Sisterhood Blog

'Wild Flag' Jewesses Keep Rockin' Hard

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share
courtesy Wild Flag
Carrie Brownstein rocks out with Wild Flag.

I recently went down to the Bowery Ballroom to see the rock band Wild Flag perform. They’re a fairly new all-female rock group consisting of two of Sleater-Kinney’s Jewish former members, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, and two other pioneering female rockers, Rebecca Cole and Mary Timony.

I’d been listening to their new album, “Wild Flag,” on repeat and was excited for show because their stage antics and energy are already legendary. But I didn’t know how much just seeing them launch into an aggressive rock set in person would resonate and feel like a call to arms.

After all, this is a moment when notions of power and pushing back against the status quo are at the forefront of my mind, in light of the “Occupy” movement that has seized the national spotlight and wrapped progressives up in revolutionary fervor.

I’m also pondering the omnipresent questions of women and ambition, in light of my own status as a late-twentysomething feminist mapping out my career and life choices.

Sometimes, though, mulling things over and reading endless articles online doesn’t have half the value of seeing them and hearing the — loudly.

In this case, the jolt came from witnessing women seize traditionally male tools, drums and guitars, and wield them with skill, zest and abandon. I thought yes. Women all need to seize whatever tools they can and use them this way. I need to seize whatever tools I can and use them this way. Everyone on the margins needs to seize the tools of the powerful and use them this way.

I thought the show would be a fun distraction from the political tumult. I didn’t realize how viscerally cohesive with that tumult it would be, how much it would augment my own rebellious feelings, to see two women guitarists dueling, or a woman pounding the drums as well as any drummer I’ve seen.

I don’t think I realized how traditionally male some of this musical territory is, and how subversive it is to take over that territory. Forgive the stretched terminology, but I almost felt like Wild Flag was occupying the Bowery, is occupying rock music.

I know I’m probably a little behind on this one — I’m a few years too young for the Riot Grrl movement so I never witnessed any of those legendary bands, the direct progenitors of this one, live. Heck, I never even went to Lilith fair, which was huge during my adolescent prime.

Yes, I’ve seen my share of unforgettable female musicians live and it’s always powerful. Sometimes it’s explicitly feminist. But rarely does it trample down the barriers we don’t even realize are erected as directly as this one did.

This band has something slightly out-of-the ordinary going for it, a quality of refusing to perform for the male gaze and rocking out for the sheer kick of it. There’s nothing pixie or twee or ironic about Wild Flag, no wink of reassurance for the patriarchal order.

I knew what was coming and yet my eyes popped out of my head when Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony jumped into their old-school rock’n’roll antics.

They rubbed their instruments up against the amps, played riffs while or lying and kneeling on the floor. Brownstein climbed up on the drums, whirled her microphone stand over the audience’s heads and kicked a beer out over the lucky front rows, its sticky substance traveling far into the club.

Never, I thought to myself, has the spillage of beer had such symbolic resonance.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Music, Feminism, Rock and Roll

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.