Written by Lucretia Tye Jasmine for The Los Angeles Beat
Party with a purpose! Thursday night at Zebulon in Silver Lake launched the Women of Rock Oral History Project fundraising events, with a punk rock price of only ten bucks. The fundraising events will sustain the project’s growing travel and transcription costs.
The Women of Rock Oral History Project began in 2014. Documenting the lives and careers of American women in rock and punk, WOROHP focuses on women who have been underrepresented or omitted from rock journalism and scholarship. The collection of digital interviews is housed at the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, one of the first women’s history archives in the United States. The interviews will form the basis of the documentary and book.
Panels and concerts at Zebulon by women in the oral history felt like music history was being turned into music herstory! The panels at Zebulon felt monumental, and I feel very lucky that I could be a witness. There were three panels. The first one featured: Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, Ex Stains), Michelle Gonzales (Spitboy, Kamala and the Karnivores), Julie Cafritz (Pussy Galore, Free Kitten), Azalia Snail, and Patty Schemel (Hole, Upset). The second panel featured: Alice de Buhr (Fanny), Brie (Howard) Darling (Fanny), and Sherry Barnett (The Mustangs). The third panel featured: Phranc, Alice Bag, Eva Gardner (Pink), Mish Barber-Way (White Lung), Cynthia Ross (The ‘B’ Girls), and Neon Music. When WOROHP’s archivist, Tanya Pearson, asked if the term “Women of Rock” felt troubling, some panelists responded with a discussion of the term, “rock,” rather than of the word, “women,” demonstrating how much progress has already been made; women musicians see themselves as musicians, rather than as women who are musicians. And Alice De Buhr of Fanny, one of the first all-girl rock bands, reminded us that there is no shame in being a woman in rock as she emphatically stated: “I’m very proud to be a woman in rock ‘n’ roll.”
Something else radical happened when Tanya suggested that the rock canon venerates those musicians who make music with a specific kind of expertise. Perhaps the rock canon dismissal of any music that is not specifically expert is another way to dismiss girls and women who rock; indeed, my boyfriend noticed that there were jeers in the audience at Zebulon when The Runaways were mentioned. During the first panel, drummer Patty Schemel discussed how she felt she had to prove herself (Schemel’s riveting 2017 memoir, Hit So Hard, and the documentary of the same name from 2011, detail an experience with a hired veteran studio drummer who set her up to fail).
Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay, and the Women in Rock Oral History Project will make sure we know that women in rock ‘n’ roll are here to stay, too. WOROHP will make sure as the project creates a more comprehensive music history by documenting the stories of women, LGBTQ, and gender nonconforming musicians — including expert musicians. The Women of Rock Oral History Project website provides information and clips about who is in the project, and how to support it. There’s merch, too!
Special thanks to Amina Cruz and Grace Dunn for the use of their photos.