By Natalie Zed
I’ve always been honest with you, loyal Hellbound readers, and this review is going to be no exception. I came to this show needing to blow off some steam. Things had gotten a little intense in the life of Natalie Zed, and this show provided the perfect outlet for the tension and nervous energy I’d been carrying around all week. I accomplished this, of course, by attempting to drink my body weight in rum. Hence, this review may be a little more “impressionistic” than usual.
It was a great night for women who rock at Rancho Relaxo. Not only did I get to hang out with some of my very favourite ladies (including Lily the Pirate, my hetero-lifemate), but I was able to enjoy the rare treat of seeing a stage dominated by women. Spitfist and Mares of Thrace are not “female-fronted” bands; they are composed entirely of tough, talented musicians who all happen to have XX chromosomes. As much as I love watching shirtless men wield gee-tars, there’s something about rocker girls that fills me with the warm fuzzies, like a hi-five to the ovaries.
Before the ladies stormed the stage, Drunk Hussy started the night off right. The Thin Lizzy influence to their sound leapt out at me immediately, as did their charisma. These guys are naturals on stage, every single one, though front man Josh “Fucking” Last stole the show with his banter. He particularly enjoyed the fact that he and his band mates were the only men performing that night, reminding the crowd, “each of us represents 20-percent of the available penis that will be on stage this evening.” His distinctive “sore throat” vocals screeched and crumbled just enough to match the rough edges of Drunk Hussy’s sound. This was the first time I’d seen them live, and will be the last for the foreseeable future — the day after this show, Josh left for Vancouver (“Fuck this heat. Soon I’ll be surrounded by sweet rain.”). This being the final performance the band would give in their current incarnation lent a bittersweet twist to the otherwise straightforward aural assault of the set. I am curious to see how each of these natural performers goes forward from here.
Next up, Spitfist took over the stage. Gangly and crass, covered in body art, these girls are friendly and confrontational all at once. They also project a fantastic energy while on stage, as affectionate as it is aggressive, hard as nails yet relentlessly positive. They expressed a profound mutual respect for the bands with whom they shared the stage. When they asked the audience to cheer for Mares of Thrace or Drunk Hussy, they were doing so not just because it was appropriate, but because they wanted to hear the crowd give their comrades in arms some love. And speaking of love, their sound definitely hit home. Their roller derby/punk/riot grrrl aesthetic is inexpressibly cool, and listening to them made me remember exactly why I grew up loving Tank Girl. Their song “Baby Bird” belongs on my iPod.
Mares of Thrace played last on the bill, and brought the night to a thunderous close. I am profoundly interested in the aesthetics of constraint and the way art can be produced by limitation. Mares of Thrace plug directly into this particular obsession. Consisting only of vocals, baritone guitar and drums, this two-woman force of nature produce a wall of sound: intense and varied, deep and resonant, pulsating and urgent, and shockingly complex. They refer to themselves as “technoisesludgedoomcore,” a dizzying description that suits them just fine. The visceral drone of “General Sherman” grabbed me by the throat. Mares of Thrace are heavy — everything drags, clutches, digs in and tears, equal parts fingernails across flesh and glacier across mountain. Thérèse Lanz‘s voice doesn’t just want blood; it wants an offering of flesh; it wants the listener raw. Their songs throb, organic as muscles clenching.