12 February 2018

Girls to the Front - a showcasing of Canberra's not-so-secret female rock talents

| Nathan Gubler
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There is photographic evidence that last Friday night, the Western Bulldogs ran out onto Manuka Oval under a banner emblazoned with “FINALLY, SOMETHING TO DO IN CANBERRA ON A FRIDAY NIGHT”.

Unfortunately for me, I cannot be in two places at once, and missed the chance to see the Dogs kick 19 behinds and lose after having led the entire match. The Coastal Correspondent – a devout Footscray backer – reported back to me that he felt physically ill after witnessing this calamity.

The only response I could give was that I was in perfect health. Contrary to popular belief, there was another event on other than the footy, and that was Girls to the Front!, a showcasing of Canberra’s not-so-secret female rock talents gracing The Basement stage. In the wake of a particular social media firestorm that will remain nameless here, the topic of women and non-men in the Canberra music scene became a hot topic. How do we increase exposure and opportunities for them? How do we point out the issues without everyone melting down? This is not a topic Glitoris have been shy of addressing, with former member Sophie Chapman having conducted an informal study on the ratio of men to women in the scene, as well as crying out “I thought we fixed it!/Where are the women?!” on their Disgrace EP, one of the instant classics of last year.

Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers

Friday night was no different, with Glitoris handpicking two opening bands for their array of female talent. First up was Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, with a name both instantly memorable and seemingly everywhere in town as of late. They are on the verge of exploding, with a new EP in the works and currently appearing to play a show a minute. With a name like that I was expecting pure punk, but the addition of keyboard gives their music a flavoursome pop edge, along with their ear for a cracking hooksy chorus – I’ve still got Crime Scene in my head. Another standout was I Want It All, which took me back to my days religiously spinning the New York Dolls’ debut album, from the Stonesy opening riff to the swaggering, stuttering chorus.

Betty Alto took to the stage acknowledging their aural differences from the other two acts of the night, asking the audience to get ready for some “adult contemporary” tunes. That labelling deters virtually no-one as Betty Alto demonstrated virtuosity and versatility, careening through a genre a minute with soul, jazz and funk getting particular mentions. One track would have me in a lounge-jazz trance, the next moving about to an almost Black Sabbath-sounding riff. A highlight was their lead single of their upcoming release, You’re Ready, a chillaxed groover which bursts into a delicious display of searing soul guitaring.

Lastly, the pièce de résistance, Glitoris emerged onto the stage to a chopped-up intro of Queen’s Flash, giving a big nod to their glam influence. And don’t they take to it; no other band seems to go to the effort of costume, lighting and stagecraft than do Glitoris. I am tempted to say it cuts against the grain of the punk ethos they’re tapping into, but of course, punk always was as visual as it was an aural assault. And with a setlist brimming with political opposition and frustration, their punk credentials take them where other “non-political” musicians fear to tread. They are not just unafraid that political speech might ruin the music, they are unphased. And it gets people through the door. And why wouldn’t it? They are not just slaking an enormous thirst for feminist advocacy, but their musicianship is just so good. For a band that has sounded so tight before in the past, it surprised me to hear them sound even tighter, more confident in their music than ever. And I’ve often remarked to those that will hear it that Andrew Glitoris is one of my favourite lead guitarists in Canberra; firing anarchic crackling noise in between hot glam-rock riffs, it’s always a flooring experience. As a friend of mine at the show put it more simply, “she shreds.”

By now some of their songs are Canberra Classics; from the tremendous hook and sass of Disgrace and abrasive punk-rocker Paradise to the firebrand chants of Off With Their Heads, everything is pulsing with political energy and charisma. A surprising twist to their set is a tune about the plight of refugees in offshore detention, sung to a dark disco rhythm which infuses the sparse lyrics with a feeling of dread.

As a finale, this anecdote is just too good to pass up leaving out of here. I’ve been to many Glitoris shows before, and there’s always a sense of the audience’s collective awareness and empowerment having been lifted. In a world where women feel encouraged only to be docile, the opposite is true at Glitoris gig. Last November when I was at the ANU Bar for their Disgrace EP release, there was a male fan who had been swifter than a female fan in scooping up a drumstick Tony Glitoris had carefully lobbed out to the audience, he was instantly rebuked for taking it away from a woman – “GIVE IT TO THE WOMAN!”, were the cries. He had nothing to say, so handed it to the woman who had dipped out.

Nathan Gubler, a.k.a. DJ Nate the Great, presents on 2XX LocalNLive from 4pm to 6pm weekdays.

Caption’s: Top, Glitoris – Girls to the Front! w/ Betty Alto & Teen Jesus and The Jean Teasers at the Basement. Image 2, Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers. Image 3, Betty Alto. Image 4, Keven 007 and Malcolm Glitoris. Above, Andrew Glitoris, shredding.

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