Duncan Stuart considers why there are so few women in Rock, why there are so many in Canberra and where to go to hear them.
Progressive Rock band The Colours Are are one of many female fronted bands in Canberra. They will be headlining She-Riff 5 on the 25th of February.
As music gets louder, it tends to get more dominated by fellas.
While there are exceptions (think of Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, Exene from X and more recently Tina Halladay from Sheer Mag), hard rock, punk rock and heavy metal music has failed to foster and recognise many women as who can be compared to greats like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Freddie Mercury and so on.
As John Stuart Mill, on the topic of the subjugation of women, claimed, “Everything that is usual seems natural.” If it’s rare to come across a female rocker, and even rarer to come across a female “great rocker” it becomes easy to assume that rock’n’roll just aint for chicks.
However, the more women there are in a given scene, the more natural it appears, and the more dubious attitudes like ‘women can’t rock’ will be. As for the lack of greats, Linda Nochlin has noted that once one changes the problems of representation and access, the greats will emerge. There are barriers to overcome and ceilings to smash through, but none of them are insurmountable or indestructible.
Here in Canberra, women rock. Last year saw the rise of the almost all-girl power quartet, Moaning Lisa. They have landed a series of incredible opening slots for Camp Cope and Canberra’s own feminist powerhouse Glitoris as well as headlining The Phoenix’s 23rd Birthday gig.
Moaning Lisa played an early gig at She Riff, a bimonthly show focused on bands with “women in a prominent role”. She Riff is attempting to confront the lack of representation of women in the music scene by making usual what is currently unusual: hard rocking females.
Doom Metal band Hallucinatorium at She-Riff 4, in December 2016.
She Riff was started by Kristy Anderson of the Canberra band Sally Chicane. As pure coincidence, She Riff started just as social media was picking up on Spilt Milk’s extra-manly line-up. Kristy was inspired by “Chicks with Picks” (CWP) in Sydney, though CWP is more of an open mic night then a rock show.
Kristy hopes to build She-Riff up to a mini-festival. In the meantime, She Riff takes an important step towards ending male domination in the music scene by showcasing the rock’n’roll women of Canberra. It may be, as Mr.James Brown states, ‘a man’s world’, but not here and not for long.
The next She Riff will be at Transit Bar on the 25th of February, featuring Dalmacia, Rumblr, Sally Chicane and The Colours Are.
Duncan Stuart listens to, reads about and attempts to play music.
Pictured at top, progressive rock band The Colours Are. Photo by Jake Urosevic. Picture above, Doom Metal band Hallucinatorium. Photo by Patrick Cox.