Girl Germs concert series shines a light on women in rock
L-R: Sally Hedberg and Dana Raidt
Tribute nights in the Twin Cities that recognize women in rock are hard to come by. But that's about to change.
"People are so reactionary when you bring up gender," says Dana Raidt. She sits alongside her friend and Girl Germs co-founder, Sally Hedberg, and both sip iced coffees at Caffetto on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The two writers have an easy chemistry, finishing each other's sentences as they explain the ideology behind Girl Germs, a new tribute series at First Avenue.
The Girl Germs brand — which can be traced to a '90s riot grrrl zine in Oregon — began locally as Raidt's radio show during her stint as music director at Radio K. At the time, Hedberg was a listener.
"I didn't live through the height of riot grrrl," says Hedberg, "but I feel attached to their plight." Her father gave her Sonic Youth's Goo while she was in high school. This introduction to Kim Gordon sent Hedberg down a "Limewire spiral" in search of strong female presences like Hole's Courtney Love and Bikini Kill.
This fascination with female artists continued as Hedberg grew into a writing career. "Looking back at the articles I've written... pretty much everything is about women in music," she says. Raidt nods her head enthusiastically. "That's definitely my niche."
The two met when Hedberg interviewed Raidt last year for a City Pages story on the Girls Got Rhythm Festival at the Amsterdam Bar, which Raidt created. They quickly realized their similar views, yet it still took some time for them to begin working on this new incarnation of Girl Germs together. Raidt laughingly accuses Hedberg of stalking her. "I had ulterior motives," Hedberg responds. "I knew that you would be receptive."
At Hedberg's encouragement, Raidt decided to bring Girl Germs back as girlgermsmpls.com. "This was a really good way for us to do something that was really self-directed, to be our own editors and curators, to do what we wanted, and to have it serve a purpose," she says. They launched the site in April with this mission: "To obsess over the girls with guitars who have made a lasting impact."
After the launch they began discussing ideas for an event, and as Raidt puts it, "the light went off." Working closely with First Avenue, they organized Friday's show, which showcases local acts performing cover sets of female artists or female-fronted bands. It won't just be female musicians performing, which they hope will drive home the fact that Girl Germs isn't about exclusion, it's about equality.
"It's about the underdog," Raidt suggests. "I've always been really drawn to the idea of helping to bring attention to the people who don't get the recognition they deserve. I love male artists. It's not about being anti-male, or anti-male musician."
Case in point: All-male local act Strange Names will be playing a set as personal influence the B-52's, co-founded by Kate Pierson. "We're grateful to all the women in rock that we look up to for putting up with whatever bullshit they had to in order to help us realize our own power," Strange Names told City Pages.
The night spans genres, and dismisses the notion of who deserves to play what with Night Moves playing the Cranberries, Pink Mink becoming Bikini Kill, Fury Things covering Hole, Crystal (a new group featuring members of Brute Heart) taking on Sade's catalog, and Bomba de Luz vocalist Lydia Liza Hoglund performing as Dusty Springfield.
"We all have the power to change the way we act towards the opposite sexes," Hoglund says, citing past interactions with men at concerts that were discomforting enough that she asked bandmates to stay by her side afterward.
"Being a woman in the music industry, you have to be tough," says Tea Ann Simpson, vocalist for L'Assassins, who will celebrate lesser-known rockers Thee Headcoatees. "For me, feminism is having the same access that men do, and the same opportunities. When I was growing up, nobody was like, you should play guitar. Everybody was like, you should sing. When you're a young girl, having access and opportunity is a super important thing."
In the late '80s and early '90s, the all-female punk rockers Babes in Toyland were one of Minneapolis's preeminent live acts. They're also the first band Raidt ever saw in concert. Drummer Lori Barbero will host the Girl Germs show. "She is the perfect person to do this," Raidt says.
Nearing the end of the conversation, ice cubes melt at the bottom of their cups as Raidt stresses how grateful they are for all the help they've had in making their ideas a reality. Hedberg interrupts, bringing it back to the music.
"Ultimately, these bodies of work that people are covering speak for themselves," she says. "They're important to us, and they're important to the people supporting this."
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