I Can Do Anything With My...

The Many (Musical) Powers of Local Queercore Band Punky Bruiser

Local band Punky Bruiser is moving away! Well, not really. But the all-grrrl queercore band suggests that this should be the first sentence in an article about them. It's easier to get laid when people think you're leaving town. Drummer Rudy Renavo also claims that the band will be appearing on Friends as the new, queer friends. She insists they will be knocking up Matthew Perry. Fact-checking this piece could take some time.

Luckily, I can leave that work to my editor. My only job is to meet up with Punky Bruiser at the surlier-than-thou Spyhouse Café and listen to their tall tales. Because I am a dork, I initially wait to meet them in the nonsmoking section. (As if any self-respecting lesbian thrash-punk band sits in nonsmoking!) Renavo spies me there and ushers me to a booth in the smoking section. None of the band members smoke. But bassist Kelly Waterman, singer Lisa Ganser, and guitarist Crystal Brinkman sit in the smoking section 'cuz they're a band, and that's what bands do.

Dressed in t-shirts and jeans, and sporting their fair share of Manic Panic hair dye, Punky Bruiser look like some sort of anime power team before changing into their super costumes. (Those outfits are saved for concerts and consist of S&M gear, strap-on dildos, maybe even--dare I say it?--a dress.) Not only are these superheroes nonsmokers, but they also swear off meat, dairy, and other dubious foods--hence the title of their new release, Wheat Gluten Sucks! (Rude Grrl).

Knocking up Matthew Perry: Punky Bruiser
Michael Dvorak
Knocking up Matthew Perry: Punky Bruiser

The album is definitely punk. Based on the same two and a half chords punkers have always adored, the sound is simple, clever, and more energetic than angry. The lyrics reflect an intimate knowledge of Minneapolis's queer scene. "Uptown Coffee Shop" is a homage to a Lake Street coffee house, where "most people...are gay, or gay-friendly, or gay wannabes, or in recovery." The rowdy little rumba (yes, it's actually a rumba) that backs up these lyrics is catchy. Not even coffee-shop musician and fellow Friends character Phoebe could resist it.

Given their easy rapport, it's hard to believe that the band started up just a little more than a year ago, with former Punky frontwoman/drummer Andy Gantz, Brinkman, Ganser, and Waterman. After Gantz relocated to Portland, Oregon, the band approached Renavo, whom Ganser calls their "dream drummer." Renavo said she'd love to join them, but she was moving. (Apparently, she claims this every year.) Eventually, Renavo phoned Ganser and said, "I don't know what I'm doing, but I'd really like to play in the band."

Renavo's statement seems to speak for the rest of Punky Bruiser: They still barely believe they're a band. But they sure talk like one. They say musician things like "Hey, weren't we supposed to get 50 bucks for that show?" or "I'd rather poke my eyes out with a fork than play Cafe Metro again." They practice twice a week in a building behind Walker Art Center where many locals play. And they even have their own music critics: An anonymous writer once taped a note to their practice-room door that read, "The whole floor took a vote and we think you suck."

Luckily, the band has received encouragement from other neighbors, the all-woman punk band the Menstrual Tramps. Says Ganser, "We asked the Menstrual Tramps to play a show with us, and they came over with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. I was really nervous. I was sweating. The song we were playing was 'Blowing Bubbles.' There's a line in it like, 'I can do anything with my vagina' and the Menstrual Tramp that was the most drunk [misheard that and] was like, Were you guys saying you can do anything with McDonald's?"

Good thing the band has a sense of humor. Renavo explains, "I think what sets this band apart from a lot of the other queercore bands is that this band doesn't take itself too seriously. There are enough people out there covering the political issues, doing the angry lesbian scene, that we can do politics...kind of tongue-in-cheek. Lesbians are funny; there's so many ways to make fun of ourselves. The playing field is wide open."

 
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