporaries of another act I adored as a teenager, Marilyn Manson. I can remember long car journeys with my family that were filled with listening to Clear Hearts, Grey Flowers over and over again on my CD Walkman.

To this angsty, goth teenager they were a soothing balm, as strange as that might sound if you know of them. So many of their songs expressed what I felt as a teenager; anger, despair, self-loathing, and while it might not sound healthy or useful to someone else, it was right for me. As I got older, the songs made progressively more sense to me, not less. Even when I went long periods of time without listening to them I could still sing (or shout) along, and the words still meant as much.

joj2I don’t think there’s been a time in the last ten years when Jack off Jill haven’t been important to me. Three years ago on Valentine’s I made a video to My Cat with photos of my actual cat; Surgery became more literally relevant when I was nineteen and going under the knife; and the rest of Clear Hearts is the soundtrack to my teenage years.

So as you might imagine, I entirely freaked out when I found out that, fifteen years after their split, my beloved Jack off Jill were reuniting for a tour. There wasn’t a chance I could say no to this opportunity and I hurriedly snatched up tickets for the last night of the tour in Heaven, London.

To say I was excited would be an understatement. I mean, this was Jack off Jill, guys! Jessicka Addams nee Fodera, the personification of my teenage angst and long-time style inspiration, was going to be in the same room as me and a bunch of other screaming fans!

I would have killed to look like this

My route to Jack off Jill was through goth and metal music; while I was a big fan of riot grrrl it never occurred to me that Jack off Jill would fall into that category. So to experience this superb riot grrrl gig with all the attitude of goth and metal was perhaps the best surprise of the night.

It would be unfair of me to leave the support acts out of this, but I’ll be brief. The two piece American girl duo that started the night, The Regrettes, were awesomely punk and bratty – they did an incredible job of rocking really hard considering there was only two of them. The Ethical Debating Society kept the energy levels up with a post-riot grrrl rock-out, reminding me in attitude and style of another of my favourite bands in my teenage years, Help She Can’t Swim. Both of these acts did an incredible job of building the riot grrrl atmosphere, and it almost felt like a gig in the heyday of the movement – when girls were called to the front and uninhibited frontwomen dominated the stage. It was an incredible experience to be part of.


Gigs are hard to analyse, and hard to explain, as so much of it is caught up in the intangible nature of actually being there; bathing in the powerful glow of this strong, talented artist and feeling the ache in your neck from head-banging too hard. I was never going to be displeased with the setlist; the benefit of a band that has only released two and a half albums is that every song is golden, and we all screamed with joyous recognition to each one. Jessicka threw chocolate coins to the audience from her concealed granny pants, and had a bucket of “blood” ceremoniously poured over her during the encore. It was beautiful. She even made a passing reference to her contentious falling out with Marilyn Manson in the introduction to Author Unknown.

There was one particular aspect of that show, however, that really made me feel like I had to write about it. And that is, Jessicka’s real-time morbidity, which went beyond the humour of their shows and made everything more real.

There was a lot of talk about this being the band’s last show, for good – which isn’t entirely surprising, considering there was no promise of getting back together. Throughout the show, which was on her 40th birthday, Jessicka talked a lot about feeling as though she was in an older body. She told us her hair was thinning, and she was sick of it which lead to her hacking away chunks in front of us all. At one point she pulled a razor blade out and cut her forehead open, rubbing blood all over her face.

Twenty years ago, that wouldn’t have been unusual. Self-harming on stage was a fairly common occurrence for some goth bands in the nineties – think Till Lindemann making his head bleed with the blunt force of his microphone in Live Aus Berlin, or Marilyn Manson’s repeated on-stage cutting. But it’s virtually never seen these days, and while I obviously don’t condone self harming in any way, it made the show feel truly, viscerally goth, and was about as close to being taken back to a metal gig in the nineties as possible.

DSC_1471It wasn’t until after the show that I put it all together. They had to cut the tour short because she’s sick…her hair is thinning…her body feels old… What I had taken as a normal gothic preoccupation with death and a morbid sense of humour about mortality might have been more personal than I thought. Later snooping revealed that her illness is a result of a gastrointestinal bacteria causing her intestine to rupture, and that she’s been in recovery ever since her life-saving surgery in 2013. Hopefully with time she’ll be ready to embark on the mammoth journey that is touring the US.

That was a night I never thought I’d have. Not just because of who the band was and what they meant to me, but because I was – and still am – so blown away by the passion and intensity of the performance. Seeing an act like that in a venue so small was emotionally exhausting and utterly brilliant; exhilarating and deflating at the same time. Even weeks later I felt morbidity hanging over me like a shadow.

So thank you, Jack off Jill. You gave me an experience I hope I’ll always remember, and I don’t know if I’ll be the same again.

Only time will tell if that’s a good thing.


Posted by jenny in Music, 2 comments
Rebel Girls and Runaways

Rebel Girls and Runaways

Riot Grrrl was the movement I always wish I’d got to experience first hand. It was a huge movement in the ’90s and although there are many versions of how the movement started, most people would agree that the band attributed with starting up Riot Grrrl was Bikini Kill. Starting out with a free zine with the same name, they later became a band and were into creating more female-focussed gigs by encouraging the boys who wanted to mosh and dance violently to head to the back, while the girls could enjoy the music at the front if they wanted. As with any feminist movement, they were labelled sexist towards men, but that wasn’t what it was about – it was about trying to do something that women could enjoy just as much as men.

The zines carried on from the punk ethos of the ’70s and the college idea of freedom of speech. Cutting and pasting together pieces of photos and literature was the original form of what we now have in many online zines – but before the internet was really used, it was important to have something that could be reproduced, photocopied and passed around to get the message out. It was never about making money but about spreading the word, and helping girls to come together. And also, importantly, about advertising girl punk rock bands, which were hardly seen in major music magazines – and if they were, were normally insulted or at best, classed as “good for girls.”

“We want and need to encourage and be encouraged in the face of all our own insecurities, in the face of beergutboyrock that tells us we can’t play our instruments, in the face of “authorities” who say our bands/zines/etc are the worst in the US” The Riot Grrrl Manifesto

The bands grouped together, and there seemed to be much less of the competition between bands than often happens now, because they were all fighting for the same cause. They wanted to talk about the issues that women go through but were never allowed to talk about; like childhood abuse, rape, abortions and equal pay issues. They could talk about lesbianism, but in a way that wasn’t designed to just attract men – real love between two women, which was either unspoken or still considered “just a phase.”

Riot Grrrl has taken on many forms, and although it is largely associated with punk rock music, anyone who believes in the Riot Grrrl manifesto could be one, whether they realise it or not. Singers like Beth Ditto have come out as saying they support the movement – Ditto said that Riot Grrrl helped her to become a whole person. Other contemporay artists and bands which seem to fit into the movement include Amanda Palmer, PJ Harvey, Regina Spektor and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Not many people would come out as saying they’re Riot Grrrl – any more than people tend to announce that they’re feminist. It’s not about declaring it as a publicity stunt, it’s about being it and getting across the ideas in your music.

Seeing girls in the rock business doesn’t happen all that often, even now – of course they exist, but usually as lead singers or bassists. These are seen as the “acceptable” places for women to have power, but the drums and electric guitars – the instruments that are seen to be gritty and difficult – are reserved for the men. The movement also revolutionised the idea of a female musician who didn’t have to be beautiful or thin, just talented. Even now in the rock industry there are so few female musicians who are not conventionally attractive, when in history male singers such as Steve Tyler, Axl Rose and Sting were seen as sex icons despite not being commonly accepted as attractive. In many metal bands, the attractiveness of a male lead singer means nothing, but Christina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil will be criticised if she puts on a little weight or takes an unflattering photo.

“You learn that the only way to get rock-star power as a girl is to be a groupie and bare your breasts and get chosen for the night. We learn that the only way to get anywhere is through men. And it’s a lie.” Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill

I think one of the greatest parts of the movement was the girls’ acceptance of what people thought of them – they said “I know you think I’m a bitch, so I’m going to write it on my arm,” and often wrote conflicting messages on their arms, such as the famous picture of the band Huggy Bear in which lead singer Niki Elliot has written “Slut” on one arm, and “Prophet” on the other. Other than that, there was no distinctive style for Riot Grrrl – no way to dress like one – which meant it couldn’t be corrupted by capitalism as easily as, say, Punk culture.

Riot Grrrl brought feminism into the public eye in a way that was less academic and less structured – instead of only finding a voice in studying feminism as a subject, or by participating in marches, girls were able to kick and scream about what really mattered to them. It gave girls – normal girls – a voice, and that voice wasn’t what a lot of people wanted to hear.

A re-emergence seems to be happening now – the DIY ethic that Riot Grrrl helped bring back with third-wave feminism has stuck longer than anyone had predicted, and with films like Whip It!, we get to see natural women a little easier than before. So for all of those who thought that Riot Grrrl was just a phase, just some angry girls kicking off – you were very much mistaken.

Posted both in Snippets #19 and on Neutral 2013

Posted by jenny in Crafting, Miscellaneous, Music, 0 comments