Girls Got Rhythm festival packs a punch

Legendary bad girl Ronnie Spector: More rhythm than a drum factory
Debra Greenfield

Rock 'n' roll heaven descends upon St. Paul in a three-day flurry of girl garage, power-pop, and punk-rock bands from around the world for Girls Got Rhythm Fest. From influential '60s rockers Ronnie Spector and Nikki Corvette to late-'80s L.A. garage greats the Muffs to Tokyo's punk-a-billy's (featured in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill) up through today's women-on-the-verge L'Assassins, White Mystery, and the Pinsch, one dozen female-fronted bands will steal the spotlight at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall this weekend.

GGRF was founded by METRO magazine editor-in-chief and former Radio K music director Dana Raidt, who hosts the Girl Germs radio show and podcast, and prolific musician/producer/composer Travis Ramin, co-owner of Ramo Records and organizer of the Turf Club's Rock Action events. A year ago, the friends of 12 years met at Element Wood Fire Pizza and hatched the plan to "cross-contaminate" to organize the first edition of this all-female fest.

Raidt's inspiration for bringing women rockers to the forefront began with the Girl Germs radio show and podcast, and music journalism for Venus zine in Chicago. "The CD promo materials for female-centric groups were always, 'file under Sleater-Kinney,'" she recalls. "Or Blondie or Ani DiFranco. I began to pick up there was some latent — maybe subconscious — sexism in independent music. I wanted to bring to light some of the bands that get lost in that shuffle."

Ramin, known for playing with the Fevers, the Short Fuses, and now the Ramones-esque band Juvies, has performed with several GGRF artists. "Everyone I either know or have met in the world of music," he says. "I've played with Ronnie Spector's guitarist and with Detroit's Nikki Corvette for 10 years when she lived in L.A. Most of the people playing are friends, or friends of friends."

He was inspired to invite Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ronnie Spector after having seen her during a sold-out two-night run at the Dakota Jazz Club a couple of years ago. "It was amazing," he says. "Like seeing Elvis. It's not a nostalgia thing. She kicks it out. You might cry."

Once Spector was on board, getting the other bands fell into place, and it seemed ideal to feature a bunch of bands inspired by Spector's breakthrough pop, and existing friendships with the Muffs and the's from Ramin's past touring didn't hurt either.

"They are Ronnie Spector maniacs," he says of the latter act, noting that one member is named Ronnie Yoshiko.

Plus, Ramo Records reissued a recording the '80s L.A. new wave/punk act the Little Girls, another GGRF performer, had with Clem Burke and Nigel Harrison of Blondie. Although they're in their 50s, they're still like maniac teenagers, he confirms.

In all, the result is a decidedly multigenerational affair with fans and musicians well into their 60s and some much younger as well. "New bands like L'Aassassins were like, 'We LOVE Nikki Corvette, we love Ronnie Spector!'" Raidt says. "They cover two songs of the Trashwomen, Tina of the Midnite Snaxxx's other full band. It's all connected. I'll probably be one of the people crying. I'm excited for everyone, and that everything is so cohesive. It's diverse but makes sense."

Performances span Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — the last of which is an all-ages Mother's Day show. "If this show is not packed and jumping, I might have to declare this not a rock 'n' roll city!" Ramin adds with a laugh. "What more do you want?"

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