Riot Grill Fest With Chastity Belt, The Menstruators, Deap Vally, Girlpool, Le Butcherettes At The Regent, Saturday December 10th 2016
Saturday evening, the Regent theater, located downtown LA, was hosting Riot Grill Fest, another girl power fest, which is much needed in these current times of female bashing and oppression. Didn’t we just elect a guy who uses terms like ‘pussy grabbing’ and regularly insults women by calling them bimbos, gold diggers and fat pigs? Didn’t Ohio recently almost ban abortion? And what other female-hostile action can we expect during the Trump administration? Hosted by Gaby Dunn, who reminded us to ‘fuck Trump’, but especially to ‘fuck vice president Mike Pence’, the long night (five acts) stayed angry till the wee hours with Teri Gender Bender closing the show just after 1 am!
Chastity Belt started the night with a dreamy post-punk sound and it didn’t take long for the quartet (Julia Shapiro, Gretchen Grimm, Lydia Lund and Annie Truscott) to start a mosh pit of girls in the audience. They had some fervent supporters and their bouncy songs were very well received by the young public. With abrupt accelerations in the middle of their slow-paced tunes, with decorated and intricate guitars balanced by a highly melodic bass, they could trap us into a hypnotic mode with guitar loops and Julia Shapiro’s strong and monochord tone, that may have translated a sort of delusion in life’s pleasures. A bit surfy guitars, a bit new wave at other rare moments, the four girls were not trying to play cute pop songs. With their slightly grunge look and some song titles such as ‘Cool Slut’ and ‘Pussy Weed Beer’, they were the first ones of the night to affirm a real girl power without looking really angry.
Which was the opposite of the next act, The Menstruators, a punk rock quartet fronted by Nadia G, who wears several outfits as she is also the cooking chef hosting ‘Bitchin’ Kitchen’ on Cooking Channel and other networks. She was the one sponsoring the night, which was explaining the food theme in the ‘Riot Grill’ title, but the only thing she cooked on stage was funny anger… There’s always a thin line between anger and hunger. You had to expect some fun with a moniker like that – the Menstruators has to be an interesting grrrl riot name, right? With a look between Xena warrior princess and punk party survivor, she and her team delivered a set of rowdy rocking songs with fury and theatricality. Were they over the top? Totally and even more than you can imagine, they were tough as nails, the type to eat you alive on a cooking board, but at the same time, their harmonies were very girlie and their bassist was a total babe. They wanted people to move and dance with their loud songs off their debut album ‘Dead Glitter’, going to metal-rock levels and cultivating a constant unapologetic attitude, but looking as aggressive as comic con characters, and not really dangerous after all.
The real danger came from the next band, Deap Vally, a girl-power duo I had certainly enjoyed a few times before. The two valley girls have released a new album a few months ago, and if I had not properly listened to ‘Femejism’ before coming to the show, they demonstrated last night they could build a huge sound while being only two on stage and trash the place like no tomorrow. ‘Femejism’, produced by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, has propelled the duo to a tougher level, with a raw as meat sound, echoing some female Black Keys, when the Black Keys used to deliver their most abrasive sound. Aggressive and badass are undoubtedly terms that come to mind when you watch Julie Edwards crashing her drums and Lindsey Troy shredding her massive bluesy riffs. Wearing respectively a dollar bill tunic and an American flag jumpsuit, they could sound like Black Sabbath covered by a Karen O-inspired vocalist, ass kicking, drum climbing with a guarantied female-power attitude. They tore down the place, bathing in a bloody red light,… to my big disappointment since red lights are the worst for photos. If they were joined by a percussionist for a few songs, they were the only one building and earth-shaking and scorching sound, yelling and empowering each woman in the audience with an unapologetic independence.
However, ex-LA duo Girlpool (the two girls have now moved to Philly) proved that less can be sometimes more. No huge riffs with these two, but very loud harmonies, as their unbelievably stripped down music – they just use a guitar and a bass that they sometimes exchange – mostly focuses on their intricate and omnipresent vocal harmonies. There is an undeniable chemistry between Cleo Tucker and the well-named Harmony Tividad, and the girl-power fierce attitude they add to each one of their slow folk-punk songs, mostly come from their lyrics. Despite the loudness of their heartfelt and perfect harmonies, Girlpool was the most minimalism band of the night, producing a strong effect nevertheless, a sort of lo-fi genre for empowerment while the childish vocals brought melancholia, deep inside their top-of-the-lungs intertwined voices.
Le Butcherettes was headlining the long night and who else can better embody female power than Teri Gender Bender? She is a star, a ferocious and fearless one, going crazy in front of your eyes, acting like a restless bomb on stage, ready to explode at any moment. You can count on Teresa Suárez (her real name) to stop everyone’s breath at each of her performances, she actually may be one of our greatest performers alive, metaphorically bleeding all over the place, although she is not wearing the bloody apron of her debut anymore.
Teri’s vocals are strong, a sort of powerhouse fueling the performance, as versatile as they are surprising, although this time, the very loud guitar was partially masking her vocal prowess, going from Nina-Hagen-like operatic howls to creepy fainting snarls, not unlike PJ Harvey’s. Her grimacing face and devil-possessed facial expressions were a wild and entertaining ride, while her stage dance, all legs apart made her look like a character coming straight from a surrealist novel. It’s difficult to display more energy on stage than this woman who often looked at us with crazy bulging eyes. One minute, she was behind her keyboard, stabbing the notes, the next one she was jumping across the stage with her guitar, moving like a maniac.
She delivered a few lines in Spanish before telling us (in English) that life could stop at any moment and that we have to be alive. No doubt that Teri was fully alive for the entire set, with a fierce stare at life and a violent treatment of any of her songs. She constantly seemed to be ready to start a fight against an enemy, totally invisible, because obviously the whole audience was on her side. Before disappearing backstage after the last song, she jumped in the audience, and crowd surfed without any music, abandoning herself in the arms of her adoring fans.
In a very entertaining way, she emerged from her kaki army jumpsuit mid-show, revealing a short mousseline red dress she was wearing below the one-piece, while not missing a beat of the song. There’s always a theatrical moment during a Le Butcherettes’ show, and that was probably that moment, may be symbolizing her feminine face behind the warrior, willing to be the seducing exhibitionist girl and the martyr avenger at the same time, eager to give the spotlight to each one of her personalities.
Setlist (Le Butcherettes)
Burn the Scab
Demon Stuck in Your Eye
The Devil Lived
They Fuck You Over
Boulders Love Over Layers of Rock
I’m Getting Sick Of You
Witchless C Spot
Stab My Back
The Leibniz Language
Your Weakness Gives me Life
Henry Don’t Got Love